They look messy and are not producing. Molting???

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by lauraetco, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. lauraetco

    lauraetco New Egg

    Nov 1, 2012
    Hi there,
    We bought young chickens last spring and got eggs all summer. Moved them to a warm spot for the winter and they continued to produce...until now.

    They now look messy and aren't producing. Is this that molting thing I've heard about?

    Could someone explain the process of molting to me?

    Do they have to molt to keep producing?

    How often do they need to molt?

    When is the best time to molt them?

    How long does it take?

    Do they do it by themselves like mine are appearing to do?

    Do you need to do anything during the process like change their feed, the temp, the lighting?

    Could poor conditions such as bad ventilation or not enough natural light cause molting? I wonder if mine are just sick as they are indoors with no windows. A light goes on and off about every 12 hours.

    Please assume I know nothing about chickens. I tried to google it, but don't have time to read and read so I figured I'd just ask.


    One more question...

    How old do chickens lay until?
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Welcome to BYC! It's great to have you.

    Could you post some photos of the birds please? Based on what you describe molting is one possibility, however photos are very helpful in differentiating similar conditions.

    A brief explanation of molting: molting is essentially a period when a chicken loses all it's feathers and replaces them with new ones. It occurs to replace damaged or missing feathers. This loss and regrowth often happens gradually over a period of a couple months, however less commonly a bird may drop most of it's feathers over a much shorter period of time and end up looking like a pin cushion for a while as the new feathers come in (this is called a "hard molt"). Generally speaking a chicken will experience it's first molt at 1-1.5 years of age depending on what season they were hatched in, and experience it annually thereafter. It's not something you induce or cause, but happens naturally due to factors like weather, daylight hours, and the bird's own biological processes. How long a bird takes to molt can vary, but about two months is average. It usually occurs in the fall, but can happen in the spring. If possible, it is wise to switch them to a grower ration for the duration of molt, as the extra protein will speed the process and they do not require the extra calcium of layer ration during a molt.

    With that said, I am not sure that is necessarily what is going on with your birds. Could you lease provide the number of birds you have and the dimensions of their housing? You mention they are kept indoors. Are they kept indoors 24/7? While I take no issue with housing birds indoors-only, it can present problems and they must be managed a little differently than birds allowed outdoors. First you mention there are no windows. Is there ANY ventilation? Ventilation is key in keeping poultry healthy. Second, is it possible they are crowded? Birds kept indoors 24/7 should really have a bare minimum of about eight square feet floor space per bird, or else you may see issues with feather picking. Feather picking (a mild form of cannibalism - the birds pick at each other and this results in feather loss) is very commonly mistaken for molting, at it causes similar poor feather condition. Feather picking is almost always caused by one or more of these three factors - crowding, stress, or poor diet (protein deficiency).

    If you could add photos of the housing too, that would be excellent.
    2 people like this.
  3. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    Greetings from Kansas and [​IMG]! Pleased you joined our community! QueenMisha gave you some great advice. Best wishes and thanks for joining BYC!!
  4. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Hi and welcome to BYC - you have some great advice already so I'll just say hello!

    All the best
  6. lauraetco

    lauraetco New Egg

    Nov 1, 2012
    Thanks, all. Will head out to the barn and get those questions answered asap. I think we're doing lots wrong!
  7. lauraetco

    lauraetco New Egg

    Nov 1, 2012
    Thank you so much for answering my questions. Your information is helpful.

    Unfortunately, my husband wasn't too happy when I said I was going to post pictures on the internet so I'm not going to. He admitted he knows what's wrong. There isn't enough ventilation (none except the door to a hallway in the barn is propped open about two feet), they don't have enough water (the dishes are empty every morning), and they don't have enough light (I don't think he's been turning on all the lights). We do have one light on a timer. I've noticed he hasn't changed the bedding since we put them in there in the late fall and it's always humid in there.

    So, I think it's more likely they are stressed and "feather picking" (as you mentioned). According to your info, they definitely don't have enough space. There are 74 chickens in an area about 15'x15'.

    I think/hope now that they are not producing eggs, he will do something about it. I did tell him several times that we need to install a fan in the wall and that they need water more than once a day and, but it didn't/doesn't happen. I guess we could split the group up and move half to another room until the weather is warmer and they can go back to where they were in the summer (horse stalls with lots of space and ventilation plus constant water). I just hated having them in there because of the dust they produced. It settled on every single thing. Is there a way to limit the dust? How often should the bedding be completely changed? We were using shavings.

    We really should just get rid of them as neither of us have any time to take care of them. He runs an entire old-school dairy farm by himself (no days off ever) and I'm busy with our two young children (about to be two young children and a newborn).

    Having said all of that, I just went out and they don't actually look as bad as I thought. Their feathers just look messy and none have any bald or bloody spots.
  8. N F C

    N F C home again! Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013
    It sounds to me as though you know what need addressing with your current set-up.

    Best of luck

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