Explain the molting process.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by tsiecz, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. tsiecz

    tsiecz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Is there a certain time of year its starts?
    How many times a year?
    How long does it last?
    Will they just loose certain feather?
    How long before they go back into normal egg production?
    Any other tips or advise?
    My barred rock started with her lower and mid section.
     
  2. sonew123

    sonew123 Poultry Snuggie

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    Let’s start with the basics; molting is the process of feather loss and re-growth.

    It is a normal, natural and beneficial process.

    A hen that has molted is hardier and not as prone to disease.

    After a molt, you will likely see a reduction in the number of eggs your hens lay but the quality of the eggs increases and they are usually larger.

    During a molt, a hen will slow down and even stop laying eggs, giving her reproductive tract time to rest and rejuvenate. It is also a time for her to build up her nutrient reserves that would normally be used to produce eggs.

    Most adult hens will molt once a year, some will molt twice each year and very few will molt once every two years.

    Before coming into lay, an adolescent hen will go through 3 partial and one full molt. These molts are different than our topic today.

    Most molting takes place in the fall.

    There is a misconception that cold weather causes a molt but it is actually the reduced sunlight that gets the process going.

    So in the last month or so, I’ve heard from quite a few of you in the Northern Hemisphere wondering what’s happening to your flock.

    Feather loss will happen in a particular order.

    You will see a loss of feathers starting on the face and head. After that comes the neck, breast, body, wings and finally the tail.

    If you’re seeing feather loss that does not follow the above pattern, you are not seeing a molt. Feather loss around the vent can be an indication of mites.

    Balding spots on the back of the neck and back could indicate that she’s spending a little too much “time” with an aggressive rooster.

    The order of feather loss is about the only thing that you can absolutely count upon when it comes to molting, the other aspects will vary from breed to breed and from bird to bird within a particular breed.

    For instance, a hen (especially of the super-layer breeds) may not stop producing eggs completely during their molt but will very likely slow down significantly.

    Another hen may lay well into the molt, with egg production slowing only once the feather loss has reached the wings and tail.

    Another breed may stop laying the day the first feather hits the ground.

    However, the length of the molting process is a good indicator as to whether a particular hen is a prolific layer.

    A fast molter is a good layer, a slow molter does not produce as many eggs.

    In fact, you might walk out one day to find a pile of feathers and a nearly bald hen, rest assured that she is one of your best layers.

    This is a hen that is re-growing feathers at the same time she’s loosing them. She’ll likely complete her molt in just two to three months.

    If you need to make decisions about which hens to cull from your flock, choose the slow molters. Not only do they not produce as many eggs but they will be out of commission longer due to a slower completion of the molt.

    Understand that growing all those new feathers is hard work. Don’t be concerned if your flock seems quieter than normal. It’s not uncommon for a hen to even seem embarrassed at her feather loss, especially if she’s loosing feathers rapidly.

    Extra protein in the diet, high in amino acids, will aide new feather production. Feeds high in oils will help the new feathers along as well.

    It’s important to understand that when new feathers are coming in, you should avoid handling your flock as much as possible. They will find it very painful during this time. Hold off on picking them up and wait until their further along in the process.

    Give them time, good nutrition and as always, good sanitation and you’ll be back to collecting eggs a lot of eggs in no time.
     
  3. This_chicks_place

    This_chicks_place Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Great info! So as I understand it....they go through winter without most of their feathers??
     
  4. sonew123

    sonew123 Poultry Snuggie

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    Not for me and most others-depends on the light cycles provided. My girls are in heavy molt now and have been for about a month. Come late Oct-most will be completely done and start to lay early November again! I have some that molt in early Spring and the rest..now...I'd prefer it that way so I always have eggs available.
     
  5. tsiecz

    tsiecz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for your explanation. I am trying to figure out what I have in my flock as far as ages of birds and such. I bought my birds as "ready to lay anytime" (had them 2 weeks)and trusted thats what I was getting.You have cleared some things up.I have one barred rock that Im assuming(after your explanation) that is finishing the molting process. This site, the people here, are a world of info. I'm constantly learning dailey. Thanks again.
     
  6. sonew123

    sonew123 Poultry Snuggie

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    Quote:Have you checked for mites and lice too-to rule that out for feather loss or lack of egg production?
     
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    sonew123

    Good article. It seems important to post the source, however.

    Chickenkeepingsecrets.com
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011
  8. babyrnlc

    babyrnlc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I used to have cockatiels and parrots and they looked horrible during a molt.

    I think all my girls are going through a molt right now. We are down to 3 eggs out if 9 ladies and we did not drop in production even with the heat in the 110's for a week. There are feathers EVERYWHERE. The girls have more pin feathers than normal but they do not have any bald spots. They look pretty and fluffy. Could this still be a molt or maybe just the beginning of one? Or maybe they just went fast? Some (like the Ancona) changed her look. She has much more black than a month ago. We had a rescue ee that had bald spots when we got her and after this month she is fluffy now.

    They love to be pet though. They like me to scratch the neck and remove the quills they can't reach.
     
  9. tsiecz

    tsiecz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I haven't seen anything as far as lice or mites.What should I look for? I am thinking the egg production (or lack of) is because of young birds,change in enviroment. I have six birds total.I have two (americuna)one that has started laying every other day and yesterday didn't skip a day(yeah:) other is a youngerbird(youngest), 2 barred rocks, one very red waddles(hope thats what you call them), this is the one molting, the other very pinkish red(2nd yougest) and two Rhode Island reds which look like they should lay any time.These are the queens of the flock and look like they are the oldest but no eggs yet.
     
  10. sonew123

    sonew123 Poultry Snuggie

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    Fred's Hens :

    sonew123

    Good article. It seems important to post the source, however.

    Chickenkeepingsecrets.com​
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011

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