Chickens and Moulting

Moulting is the shedding, and replacing of feathers. The reproductive system of the bird is allowed a complete rest to rebuild energy and nutrients needed to regrow feathers. This natural process usually occurs once a year under normal conditions, however can happen twice a year in some birds, and even once every two years in some rare birds.

Nutrition is a very important factor during this process, as moulting can be a very stressful. Feathers are mostly made of protein. The proteins in feathers contain larger quantities of sulfur, and amino acids than the protein in other parts of the body. Seed based diets are particularly low in these critical amino acids. Since mineral only supplements do not compensate for this shortage, they did not prove adequate to promote a fast successful moult. Feeds high in oils will also help with new feathers coming in, and will alleviate some stress caused by this. Some examples of this are black oil sunflower seeds, fish, and high protein dog or cat food.

There are several reasons fowl go through moults. Some of the conditions that will trigger a moult are the completion of the laying cycle, fatigue, amount of lighting, parasites, disease, pecking order, and irregular feeding. Keeping them on a stable feeding regimen is important, and using supplements during the moult will help your fowl get through it as quickly as possible. The moult is a normal thing, and can happen quickly, or slow, depending on the conditions it occurs in, so be patient, provide the required nutrients, and take care not to handle them, as it is painful for them as they grow new feathers. They will get over this, and look better than ever when done! By the way, don’t be surprised if their coloring changes slightly, as this is a normal thing too, especially for spangles. For more information on the moult, check out the forum! Ultimate Fowl Forum



2 Responses to “Chickens and Moulting”

  1. October 25, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I live in Ireland. I just got a flock of 100 hens. They are a year old and moulting at the moment. I am wondering whether horse food would be good for them in addition to their layers pellets and corn mash. Also, this is probably a stupid question but my land is clay and the water sits on top. Is there anything I can do to discourage them from drinking it as I am worried they will get sick because its bound to be contaminated with droppings.

  2. October 26, 2008 at 12:50 am

    I would not recommend using horse feed at all due to the molasses that is in there will act as a laxative to your chickens. If you want to help them with feed, try mixing in some non-medicated chick starter with your layer feed to bring up your protein level during the moult. As far chickens eating their own poo, that is one thing good about them as they can do this without really hurting them. The only problem you will get with this behavior is if you have parasites, or diseases that can pass this way. If you need more assistance, feel free to sign up to my forum and ask them there, as we are happy to help! Good luck!

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