Any way to get a chicken to molt now???

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by annmarie, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. annmarie

    annmarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 2 chickens that molted for the first time last year, in the dead of winter. Almost lost one of them as it happened during the "worst cold snap of the season" here in Vermont. Why are these two molting at such an odd time? (I think it was January - February.) Is there any way to sort of trick them into molting now, when the temperatures are reasonable? Their coop mate, a RIR is nice and fairly bald at the moment and I just wish there was a way they could all go through this around the same time. Is this one of those things only Mother Nature can control?
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2009
  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

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    It's all up to Mother Nature I'm afraid.
     
  3. possumqueen

    possumqueen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    There is a way, but it's not very nice. I can see your concern for your girls in January/February, though.

    The big egg producers shut out the lights and withhold feed for as long as 48 hours. Then they keep the birds in dim light for another 24 with just water, and introduce food gradually after that.

    But were they young birds? maybe they'll have grown up some, and now that they can experience a real fall they'll moult on their own?
     
  4. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    When you see those photos of hens in egg factory farms that look uncared for and mistreated you are seeing a combination of 2 things - the natural molting cycle of the hen controlled not only by her body but mother nature as well. You are also seeing what they call a 'forced molt' in which they force the hens to stop laying, molt, then start up again for egg production. Most often they turn off the light and keep the hens in the dark, cut the feed and wait 3 or more days. This forces the birds into a molt. They are then ready for their next laying cycle.

    I do not agree with forced molting.

    Hens survive just fine if left to let Mother Nature handle those things. While you might think they are freezing or chilled in 40 degree autumn weather they are actually very comfortable and thrive better in a cooler climate than we may think.

    A secure, draft free hen house with good bedding and good feed and corn is plenty to keep them comfortable in winter weather. Chickens can put out 5 or more BTU's of heat per body. IN a properly sized hen house with good bedding they don't get as cold as you may think.
     
  5. annmarie

    annmarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I was afraid of that! (But I figured that was probably the case.) Pep talks are all I've been able to come up with so far but it doesn't seem to be having any effect.
     
  6. annmarie

    annmarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for all your replies. The forced molting does sound cruel. Of course, 48 hours without food or light might actually be less suffering than the naked, pecked at chicken for 3 weeks in 0 to -10 degree weather, but I suppose in that situation I can blame Mother Nature for the suffering and not myself. [​IMG]
    It's not easy being a chicken mom!
     
  7. possumqueen

    possumqueen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It's definitely NOT easy being a chicken mom!

    Still, we get to choose for our girls BECAUSE we're the mom.

    Thanks to MissPrissy for the better detail on the forced moulting in the factories. It's been a long time since I saw the story about forced moulting, and one forgets a lot by the time one is my age (no, you don't get to know what that is!).

    Mother Nature knows best MOST of the time, but we're the moms and NOT Mother Nature. Our hens are not living in the wild, and more often than not they are pets.

    Don't know where you are, annmarie, but you do have the choice to make between seeing if your hens will moult before the cold, or to try a force, or just let them moult in winter. It does sound a little odd that they did it then.

    imo, if they do another cold weather moult, maybe you could keep them super draft free with extra bedding. Don't put them in a warm place unless you plan to keep them there until spring. They won't be able to readjust to the cold if you do that.
     
  8. annmarie

    annmarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I guess I'll let it go another year and see what happens. One positive thing is that I'll be moving them into their new coop next month, which should be more comfortable for them. I plan on insulating the heck out of it. My guess is they they'll again molt in January-February since most likely it's just a 12 month cycle, but who knows, maybe the Molting Fairy will visit them sooner this time. Thanks for taking the time to answer my odd question, and prepare yourselves for the probable, somewhat frantic posting in mid-February when I have 2 naked hens nearly freezing to death! [​IMG] I'm sure I can find last February's on here somewhere!
     
  9. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    My chickens went through a winter molt last year and one of them are the worst for wear. Many people had chickens that started molting in August and did not regrow new full plumage until almost spring. Molting can happen at any time of the year. It is not an event that is only for late summer or fall. It is not seasonal but generally as needed type body function.

    When chickens molt heavily in late fall and winter it stops most of the heavy egg production and conserves their energy for reproductive rest and repair as well as contributing more protein toward the production of new plumage.

    Molting, cessation of egg laying, conservation of body functions is how they make it through the winter and are geared up for the heavy egg laying and brooding that comes with spring in the natural order of things. Just like squirrels and other wildlife they will begin to eat more as we move into the shorter days of fall and begin trying to put on weight and conserve energy for the winter.

    It is often best to let nature time their molting. IMO - Chicken mom or not most people are not educated enough in the husbandry of chickens to force molting and other conditions. Choosing when they molt and to force them into molting conditions often leaves us on the same playing field as the commercial egg producers and we all know those are not always the best conditions for the over all health and general well being of the flock.
     
  10. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Quote:Don't be so quick to over do it. Make sure you have a good source of ventilation in the roof and eaves.

    In deep winter the heat build-up by the chickens themselves along with the vaporizing of moisture in their breath in tightly closed houses is one of the factors that causes frostbite.

    There needs to be a good circulation of fresh cold air to keep the inside area dry to prevent the freezing of the air water content. The condensation of the liquid int he air is the frost that damages their combs and wattles.

    Also give them a flat board to roost on so that when they hunker down the toes and feet are completely covered by the belly feathers.
     

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