Hens not eating, not interested in food - molt? Sickness?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Cuppercake, Nov 13, 2009.

  1. Cuppercake

    Cuppercake New Egg

    Mar 23, 2009
    Seven hens total: the two Easter Eggers have stopped laying for sure about 3 weeks ago and began their molt, the other 5 (RIR and Black Sex-link) are still laying WELL (4-5 eggs a day) but I've found some of their feathers so I think they're going to start molting soon too. I didn't think non-commercially raised birds went off their feed while molting -- could this have something to do with it?

    I didn't know to check their crops before, so I'm not sure what a normal crop feels like. I checked four of them this morning and all felt the same, warm (but only slightly warmer than the rest of the chicken), a little squishy, empty, but gritty. Poop seems normal; a couple of them have greenish poop but there is some algae in the puddles around here and this seems to happen occasionally.

    I switched their feed from milled grain to layer pellets last week, but I don't think this is the issue, because they're not even interested in their scratch grains that were previously like crack to them.

    A further confounding variable: we filled up the birdfeeders this week and I know they've been eating the sunflower seeds that are in there.

    They don't seem to be touching their oyster shell or grit either.

    They range all day in about 2 acres of forest/meadow. We're in Central Texas, so the coldest it's gotten is mid-50s so far.

    Help! There are so many variables I have no idea what could be causing this. They haven't been eating for 3 or 4 days now AND I don't know how we're going to bribe them to go in the coop for the night since they're not into their scratch anymore.

    ETA: Oh! Most importantly? They are acting like NOTHING'S WRONG. Totally normal. I will check their crops tonight when they should be full of bugs and stuff, but from their behavior they are still acting the same as always. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009
  2. BirdBrain

    BirdBrain Prefers Frozen Tail Feathers

    May 7, 2007
    It looks like this post was missed yesterday.

    Did they go to roost on their own? If they are molting they need to have higher protein feed. Feathers are like 85% protein and they will take longer to come out of molt if their food is low in protein. You could get some game bird feed and mix it 1:1 with their layer ration. Or you could offer dry cat food.
  3. Pampered Hen

    Pampered Hen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 8, 2009
    I noticed a lackluster in my molting hens too, even total disinterest in their fav snack - scratch. I suppose the molt does a number on them and they are just a bit off kilter. Maybe that is just a general discomfort of being half naked and new feathers growing in - may be it is the lack of nutrition on scratch (lots of carbs little protein). Keep an eye on them in case their disinterest in food continues for a prolonged period. In the mean time, increase the protein in the feed ration. I have switched from layer feed to grower crumbles and offer oyster shells on the side. Another thing you could do, dig up earthworms for the girls. I'll bet they will devour them. They are lean and nutritious snacks and perfect for a molting hen in need of an extra dose of protein.

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