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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Molting Process

The Molting Process

Shorter days and cooler temperatures...For people, it’s a sign that it is back to school time and fall. To chickens, it’s a sign that it is time to renew their feathers. Losing feathers and re-growing them is called molting and occurs every year when the days get shorter.

During molt, chickens typically stop laying eggs and use this time to build up their nutrient reserves. Even though they are not laying, it is critical that your chickens have a high quality diet during this time.
Feeding a high quality ration through molt will help your birds get through the molting process and back to laying eggs as quickly as possible.
Hen Scratch Grains Illustration
Top tips for feeding through the molt:
  • Feed a 16% protein layer feed like Nutrena NatureWise® or Country Feeds® that provide a complete nutrient and energy package for your birds
  • Make feed available free choice
  • Supplement with extra protein like sunflower seeds, cooked eggs, or peas during molt
  • Limit scratch to 10% of diet during molt so you don’t dilute the protein content of the ration
Molting and growing new feathers requires a lot of energy. Feathers are 85% protein… so be sure your birds’ diet includes a highly nutritious feed like Nutrena NatureWise or Nutrena Country Feeds that consists of at least 16% protein. You don’t need to add medications or other vitamins if you’re feeding one of these feeds.

Just as your chickens have individual personalities, they will go through molt differently as well. Some lose a few feathers and grow them back in as quickly as 3-4 weeks. Other chickens lose a lot of feathers and take 12-16 weeks to grow them back.

Other tips for helping chickens get through molting:
  • Reduce stress as much as possible, avoid bringing new birds into the flock if possible
  • Chickens should act normal during their molt – if they seem sick, something else is wrong
  • Both roosters and hens go through molt
  • Avoid handling your chickens during molt, it is painful for them and increases stress
Chickens will lose feathers in a sequence starting with the head and neck and then down the back, across the breast and thighs and finally their tail feathers. The new feathers that emerge are called pinfeathers and will grow in following the same sequence they were lost.

So don’t panic when your chickens start losing their feathers and stop laying eggs. Molting is a normal and natural process of shedding feathers and re-growing them that all chickens go through. The best thing you can do to help your chickens through molt is to feed a high quality, high protein layer feed.


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