Have you ever checked on your chicken coop and wondered if a predator got in your coop because of all of the feathers scattered around? You check around for holes in your poultry wire and then count your chickens and joyfully find that they are all accounted for. So where did all of the feathers come from?
Your birds are probably molting.
What is molting?
Molting is a natural process a bird goes through. It normally occurs at the end of the laying cycle in the Autumn. As the days get shorter and feeding time decreases, their natural clock tells them it’s time to take a break from the rigors of laying and replenish their feathers. Feather production requires protein, just as egg production. So the bird stops laying eggs in order to redirect the nutrients to the production of feathers.
Why do they do it?
It is nature’s way to giving their bodies a rest and also of keeping their feathers of high quality.
When do they molt?
Molting normally happens once a year in the Fall. This is most likely to happen with birds that were hatched in the Spring and kept in natural conditions. If they are hatched at a different time of year and given artificial light, the molting process may happen at other times.
Is there a way to speed it up?
Keeping them healthy is the best way to ensure they get through the process as efficiently as possible.
Why does egg production stop during molting?
Egg production will stop during molting to give their bodies a break and divert nutrients to feather production.
How long does it last?
In most poultry, the process will last about 12 weeks. If it take significantly longer that this, it may indicate an unhealthy bird or a poor laying bird.
Is there a way to prevent it?
No. This is nature’s way to saying, “GIVE ME A BREAK!”
Is there a way to cause all of your birds to molt at a specific time?
There are ways to help this happen. Usually, if a batch of birds was hatched at the same time and kept in the same conditions, they will naturally molt together. Large egg producers have tricks to ensure this is the case and it usually has to do with causing a stressful situation for the birds.
Is there anything I should do for my birds while they are molting?
Continue feeding them a good, healthy diet so they can finish the process and get back to laying eggs for you.
What other types of poultry molt?
All types of poultry will molt.