Molting for "dummies"

By maybejoey · Jun 24, 2013 · Updated Nov 9, 2013 · ·
  1. maybejoey

    Why exactly does molting happen you may ask? Many 1st time poultry owners may wonder if their flock is sick as soon as they see the pile of fluff in their chicken run and the bald spots all over their flocks members. Well in this article you will learn the who, what, when, where, and how's of molting.

    length. Molting can also sometimes be triggered by stress.Molting occurs throughout the animal kingdom in a wide variety of species, in the Webster dictionary molting is defined as "to shed hair, feathers, shell, horns, or an outer layer periodically" referring to poultry, feathers are shed periodically throughout the specimens life. Chicks actually go through one complete and three partial molts during it's first 5 months. When they are 2+ weeks old they will begin to molt their down and grow in their 1st set of feathers. When they are approximately 7-9 weeks of age and again at 12-16 weeks of age and finally at 20-22 weeks of age, they will go through a partial molt where they do not completely shed all of their feathers. Mature birds normally undergo one complete molt per year, usually in autumn. This can depend on the time of the year that the bird started laying. Natural molting usually begins in autumn. The main factors that bring bout molting are: physical exhaustion/fatigue, completion of the laying cycle and reduction of day

    Does molting hurt? No many of my friends and neighbors have asked me if molting hurts but the answer is no, molting is very similar to losing a piece of hair or clipping a finger nail the feather is already dead, the only time in the process of molting where the specimen can be in pain is close to the end where they are starting to grow in "pin feathers" this process can sometimes be painful so during this period DO NOT PICK ANY MOLTING MEMBER OF YOUR FLOCK UP!!! If you pick up a molting member of your flock during this process it could cause them pain and even damage one of the developing feathers.

    Pic by Thassa

    Can I speed up molting? Yes, you can speed up molting but only by a few days, if you feed your flock a high protein supplement added onto their daily rations then the process of molting can be sped up. Feathers are comprised mostly of protein and it takes a lot of energy to reproduce feathers so by giving them the extra protein (can be from scrambled eggs, black oil sunflower seeds, cat food, etc.) you speed up molting. But why would you want to speed up molt? When the hen is in molt their egg production will either drop radically or stop completely. If you have a large family or sell the eggs you are going to need every egg you can get your hands on!

    So for the newbies or even the experienced poultry owners molting is 100% natural and is actually a process that helps your chicken live a happy life by giving them new, clean, un-damaged feathers. So don't worry when you see the "snow storm" in your flocks run it is a natural process that all poultry and 90% of other organisms experience. After a few weeks they will be back to normal again!

    Pics by dfdesigns

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  1. Eburger
    Regarding the use of commas, here's an example: Let's go see if the chickens will eat Gramma.

    Or: Let's go see if the chickens will eat, Gramma.
  2. PamH
    Thanks for the article on molting. It's reassuring. One suggestion: (this is a college professor writing who can't help herself from being the editor): Review your use of commas and periods. You have run-on sentences that were making me shake in my boots!! I'm sorry to even mention it, but you write so well, though your comma usage is tripping you up!!

    Keep writing. BYC is fantastic!
  3. littlebluechick
    Feather Fixer (by NatureWise) is a good solution to repairing a molt. However, if your local feed store is out, add to their current rations anything with a high protein content such as dry cat food that contains fish (usually the kitten food has this). Just a few handfulls a day will help tham regain their feathers more quickly. Chop meat or dried meal worms are also good. My birds came back within a short two weeks compared to the usual three weeks. I also give them a few weeks recovery before I put on the coop light for the lay.
  4. Im Barred up
    They've probably molted but you've never noticed it. My Rooster only lost his tail feathers, one hen only lost a few neck feathers, one I couldn't see where she lost any, and one went almost completely bald like in the picture. Every hen is different and how many feathers they replace varies.
  5. Helen Carter
    My 2 girls are going to be 3 years old soon.
    They have never that unusual?

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