The Chickens are Molting!?! Now What?

The Chickens are Molting!?! Now What?

Why the heck are my chickens losing all their feathers and not producing eggs!?!?  Are they sick?  Pissed?  Dying?  Hungry?  Revolting against the colder temperatures?  WTF?!

Wait, they’re what?  Molting?  What the heck is molting and why is it happening while I’m tracking egg production vs. the cost of their feed?

After a little research (the internet is truly an amazing invention), I feel a lot better.  However, I am still looking forward to them looking and feeling better so we can eat some more of those glorious eggs on a regular basis!

Here are some facts:

  • Chickens usually molt every year, but some chickens molt every two years
  • Molting is the process of shedding and replacing their feathers and generally takes 6-8 weeks (though some chickens are quick at 3 weeks and some are slow at up to 12 weeks)
  • They generally start this process when the days get shorter, and therefore colder (silly ladies)
  • You know they’re molting when they…
    • stop producing eggs (or slow way down, our egg production has been cut to about a third of what it was a couple of weeks ago)
    • loose a lot of their feathers
    • quiet down or become much louder
    • don’t want to be touched/become quite crabby
    • eat like horses
    • drink like fish
Notice the Lady on the end…she’s probably our worst right now.  Poor girl!

  • They will need some extra protein while molting which you can give them in a high protein (16%  ish) feed and/or by supplementing their feed with…
    • sunflower seeds
    • bugs
    • cooked eggs (scrambled or boiled and mashed up…weird, I know, but true)
    • peas 
    • canned tuna or salmon
    • cottage cheese
    • dry cat food

Yummy mixture of peas and mashed boiled eggs :-/

So, while I’m patiently waiting for the ladies to grow back some of those feathers and start producing more than one or two sad eggs a day, I’ll be trying to remind myself that 1) This is normal 2) I’d be pissed if I was losing all my hair, too!

How are your chickens doing?  Do you do anything special for your ladies while they are molting?

Linking up to Homestead Barn Hop #36

Written by Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

8 Comments

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  2. donnamotherherb

    We have a flock of around 200 who all went into molt at the same time, as a result of reduced daylight caused by the relentless and heavy rains we experienced in our region this summer. They still haven’t fully recovered. How do I know that the daylight was reduced to under 11 hours? Simple: all of the sweet potatoes are merrily blooming; which they are not known to do in America, because they require the daylight hours to be less than 11 hours to bloom. Hens need 12-14 hours of light to lay.

  3. Bee Girl

    Laura – Are the pink combs a sign they’re fixing to start molting? I didn’t know that! Thank you! My two Newbies aren’t molting, but the older five are either in full swing or getting started (they’re all 1 1/2 years old).

    Jaime – You’re welcome! I keep forgetting to crush up their egg shells and give them back to them! I have a whole bowl full sitting under the kitchen sink!

    Meredith – You’re welcome! I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to 🙂

  4. Ngo Family Farm

    How timely! I just posted about giving milk to chickens during molting. Apparently the extra calcium helps them, since they need more than usual when replacing their pin feathers, I believe. I guess this is also why they stop laying eggs, to reserve their calcium stores. I didn’t know about the extra protein, though, so thanks for mentioning that.
    -Jaime

  5. Laura

    Hahha, I know, my girls are very grumpy. Only one is visibly molting but a number have pink combs, so I figure they are on the way, too. They are less than a year, so I was surprised. I’ve mixed my own scratch, which is heavy in black oil sunflower seeds. They also get a 20% layer ration and lots of kitchen scraps.

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