3 Tips to Help Hens Through Molt

Discussion in 'Sponsored Content, Contests, and Giveaways' started by Monica S, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. Monica S

    Monica S BYC Content and Advertising Specialist

    Nov 30, 2012

    Give backyard chickens an enjoyable vacation from egg-laying by keeping stress low and providing additional protein.

    It’s autumn. Time for comfy sweaters, pumpkin-flavored everything and… vacation? For backyard chickens across the country, shorter days often signal time for a break. Birds may stop laying eggs, lose old feathers and grow new ones. This annual vacation from egg laying is called molt.

    “Molt is driven by season and usually occurs in the fall when the hours of sunlight decrease,” says Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “For our birds, fall means it’s time to prepare for winter, which requires quality feathers. That’s why hens take a vacation from laying eggs and redirect their energy to regrowing feathers.”

    This feather loss phenomenon first happens when birds are approximately
    18 months old and then occurs annually. Backyard flock owners should expect about 8 weeks of feather loss and regrowth but could take up to 16 weeks for some birds.


    Though the general process is similar, not all molting seasons are created equal.

    “The onset and length of molt looks different for each bird,” Biggs explains. “You’ll often first notice that feathers are losing their sheen. Hens may then gradually lose a few feathers or it could happen overnight. We’ve noticed that more productive egg-layers and younger hens recover from molt more quickly than older or less productive hens. In any case, proper nutrients and management can help birds through molt.”

    To make the molting cycle a smooth one, consider the following tips:

    1. Pack the protein.

    Just like humans, birds need a different diet depending on their current activity or life stage. Protein is the key nutrient to pack in a flock’s diet during molt.

    “The number one nutrient switches from calcium to protein during molt,” Biggs says. “This is because feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium.”

    “When molt begins, switch to a complete feed that’s 20 percent protein and includes probiotics, prebiotics and key vitamins and minerals,” Biggs adds, pointing toward Purina[​IMG] Flock Raiser[​IMG] chicken feed as a key option. “A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs.”

    “For organic flocks, try switching hens to Purina[​IMG] Organic Starter-Grower when molting begins in order to maintain organic status and provide a higher level of nutrition they need for feather regrowth,” explains Biggs.

    2. Keep stress low.

    While on vacation, people generally want plenty of comfort and room to relax. It isn’t so different inside the coop during molt. Keep birds comfortable by preventing stress.

    “During molt, the area where the feather shaft meets the skin can be very sensitive, so reduce handling and provide plenty of clean bedding,” suggests Biggs. “Offer enough space for your birds to rest and relax in private. For each bird, four square feet inside the coop and 10 square feet outside of the coop can keep them comfortable.”


    In addition, provide access to plenty of fresh, clean water and proper air ventilation. Hydration and ventilation can help keep the backyard coop spa-like for feather regrowth. Avoid introducing new flock members during this time, as adding in new friends and potentially re-shuffling the pecking order could add stress.

    3. Transition back to layer feed.

    Once birds are ready to return from vacation and begin producing eggs, it’s time to adjust the nutrient profile to match their energy needs once again.

    “When hens begin laying eggs, transition back to a complete layer feed that matches your goals,” says Biggs. “Gradually mix the complete layer feed with the high-protein feed over the course of 7 to 10 days. This can help avoid digestive upsets and allows birds to get used to the taste and texture of their new feed. Once they’re back on a complete layer feed and have vibrant new feathers, get ready again for farm fresh eggs for your family.”

    For more information on backyard chicken nutrition and management, visit www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
  2. Judy925

    Judy925 Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 23, 2016
    Corona, CA
    Of all the people who have the knowledge to answer your question, I am the least qualified. I'm just curious, what did these chickens do before people came along? I am under the impression that birds are actually surviving dinosaurs. I believe they were here long before we were. Of course there are those who would disagree and say we actually lived alongside them, but I'm sure my Uncle Myron would have remembered them. But I digress, how DID they do it all without us?
  3. Mishka123

    Mishka123 Just Hatched

    Oct 8, 2016
    Judy925 that is a good question.
  4. pistolero

    pistolero Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 24, 2016
    Raleigh, NC
    I am no chicken expert. I don't even have any yet. BUT this question is the same for domesticated chickens, dogs, even humans really. We try to create "natural" conditions for chickens in a pen or fish in an aquarium when they aren't in a natural situation. First off they've been selectively bred for at least a couple thousand years so they aren't really even the same animal as the original, natural Jungle Fowl.

    In nature the birds aren't dependant on you to pick their food, they take whatever is available from their environment. As they are our captives we need to provide them with what they need. Even if they are able to free range at will, "nature" isn't always the most hospitable and they only have whatever resources are there as opposed to what would be best for their health. In nature, only a small percentage of chicks hatched might make it to adulthood. In nature there would be only a small population of birds per hundreds of acres, compared to the 15 square feet per bird or so we confine them in. Think about people. In our "natural" state we probably had a life expectancy of about 30 or 35 years. Yes going back to nature in general is a good thing but you can take it too far. Nature can be pretty brutal. We need to take the available info, and do the best we can with that, to decide what is best for our animals.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
    4 people like this.
  5. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop
    [​IMG] X2!

    @Judy925 welcome to BYC! If you are talking about wild birds and evolution, as stated above, the life expectancy of Jungle Fowl may not have been all that long. I know for a fact that the average life expectancy of wild Quail is 8 months to 24 months. So many of these birds may never make it to their first molt. To keep a species from extinction, if on average, every bird reproduces itself once, the species survives.

    But getting back to the point here, wild Jungle Fowl can't be included in this conversation as per "how did chickens survive before humans came along..." because wild birds are an entirely different story. And as stated above, in the wild, they search out what they need in their environment and because they are not penned in can search far and wide to find what they need in their diets.

    As for captive chickens of old, chickens were usually kept for meat and eggs and many chickens were slaughtered at the age of 2 years when they may not be as productive and were going through their first molt. Many farmers chose not to keep a non-productive bird in the old days. . Many of these birds never saw their first molt either. So worrying over their feathers was not a concern back then.

    However many of us keep our birds alive a lot longer these days, well past their ability to produce and so it really does help them to add to their diet with things like more protein, more vitamins, minerals, pro and pre biotics. Keeps them happy and healthier well into older age.
    2 people like this.
  6. AccioJinx9810

    AccioJinx9810 New Egg

    Jan 13, 2017
    Ravenclaw, Hogwarts
    thx for the post!! I just love my chickens.... [​IMG]
  7. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    pistolero excellent post
    1 person likes this.
  8. MiksChicks

    MiksChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 8, 2017
    Marshall, Tx
    I love learning more about my girls!

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