Chicken behavior while molting

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7 Years
Aug 17, 2016
Some of my hens have started molting, and I have noticed a change in their behavior. They seem to be more flighty, and two of my hens were sparring. Does anyone know why their behavior changes while they are molting?
They are uncomfortable and can become crabby, or aloof depending on their personality. I can't imagine how uncomfortable it must be to grow feathers. Make sure they are getting enough protein to support new feather growth or they could become aggressive, as they look for more protein from wherever they can, often each other or eggs.
When I keep multiple free-range flocks, it is from onset of heavy molt when body feather replacement begins in earnest through winter solstice, that I see the most hens become fluid with respect to social groups they associate with. It is at this time young of the year pullets also move about before settling into groups they are most likely to be with the subsequent breeding season. The behavior change that appears to us as "growly" is what I think promotes that movement.

With roosters it is more dramatic. Mine have a reduced interest in mating and are generally much quieter. They tend to have a look more reminiscent of footballs to almost round, more than you would expect by loss of tail feathers alone. They may be having trouble thermal regulating. A real big is how they react to disturbance at roosting time. When a game rooster is disturbed even by me, he will change his roosting site if he can. He will also be less likely to try and get back on the roost when disturbed around dusk. My roosters are typically very tame, but most really do not like me touching them during the heavy part of molt. Even those trained to come to hand when called are slow to do so at this time.

They act like molting songbirds in another way. Eat to fill crop then station themselves in areas where they see area well, but otherwise do not move around much. Sometimes kids and I go out and catch the really big grasshoppers. It is only then that adult chickens, outside broody hens, follow us around to take such morsels. Even birds that were harem masters do it. They are no longer attached to their social groupings. Tid-bitting also goes way down among adults.
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