Moulting early - I think it is my fault.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RonoKT, Oct 21, 2016.

  1. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi All,
    I have not posted in a long time as my questions have all been answered with a search, however I can find very little information about this.
    My current flock is my first laying flock, They range in age from 8-10 months old (roughly) they are also a mix of different breeds. Recently they have hardly been laying at all, I have 8 pullets and was getting an average of 5-6 eggs a day, and am now lucky to get 5 in a week. I was putting this down to the reduced daylight hours (I live in London England, we are currently at just over 10 hour days and reducing), but I have been surprised at quite how dramatic the drop off was, especially as I do not have a single breed flock. This morning, I noticed that there where allot of feathers on the coop floor and that some of the pullets where looking a bit bedraggled, therefore I think they are moulting. I know that this is the time of year fro a moult but I was expecting them to not moult in the first year, I know it is a possibility to have an annual moult in the first year but I thought it was rare and it seems like most, if not all of my pullets are going into moult.
    Perhaps something else is going on, I will check for parasites in the morning but I do not think it is parasites as I have checked them quite recently.
    I have been wondering what would cause my mixed flock to all go into an early moult and it occurred to me that I did hatch them at a slightly odd time, a chick that was hatched in the middle of spring would be younger at this time of year, so perhaps that is what the problem is. I also have two cockerels that I do not think are moulting, but they are also my two youngest birds, proabbly 7 months old. I have been wondering why people tend to hatch chicks in spring (apart from the glut of eggs). If I am correct, it's a bit of a shame, because I have some eggs in the incubator now and I expect they would also moult next autumn, oh well!
    If anyone can shed some light on this for me, please do, if you disagree, have another explanation or any other reasons not or (or to) hatch chicks outside of spring, please let me know.
    Thanks!
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Hi Ron. Before I started my flock, I spent the first winter reading and planning. Good way to get started, simply reading the threads. It gives you good perspective re: different husbandry methods, and gives you a good eye to ask lots of "what if" and "why" ?'s. Not everything is cut and dried, or true simply because some one says it's so! Any how, back to your ?. Chickens go through a series of mini molts during their first year. And some of those molts do look like a pillow fight occurred during the night. Shortening day length is most likely the reason why your production is down. Mine is yo-yoing all over the place. I'm in growing zone #4, and I'm expecting that you are similar, so day length is comparable. (I'm latitude 44.6, you're latitude 51.5) The last 2 - 3 years, I did add supplemental light, and it brought my flock back into good production for the winter. This year, I'm riding the fence about doing so, b/c I'm still getting enough eggs. If you do add extra light, your goal would be to bring it gradually up to 14 hours/day. (an other one of the "because they said so" arbitrary numbers!) The recommendation is to start the supplemental light early in the fall, so you keep day light around 14 hours/day consistently, and provide it early in the morning so the birds go through natural twilight to make roosting easy. This is where I differ. If I add light, I allow them to experience the shortening days, and then slowly ramp the light up in November. I give my light at the end of the day, and my flock is always on the perch before dark. As far as when to hatch chicks, there is some correlation between the time they are old enough to become sexually mature, and the season in terms of lengthening or shortening days. If they are approaching maturity as the days are getting a lot shorter, they may delay production until after the winter solstice. So, I do like to get my girls laying by mid August. My pullets are laying by 16 - 18 weeks. So, that means setting eggs in early April.
     
  3. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had a look today and could not see any parasites but some of the pullets where looking more moulty, pin feathers coming through. There are one try that do not look too shabby though, so I think you are right, it is probably mostly just the day length. I was expecting more eggs through autumn/ winter. I had planned not to use supplemental lighting but I am now considering it. I will probably eat these pullets before they reach too ripe of an age anyway. If next year I hatch chicks later in the spring are they likely to lay better through their first winter?
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    It all depends!
     
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I think it is molt, but when mine drop suddenly, I always give a good look around. Sometimes it is a hidden nest.

    I in the past have hatched when my broody hen went broody. Very often in late May or early June, not uncommon in July, and once in October. What I found is that birds that come to 5 months of age +/- during the dark short days of December will not start laying until mid to late January. My older birds coming out of molt will begin laying about the same time. To get winter layers, they need to begin laying in late summer early fall, hence the popularity of matching in March and April.

    All of the above can be highly influenced by breeds, the particular bird and the chicken gods! Freeze eggs in July when you are getting scads, use them for baking, and usually you can get enough from the layers for fresh.

    Currently I am awaiting new chicks NEXT week... due to a predator problem, ugh! I won't be getting much for eggs till March or April. It is a crazy hobby but lots of fun.

    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2016
  6. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Defiantly no hidden nests, I had another check this morning. I took a closer look at the whole flock and it seems that all my cream crested legbars are moulting (4) and maybe my silkie, the others not laying must just be down to the season. The only eggs I am getting are from the legbars. My flock started laying in mid June and we have had plenty of eggs through the summer, but it's still a novelty so eggs never built up, we just ate as many as we could.
     

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