Thoughts on Moulting (Molting) aka I'm not getting eggs!!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by woodmort, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. woodmort

    woodmort Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    There seems to be a lot of threads on here lately about chickens that have suddenly stopped laying. While much of the blame seems to be pointed toward the seasonal lower sunlight and temperature levels the main cause may be that the birds are going into moult (or molt, either works). For those new to chickens, this is a periodic--usually annual--shedding and replacement of feathers. All birds go through this--the goldfinches that come to our feeder do it twice a year going from summer's yellow to winter's brown and back again. During this time the birds need to put most of their energy into growing new feathers--some like wild geese can't fly until their flight feathers return. While some birds do this gradually so they won't be inconvienced, some will lose masses of feathers at one time. This is generally what happens to chickens so their bodies are put under a lot of stress in order to regrow new feathers. Since this engery is used elsewhere, egg production will slow and, for many breeds, stop all together. I always have to remind my DW that, as we approach October, we must hoard eggs because we aren't going to get many from midOctober through the end of December/early January. While we have two to three dozen layers and are never completely run out of fresh eggs, someone with a dozen or fewer birds may experience a period where they get no eggs at all.

    Why Fall? Some claim it is the weather/season. I, on the other hand, think it is more a factor of age. Most people start their chicks in the spring so they will begin to lay in the fall months. It has been my experience that their moult occurs annually at the age where they first start to lay. (Most chicks moult a few times as they go from fuzzy down to adult feathers so the real "adult" plumage is set about the time they're ready to lay.) Therefore, the moulting period just happens to coencide with the Fall season but this isn't a cause/effect relationship. Usually pullets who start to lay in, say, October, lay all winter, through the next summer and come October of their second year, moult. At this point their owners are going from a lot of eggs to nothing and, because they're not expecting it, panic.

    My point would be that if your year-old or older chickens have stopped laying in the Fall, relax, feed them well and you'll soon be rewarded with fewer but larger eggs in a couple of months. On the other hand, if you're new to chicken keeping and started last spring with chicks, be prepared for no eggs come next fall.
  2. CoffeeCow

    CoffeeCow Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 29, 2010
    Washington, NC
    Thanks for the info !

    Mine just started laying, so I will be prepared for next fall [​IMG]
  3. Tinkspirit70

    Tinkspirit70 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 27, 2010
    Central Fla
    Good reading :eek:) My cochin girls are just finishing their first molt and I am starting to get eggs from them again. Your right the eggs are twice the size they were before but they only lay every other day now, which is fine with us. We have some younger rir's and production reds that are a year younger and have yet to go thru their molt so we are getting eggs everyday from them but I cant wait to see how big their eggs will be after their molt. Thankyou for taking the time to explain the process :eek:) Our blue birds go thru molt as well !!
  4. K8tieCat

    K8tieCat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 15, 2007
    Northern California
    Thank you for this information! I went from 8 eggs a day to one with the addition of three more brand new layers coming into season. All I'm getting now is one egg from my 1.5 year olds while the new girls are just getting in the mood. I was concerned only because so many people want eggs and it's taking 3-4 days to fill a carton now. [​IMG]
  5. newchicksnducks

    newchicksnducks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for the info! I guess misery loves company.. [​IMG] It's nice to know my chickens aren't the only ones taking a break. And now I have an idea when these 18 month old girls will get back to work. I have one of my 3 spring birds laying already, but her eggs are tiny pullet eggs. Really looking forward to having all 14 girls on board.
  6. wolftracks

    wolftracks Spam Hunter

    Nov 6, 2009
    OK I have a question.

    Until now I have always gotten new birds and never really had them older. I have some now that are 2 1/2 and 3 1/3 years old. Their moult started in August. They are finally looking pretty good (which makes me think I'll be removing spurs, cause they had so many broken feathers) their all shiny and new looking, but they moulted for a vey long time it seemed and still no eggs. Does the age and moult make a difference as to how long before they start laying again? I have two FBCMs that lay an 8 and I'm itching to hatch all I can get from them. Heck I'll settle right now for some 6's from the others. LOL Just like I said never had chickens older than 2 years old before. Lots of other birds, but not chickens. With more space I'm holding on to them longer it seems.

    BTW they got lots of good suppliments and goodies while they were moulting, but even my games who are young are just finishing thier moult which they started in September, but their looking like they may be wanting to start up soon. More interest in the nesting boxes and their all around a year old.

    I love that you put out this thread! So many new people have no idea about moulting and I think it scares them a bit when it first happens.
  7. banjoejoe4783

    banjoejoe4783 VILLAMIL FARMS

    Oct 6, 2010
    westville ok
    dont think that when the chicks are hached conterols molting time my birds that where hached in nov molt close to the same time that the birds hached in may do think it is change in temp and lite that are the main cause also feed if you change feed it will start a molt so i think it is more to do with season and feeding than time of year they where hached
  8. Year of the Rooster

    Year of the Rooster Sebright Savvy

    Jun 27, 2008
    West Central Ohio
    It also takes a minimum of 6 weeks for a feather to grow back completely. Which explains why molting probably takes so long and why it takes them a while to start laying again.

    Just throwing this out there: I bought my birds from Ideal and they arrived the first week of Sept. of '08. They are now a little over two years old. None of them have molted at the same exact time. I had a Sebright hen molt in September, my Silkies molted some time in August, my EE is molting right now, and my RIR, BA, and BR having even started yet.

    All of the breeds I have: Silkies (3 two-year-olds, 4 one-year-olds), 2 Sebrights (roo and hen), 1 Easter Egger, 1 Black Australorp, 1 Barred Rock, and 1 Rhode Island Red (all four hens).
  9. StacyK

    StacyK Out Of The Brooder

    May 20, 2009
    Sumner, WA
    Yep, my girls are on schedule. They are 19 months now & a couple started molting last month & all but one are now. Have 3 EE's & 3 RIR, went from 5-6 eggs/day to one if I'm lucky now. Poor things are not a pretty sight, but look forward to their new feathers. And a little nice to have a break from eggs. We couldn't use them all for awhile there [​IMG]
  10. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    I figured I'd just always grow out new chicks every year, so I have some that will be laying when the others are molting. But I guess I grew out the wrong breeds this year, because my pure Ameraucana's and Marans have quit laying completely. [​IMG] Oh well, I tried to outsmart them. [​IMG] So all I have are the 2 SPPR's that just started laying this past week and my 1 1/2 year old light brahma that hasn't quit yet. (but she has the buzzard head look)

    Looks like I'll be hoarding eggs next year too.

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