Bad molt and cold temperatures

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Nambroth, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. Nambroth

    Nambroth Fud Lady

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    My Coop
    I wasn't sure if I should put there her or in the diseases section-- really, molting is natural and not an emergency so I figured to put it here.

    My head hen-- a pet barred rock named Moa-- started a really bad molt last week and I am somewhat concerned. She's lost huge tracts of feathers and is lacking both the down and covert feathers on her neck, breast, underwings, back and her entire rear end. I can confirm that it's a molt and not pecking or bullying, and she is growing in healthy pinfeathers. My concern is the timing-- of course, it's been very cold here and our temperatures have been in the single digits with a brisk wind. I have a thermometer in the coop and the other night it was 1°F... outside the windchill had to be -12 or less.

    I know barred rocks are cold hardy and indeed my other hens are doing great and I don't provide any heat in their coop (I just keep it draft free). My concern is that Moa has dropped so many feathers she seems miserable and very cold. She stands in place all day, shivering visibly, nearly entirely inactive. I am especially concerned because the other hens push her outside (which is unusual, since Moa was THE bossy mean top hen until now) and she is then subjected to negative temperature wind chills... and she's missing most of her feathers. I'd simply close her in the coop but she seems cold even in there with extra bedding, and if I did that I'd have to lock everyone inside as that's where the food and water is.

    I was alarmed that she was ill, but once I brought her inside my house and she warmed up she was as active, sassy, and happy as ever.

    Am I doing any harm by bringing her in when it is bitter cold? I put her back outside when the temperature is above 30 and she seems fine-- active, bossy, normal. She only acts lethargic and miserable when it is very cold.
    I'm giving her extra protein to help her in her feather growth.

    Thank you for your insights!
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    I would leave her out. Dramatic temperature swings do more harm than good.
    A hard molt will have them out of sorts even in mild weather.
    Exposure to cold will cause her to feather more quickly.
    Give her much needed protein till she looks better.
    I switch to 20-24% protein during molt. Add tuna, BOSS and anything else that you can.

    Make sure she can hang out in the coop in a draft free area.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
  3. bj taylor

    bj taylor Chillin' With My Peeps

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    i'm brand new to chickens. why on earth would chickens molt in the winter? hope it's ok to ask this on this thread. i just would never guess an animal to naturally do something that puts them at risk.
     
  4. Nambroth

    Nambroth Fud Lady

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    Thank you for your thoughts! The temperature swings were my concern too. I wonder how long it will take her to feather out to where she is comfortable again?
     
  5. kidcody

    kidcody Overrun With Chickens

    My Barred Rock also started to molt when it was real cold. Breaks my heart to see her like this when it is so cold. It is best to leave her out side and increase her protein give her can cat food every day until you notice her feathers covering the bare areas. As long as she can get out of the wind and rain and where it stays dry she will be fine, just keep her belly full of food for the extra calories she is burning. new feather growth takes a couple of weeks or so before she will be more comfortable.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    They usually molt in autumn but can do so at any time. Out of 50 adult birds I had about 5 molt late December and January this year. They were cold hardy and extremely cold hardy breeds so I didn't worry much. They didn't look happy but they made it OK. One was a Jaerhon with a completely bare patch on her back bigger than a silver dollar.

    Time frame is hard to say, some birds are slow but with it cold and the extra protein I'd say she'll look better in a week or so.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012

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