design-inspired urban farming
We haven’t spoken much about our hens yet. We’ve been waiting until after summer to feature our lovely ladies. And just last week we started noticing a number of feathers in and around the hen house and in the run. I didn’t think much of this until we stopped getting any eggs this week. It’s the time of year where our ladies are molting.
Molting is a process whereby hens will shed their feathers and produce new ones due to decreased sunlight hours. The process typically occurs in the Fall as daylight tends to get shorter. However, molting can also happen in Spring. The cycle takes about 2-4 months and can be a stressful time for both birds and owners. During this time, egg production slows and completely stops until the process is complete. Their bodies aren’t able to support egg production during this time. It can be stressful on your hens due to the physical toll it takes on their bodies and hormone fluctuations.
Molting is a natural process that happens yearly in mature birds. It’s not a pretty time and your ladies may take on some curious behavior. Our ladies tend to be quieter, they spend more time in their coop, they tend to eat less and sometimes lose a little weight. They are not diseased nor do they have mites. This may be the first thing that may come to mind with new chicken owners. Your hens will need lots of TLC during this time, which means ensuring they are eating well with an increased amount of protein. We like to give our girls extra mealworms, seeds and legumes to give them the extra boost they need. Some fellow chicken owners we know feed their flock meat, but we prefer to provide forms of protein that they would find while foraging – like mealworms and earthworms and other bugs.
The good news is that molting birds are hardier once they gone through their first molt. This means they are less prone to disease.
Our feature story on our flock will likely wait until later this Fall when our ladies are feeling more camera-ready. Until then, please let us know if you have questions about your molting chickens. Do you have a backyard flock? Have they begun molting? Please post your experience. We’d love to hear from you!