Another Molting Question and Cold Weather Concerns

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mobius, Nov 20, 2016.

  1. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi there all,

    I would love your take/input on the chicken molting process my flock is undergoing, as it is the first adult molt and the weather is going to get get quite cold very soon:

    Tis the season as I understand it for molting.

    This is my first flock and the first adult molt. The chickens are almost nine months at this point and started noticeable molting at eight months old. (Not the often quoted 18 months as I have read it so I was a bit unprepared).

    They started laying in mid-July and it was about an egg a day from each of the six. Mid-October, like a light switch had been flipped, all eggs stopped. I understood that was mostly due to low light seasonal change so I was not concerned (especially here in deep NW Montana). I am not supplementing their light and there were so many eggs that I froze several dozen for over the winter.

    But I looked at them at the end of October (they were eight months old) and they were molting! I have since identified this as a slow molt since they are not bare anywhere but definitely losing feathers and growing in new ones. They all started molting at the same time too and are progressing all about the same. Talk about in sync!

    I immediately upped the protein in their diet with live mealworms ( I had started a meal worm farm which is handy now) and sunflower seeds, started fermenting their food again, and made molting muffins, and began sprouting greens and got some alfalfa cubes to ferment with the sunflower seeds. Careful again not to exceed 10% of daily food with these extra treats. They do need greens, as the ground is now bare of weeds and grass.

    They do forage every day and seem quite active when I let them out (funny I thought they would be sulking but they are not) and are eating and drinking quite well. They also have various dustbath access even in fowl (sic) weather!

    So I know all molts are different but how would you characterize this molt and what should I expect? I am mostly worried that the weather will get too cold for them before they are finished molting...anything else to speed up molt? Hurry up chickens! It gonna get way cold here! We are NOT doing chicken sweaters!

    Thanks for all your help in advance!
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs I Wanna Be A Cowboy Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    It's probably not a true molt, it could still be the last baby molt and occasionally younger hens will partially molt which is usually confined to the head and neck. My guess is it's a combination of baby molt and them getting in some winter ready feathers and bulking up their plummage. It's always good to keep their protein up. I wouldn't worry. I have never had a chicken that can't make it through winter, nor any that were bald during winter.
  3. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you thank you. Mother Nature knows best, I just needed some reassurance I guess...I think partial molt would be a good way to characterize too! Getting winter ready in the best manner possible. They did have beautiful full plumage of course before this but they dont look that bad now, just tufts of down sticking up all over through regular feathers. Smart chickens! Head and neck, yes, mostly. Very pale and reduced combs, as would be expected. Tail feathers kind of gone missing...

    These ARE supposed to be quite winter hardy so it may be due to breed, as in these two breeds may just do a winter ready molt: Wyandottes and Rocks...

    And you live in Wisconsin so that makes me feel much better [​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2016
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs I Wanna Be A Cowboy Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Thanks. Those are good breeds. I will mention one other factor that can mess up chickens. Most are suppose to reach sexual maturity in the fall under decreasing light. When chickens are raised out of season and sexually mature in spring under increasing light it seems to mess with the nature flow of things.

    Chickens will have to go longer before their first molt, and as they approach winter with older plumage than what is normal, I assume some freshening up probably occurs as they aren't old enough to actually molt, but they need newer thicker feathering. Many chickens will than have mini molts in spring to rid themselves of the thicker plumage. About 1/3 of my birds will have an obvious neck molt in the spring and others just lose some feathers.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Well....Last juvenile molt usually happens around 4-5 months...then they usually do first full adult annual molt until around 18 months.
    But....I've read of more than several 8-12 month old birds doing a full molt(slow or fast or in between) in the it's not unprecedented.

    What is your 'regular' feed?
    Might think about a higher protein/low calcium feed...instead of all that other stuff.

    I've had a couple birds go thru winter with bare skin showing, they did alright.
    1 person likes this.
  6. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    They are on a regular pellet layer feed and I am about to switch them to a full organic layer feed (Big Sky Organics) that I recently sourced....

    I actually enjoy making the high protein supplement treats for them!

    And I am not adding additional calcium from eggshells that I usually free feed...

    I did read about using game bird feed for them at this point...

    It is a curiosity, isn't it? The molting...trying to recall a molt at 4-5 months but I don't know that they went through one...
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs I Wanna Be A Cowboy Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I find layer to be too low in protein. There are some brands with a higher protein content now. 18-20% seems to be the best when extras are fed. I keep a separate bowl of oyster shells for the extra calcium needs. I feed either a non medicated grower or an All Flock.

    They go through multiple baby molts as they grow. You don't usually notice anything beyond a few extra feathers in the pen. If they didn't they would grow out of their feathers.
  8. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Many thanks to all your kind responses!

    A little chicken update: Six weeks out, the chickens are not finished molting. But! the three GLWs are looking AMAZING and puffed out and getting tail feathers. Wow! Sleek, no evidence of molting (though I am sure they are secretly still growing their feathers).

    The Partridge Rocks are a little further behind, still a bit scruffy, but improving. I would say they are a week behind the GLWs.

    Isn't Mother Nature remarkable? As in: It JUST started snowing here, about an inch daily for the last three days. Guess who is ready for it? OMG. In the 20s and 30s here night and day temps.

    Side note: first major cold snap of -5 degrees F in three days is predicted for overnight. I think I will close pop door and window for overnight, leave the foot square vent open and there is ventilation under the eaves, until temp gets to at least 0F. If this is not a good idea please advise. i may feed them warm food before bed as well.

    Today I warmed up their fermented feed slightly to warm their little innards. They are out scampering. In the snow.
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Non-laying, molting birds do not need the high levels of calcium in layer feed, and it can be seriously damaging to their kidneys. It also doesn't have enough protein to support the feather growth of molting birds. Depending on where you are on the globe, the days can shorten so rapidly that it triggers a partial molt in pullets that are over 8 months of age. Some breeds, like Easter Eggers, are especially sensitive to the fading light of fall/winter and molt earlier than most.
  10. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Definitely, @junebuggena! So I have been feeding extra protein, and it may have made a difference.

    Being in northern Montana, near the Canadian border, the days shorten VERY rapidly, probably starting about October. The chickens are in bed by 5 pm now! So you make a great point. (YCMV: Your Chickens May Vary)!
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2016

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