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What is moulting?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by AK_Button_Mama, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. AK_Button_Mama

    AK_Button_Mama Songster

    Dec 30, 2008
    Wasilla, Alaska
    ok I have heard several people say thier chicks would stop laying while they moulted.... I was wondering if any one could explain that to me.... My assumtion is that it is when they loose thier feathers and get new ones....

    If I am right I was wondering if they HAVE to do this to be healthy? I have mine under 17 hours of light in a heated (50-60 degree) barn and they have not "molted" if it is healthy for them not to I dont want to make them and if its not I need to know how to make them molt.... what is the purpose of them moulting?

    the only feathers my two hens have lost was because I trimed them (flight ones).
  2. debilorrah

    debilorrah The Great Guru of Yap Premium Member

    Yes that is molting! they usually have a mini-molt around 8 months then a full blown one at 18 months or so. That is when they look bald and pitifull and stop laying. I wouldn't lay either if I looked like that. [​IMG]

    ETA: They don't HAVE to but they do - it part of their life cycle, they just do it.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  3. Lobzi

    Lobzi Crowing 10 Years

    Do all chickens molt? Im wondering because there is talk about egg laying stopping but that wouldnt apply to roosters. So do roosters molt too?
  4. debilorrah

    debilorrah The Great Guru of Yap Premium Member

    Yes they do. All birds molt. Even sparrows and ravens, and hawks, and eagles, etc. We just notice it because our birds look retarded when they molt. My Roo just went through a mini-molt and lost all his neck and tail feathers. Talk about ridiculous looking! [​IMG]
  5. Lobzi

    Lobzi Crowing 10 Years

    OK, thank you. I sure hope mine wait until it warms up a little.
  6. al6517

    al6517 Real Men can Cook

    May 13, 2008
    Yes you are correct, I just wish the whole process was shorter though.
  7. creativetracy

    creativetracy Chirping

    Jan 6, 2014
    Our hens are 21 months old and some are losing feathers around the tail, some in the chest area, and some in the wing area. I have also noticed that out of our 6 hens, we are getting about 3 eggs per day - give or take an egg.

    Does this sound like moulting or feather picking by other chickens?

    Does the egg production just go down from their or do they pick up the egg laying after moulting is over? How long does moulting last and do they re-grow their feathers back in the bald areas?

    Thanks for your help. [​IMG]
  8. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging 8 Years

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Climate and weather, (those two are different, by the way), length of daylight hours, age, all play important roles in molting.

    Button Mama, if your chickens live all the time in a lighted, warm barn, they may not molt so as you would notice, only replacing feathers as they fall out or are yanked out. Also, Tracy, living in a mild climate like you do, the same thing could happen.

    Generally, in fall, for chickens who have reached maturity, they will react to the shortening days and cooling temperatures and begin to drop their feathers. It's sometimes a slow process until the first real cold weather hits and the feathers rapidly come back in. Molts can last up to three or four months or as quickly as a month. You will recognize it's molt and not feather picking because the bald areas are covered in pin feathers, not smooth skin.

    Since feather replacement requires a drain on a chicken's nutritional resources, protein and calcium,etc, they will usually stop laying during molt, beginning again sometime after winter solstice when the days start getting longer again.

    Some people don't like to miss out on fresh eggs, so they replace light lost before winter solstice with artificial light, which stimulates hens to keep on laying. However, if they're also molting, this may weaken a hen or affect the quality of the eggs because protein and calcium are being used up for both purposes. For this reason, many of us have opted to forego the extra lighting and let the hens have a vacation until they've finished molting.

    I hope that explains it.

    No, Tracy, the egg laying does not go downhill after molt. If anything, it improves after a hen has had a rest period.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014

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