Maybe this post should be Headed with ‘Where have All My Eggs Gone’.
As day light hours are reduced and temperatures drop many times your chickens will go into Molt cycle.
Molting is normal and all birds drop old feathers and grow new feathers every year. Molt is just more pronounced in some types of birds than others.
Molting is a natural process that chickens go through annually so they can replenish and replace their feathers. Chickens need to grow new feathers to allow them to effectively regulate their body temperature especially those in colder environments.
Chickens will molt several times during their lives. The first molt is called a “juvenile” molt and occurs when they are only 6 – 8 days old. During this molt, the baby chickens actually lose their downy covering to replace it with actual feathers. The second juvenile molt occurs for the male when he is about 8 -12 weeks old when his ornamental feathers will come in.
The first adult molt typically starts around 18 months of age and occurs in the late summer or early fall. This molt will last approximately 8 – 12 weeks. However, some chickens can spread the molting process out up to six months.
Adult chickens will either have a “soft” or “hard” molt.
With a “soft” molt, the bird loses it feathers slowly and it is hard to tell that they are molting. With a “hard” molt, the chicken dramatically loses it feathers and can appear rough-looking or naked.
The decrease of daylight coupled with the end of an egg-laying cycle is the most common trigger for molting. Physical stress, malnutrition, lack of water, extreme heat and non-typical lighting conditions can also trigger molting throughout the year.
Molting chickens cannot support both egg and feather production at the same time and this is why chickens either stop laying eggs all together or have a significant reduction. Once feather replacement has occurred, egg laying will begin again.
When your chickens are going through a molt, providing additional protein is beneficial.
Most commercial egg layer feeds are at around 16% protein. When your chickens are molting, you should increase protein feed supply, using a broiler feed, to provide around 20 – 25% protein may be helpful.
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