Why do they molt when the weather gets colder?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Yay Chicks!, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    And, it's that time of year again. Of my flock of four, I had two early molters, that molted last year. One of my EEs started molting just last week and there are feathers everywhere! She is a darker bird and looks as though she is a pillow that the stuffing is coming out of. Anyway, I've read some informative things on molting, but couldn't find the answer to my question (though I don't doubt it's on here some where!) Why, oh why do they molt in the fall? It just seems like the worst time of year to lose feathers. Is there a scientific/evolutionary reason that the molt is in the fall...or is it just based on the age of the bird and since the greater majority of people tend to get/hatch chicks in the spring this is just how it works out?

    Thanks for the information.
     
  2. ThePamperedPullet

    ThePamperedPullet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Chickens molt in the fall to get their new set of heavier feathers and down before the cold of winter sets in. Then in the spring they will shed out a lot of the feathers to prepare for the heat of summer. The spring shed is just more gradual so you dont notice it as much. It is very much like a dog shedding.
     
  3. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I don't think there is a rule book. But I believe chickens molt in the fall so they will have new warm feathers for the coming winter. But not all chickens go through a heavy molt; and not always in the fall. It varies due to breed, weather, environment, and condition of the bird. Plus there are probably lots of other factors that go into it.

    Imp
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Yay Chicks! :

    And, it's that time of year again. Of my flock of four, I had two early molters, that molted last year. One of my EEs started molting just last week and there are feathers everywhere! She is a darker bird and looks as though she is a pillow that the stuffing is coming out of. Anyway, I've read some informative things on molting, but couldn't find the answer to my question (though I don't doubt it's on here some where!) Why, oh why do they molt in the fall? It just seems like the worst time of year to lose feathers. Is there a scientific/evolutionary reason that the molt is in the fall...or is it just based on the age of the bird and since the greater majority of people tend to get/hatch chicks in the spring this is just how it works out?

    Thanks for the information.

    I have red jungle fowl which represent the bulk of the foundation used to make the domestic chicken. Much of their natural range, with exception of northern parts, is relatively mild during winter but seasons are intense enough to promote seasonality of breeding effort, especially at higher latitudes. Breeding and feather replacement can be conflicting activities. Both require increased nutrient intake and males need to be in peak feather for display purposes. Egg production, incubation and brood rearing require diversion of nutrient resources that can be more difficult to offset when metabolism is ramped up to generate new feathers and in some cases deal with reduced insulatory value of feathers. Males need to be in top feather to defend harems and possibly to attract more females (latter not supported or refuted by any papers I have seen). Therefore, for both sexes, the molt ideally will not occur when reproductive investment is peak (spring and early summer). During winter predator pressure is very likely highest. Ground predators will be having a hard time finding easy to catch juvenile prey and migrant raptors from north will be visiting. Dealing with predators, even when flight not employed is still beneficial as flight feathers can also enable higher ground speed and maneuverability during escape efforts. Molt degrades flight capacity. The heat issue is not to be ignored either. In red jungle fowl (and others), males at least undergo an eclipse molt, that occurs after peak of breeding season, which is relatively cryptic and I think allows more efficient dumping of heat when temperature are particularly high (no publications to this effect). Heat can be a major problem, especially when avoiding heat can put you in more predictable locations for predators to search. Heat can also limit sustained high levels of activity. My birds (red jungle fowl and American games) are reluctant to fly when temperatures are high and endurance appears limited first at such times by heat exhaustion rather than oxygen availability. All this seems to leave fall as best time to molt. In reality, turnover of flight feathers of wings begins at about time of summer solstice and is about 2/3 complete by time flight feathers of tail are dropped. Contour (body) feathers are turned over in increasingly at about time tail feathers are 1/2 complete. Molt is complete by time of winter solstice so molting process can take a solid 6 months. Domestic chickens do not typically have an eclipse molt and many (egg producers in particular) have been selected to have a more rapid turnover of feathers than typical of jungle fowl. Other factors potentially effecting domestic chicken molt patterns is they are not always in the best nutritional status, deal with higher parasites loads associated with confinement (especially lice), are more vulnerable to heat owing to larger size and feather type and rearing environment, and social stress. These are factors I think operate.​
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  5. zippitydooda

    zippitydooda Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I look at it like your dog, cat, horse, goat, cattle etc. getting their winter coats.

    My question is this: is it similar to the above mentioned animals that the sooner they get their winter coats & the heavier they are, the colder and longer the winter?[​IMG]

    My girls were only 5-6 months old last winter & didn't molt (that I could tell). This year, feathers EVERYWHERE.[​IMG]

    And, do any of you gather these feathers & use them? If so, HOW do you use them? [​IMG]
     
  6. BetterHensandGardens

    BetterHensandGardens Chillin' With My Peeps

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  7. al6517

    al6517 Real Men can Cook

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    Quote:X10 right on the spot exactly !!!!!!!
     
  8. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you all.

    Centrarchid, that is exactly the type of information I was hoping for. Makes so much more sense to my mind now!
     
  9. wolftracks

    wolftracks Spam Hunter

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    Quote:I save the nicest I can find. I put them in ziplocks for about a month and then I wash and dry and sometimes press them.

    How do I use them? OMG, how much time do you have?

    There a couple of posts in the Hobby section with some ideas if need them.
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    My American Games birds have started replacing flight feathers about 3 weeks ago. Body feathers are not be dropped / replaced. American Dominiques have not started. I will effort to post pattern of replacement.
     

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