Molting is a natural process of a chicken shedding and re-growing their feathers which usually happens around the end of an egg laying season and it's an essential process to keep chickens healthy during the following year. A lot like a dog molts before a season change, a chicken will regrow beautiful, healthy feathers in time for harsher weather in winter.
There are two type of molting; hard molting and soft molting.
Hard molting is where large patches of feathers will fall out and she will look almost bald. Your hen or rooster will look really unwell and will likely be very grumpy (understandably!). Soft molting usually takes a lot longer, they will lose some feathers, and likely their tail but it is less harsh on the chicken.
When will my hens molt?
Hens are likely to start molting around 15-18 months of age. Molting usually happens around the end of the egg laying season. Typically, this is around the end of summer or beginning of fall but this can also vary by several weeks.
Early signs of molting are:
- Reduced egg production
- Increased appetite
- Bold spots
How long does it take?
Molting will occur once a year and, if molting occurs at other times in the year it may be due to stress or illness. The duration will be different for each chicken but molts can usually last from around 2-3 months.
The length of the molt will also vary. There are a few factors that effect it:
- The age of the chicken, older chickens will take longer to molt.
- The breed of the chicken, pure breeds will also take longer to molt.
How to help your chickens through a molt?
When Chickens experience the molt their feathers will fall out. It can be quite alarming but rest assured this is a natural process. When the Pin Feathers start to appear it is important to keep your eye on the Chicken. Unlike normal feathers these Pin Feathers have a blood supply to them and if they become damaged, they can bleed quite heavily. It might be an idea not to handle your chicken at these times as they are very sensitive.
A chickens feathers are made up from 80-85% protein which means their production uses almost all the protein consumed by the chicken, this is why they will rapidly reduce or stop their egg production. Here are some handy tips to help your flock get through their molt:
- Increase their protein intake. Try adding sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and broken up boiled eggs.
- Offer apple cider, this will help with digestion. Still offer plenty of water.
- Keep stress low, it’s best to avoid adding new chickens as this can reshuffling the pecking order can bring unwanted stress.
- Reduce how much you handle them and avoid putting a jumper on them as they will be much more uncomfortable and layers will be painful.