There comes a time in every chicken’s life (usually around 14 – 18 months old) when it starts to lose all its feathers, looking gangly and downright ugly. But don’t be alarmed! This is a natural process that occurs annually. This process is called molt.
What is molt?
Molt is the natural shedding of feathers and regrowth of new ones. This usually happens in the fall as day length shortens. It is the chickens way to refresh old feathers and grow new ones for the coming winter. Molt happens in an expected order, starting at the head, down the back and breast, and ending on the wings and tails.
There are two types of molt that chickens can go through: hard and soft. A hard molt means all feathers are lost at nearly the same time. A soft molt, however, means feathers are lost over a longer period of time. Chickens use molt to build up their nutrient reserves and typically slow or even stop laying eggs during this time. Though they are not laying eggs, it is important that your chicken continues to receive a high-quality diet, since feathers consist of approximately 85% protein!
How to help your chickens get through molt
- Offer a feed that is high in quality and protein, such as NatureWise Feather Fixer™. Feather Fixer™ is a complete feed, so you don’t have to worry about finding other protein supplements to feed along with layer feed during molt. It's simple and easy. Feather Fixer™ is optimized in other ways, too. It contains organic trace minerals, which are more bio-available to the chicken than regular forms. Especially important are zinc and manganese, which are needed for feather growth.
- Reduce stress as much as possible. Avoid handling your chickens more than necessary, and resist bringing new birds into the flock if possible. This lets the molt proceed naturally and safely.
- Don't panic! Remember, molt is a normal process, so your chickens shouldn’t act differently, even though they may look very different. In total, molt will take between 4-16 weeks, depending if it is a hard or soft molt. Resist the temptation to add medications or other vitamins. So long as you're feeding a high-quality, high-protein feed, you don't have to worry just because your chickens are losing their feathers and have stopped laying eggs.
Let us help your feathered friends get through the molting process by giving them the best products! Ask us about Feather Fixer™ and other quality poultry feeds the next time you call or stop by one of our two convenient store locations.This post is adapted (with permission) from The Feed Room, proudly brought to you by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. The original article appears here.