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Helping your flock through molt

  1. chicken farmer
    It's late summer/early fall and your birds are half naked and the coop is full of feathers,at first if you don't know what is happening you might panic and wonder if there's a parasite or something attacked them but none of that it's molt. Birds shed there old feathers and grow new ones,molting occurs as summer daylight gets shorter and winter gets closer.

    As molting goes on egg production and energy levels will go down due to loss in protein and nutrients. Molt usually lasts around 7-8 weeks from start to finish but molt doesn't just happen in late summer/early fall it happens in any change in food,water,daylight hours. Birds will molt late summer/early fall,late winter/early spring,and any changes in food,water,and daylight hours such as broody hens. New feathers that are coming in have a vein filled shaft that will bleed if broken or cut so handling is not a good idea while molting is going on cause it can be very painful. The feathers have a waxy like casing around them that falls off as they are rubbed against something or the bird is preening which falls off a little later on in the feather growing process.

    There are ways you can help your birds out during molting that will help there feathers grow and get a little closer to better egg production:

    1.) Increase there protein intake by giving them higher protein food such as switching them to meat bird grower or special molting feed for about a month,give them higher protein treats such as canned and dry cat food,tuna,cooked hamburger,black oil sunflower seeds or other goodies.

    2.) Reduce stress in the birds by not doing a lot of loud work around them,adding any new birds,changing things around.

    3.) Less handling the better so you don't brake any feather shafts and rubbing them is painful so less handling for the molting period.

    4.) Add a heat lamp for extra warmth if your in a colder climate so your birds don't get too cold.

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    As you can see here one of my black sex-link hens are about half way through her molt, as you can see there are some lose feathers and the waxy like casing over the new feathers coming in. Here it was cold out and while free ranging she came back to the coop for some warmth in the straw.

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    Here she is after her molt with her new feathers and she's back to laying and being herself again,always great to see them laying and enjoying life

    If you would like put a heat lamp in the coop for some extra warmth while there in molt if your in a colder climate it might be a good idea so your birds don't freeze or get too chilled. Over all keep your birds happy,give them high protein treats/food,handle them as little as possible and add some extra heat in the coop if your in a real cold climate or area and your birds will be happy/healthy/and soon be back to laying those delicious eggs you love so much. And it's great to know your birds are happy and healthy while going through this molt. Hope this helps you newbies to molting and others that raise birds!!

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  1. Turnedfifty
    1zooman12 thanks for your suggestion, I was using a food processor to chop egg shell and they were pretty smart about eating around the bits. The coffee mill works great.
  2. Turnedfifty
    Thanks, this was very helpful. This is our first molt and the first morning it looked like a chicken bomb had exploded.
  3. thand141
    Smuch here is a video that really helped me start my small worm farm, let me know how it works out for you!
  4. sdetwiler333
    Go to the learning center, then search how to raise mealworms. Very good info.
  5. ampho
    Thanks for the tip on handling them, I did notice the new feathers are stiff, but did not know I could hurt them...!
  6. pnutj58
    I am curious ... What exactly is "expensive" for 3000 mealworms?
  7. Smuch
    thand141. Thanks for the tip. I buy meal worms at the farm supply store and they're expensive. Will try raising my own now. My girls love the meal worms--Sylvia my RIR, comes running whenever I go near the bag. It will be interesting to see how they like the live ones.
  8. SouthernStorm
    My 1 year old girls are in the middle of their first full molt right now. Their feed is a mixture of laying pellets and Nutrena Feather Fixer. I also supplement them with scratch, meal worms, black sunflower, kitchen scraps, and let them free range for about 8 hrs a day. They look pretty ragged and some have stopped laying eggs, but they are all still happy and healthy. Luckily we added 5 new girls this spring so we still get plenty of eggs from them. Never heard of giving chickens cat food, but I do occasionally treat them to a pan of scrambled eggs (still seems so weird though).

    ~To answer a few of the questions above~
    *Chickens do not molt until they are a full year old, so they should not molt this autumn if you just got them this spring.
    *A big bag of feather fixer pellets and scrambling a few of their eggs is far less expensive than beef, cat food, or meal worms for protein intake. Be careful not to give too much scratch or black sunflower (I only give 2 cups mixed to 14 hens daily, 1 cup morning and 1 cup evening) as it can cause fatty organs, and never mix it into the pellet food as they will pick through it for the treats.
    *A heat lamp (with the red bulb) can help with warmth and extend daylight hours. I used one last winter with my girls and often left it on all night when below freezing with a timer set to turn off at daybreak. It did not force my girls to lay unnecessarily (since winter is normally a low-laying rest period), was suspended from the ceiling of the coop so no danger of flying into it, and all of my girls stayed bright eyed and fluffy tailed all winter long. If you want to use one then have at it (keeping safety as 1st priority). I also stapled heavy duty plastic sheeting around the run and added bales of wheat straw when temps hit freezing. The girls loved their warm greenhouse and stayed toasty warm during the bitter cold months.
    *Lastly, be sure to add a little apple cider vinegar to your chickens waterers (not the metal kind as it will rust them). ACV offers loads of health benefits to your girls such as mite and parasite protection, and a balanced digestive system. Give raw pumpkin or cucumber seeds for natural worming benefits, and powdered garlic sprinkled into the pellet food gives organs a healthy immunity booster. All of these things can be purchased on the cheap at local discount stores.

    HAPPY CHICKENING from SOUTHERN SUN CHOOKERY!!!
  9. sdetwiler333
    I am supplementing my layer crumble with puppy food 27% protein. I also have an electric worm zapper so I can go out and gather earthworms & mix them in with grass W/ plenty of clover in it. they love it.
  10. Diannastarr
    to Henriettas Mom, in my experience with older chickens IVE HAD SEVERAL FLOCKS GIVEN TO ME , and they were all older, I have found that around 8 years old, they do tend to pass away from old age and yes mine were still laying, at that age to but not every day,maybe every other day, but yes i have found some dead im sure from old age, so that is about normal GOSH. sorry for your loss , i know how you feel since , every chicken i ever had in my life were ALL PETS and its hard to see them go. :( take care Dianna

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