Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Chickens' New Clothes

Once we became chicken farmers, it wasn't long until some of the chickens started losing feathers.  This is startling for new chicken owners.  Feathers were everywhere and the egg laying stopped.  We were wondering what on earth this could be.  We found that at about 16-18 month old, chickens will have their first molt.  Molting normally occurs when the days grow shorter and the temperatures start to cool off.  Stress can also cause a chicken to molt.  With some chickens, molting is a gradual thing.  The other chickens just start dropping feathers. First of all, feathers all over the place normally means "fowl" play!  We once had a Jubilee Orpington hen that lost almost all of her feathers in a day or two.  She was almost naked and looked horrible.  We were afraid this had to be more than a molt.  Almost as quickly as the feathers fell out, they began coming back in.  She was very strange looking for a bit, but soon had her feathers back.  The new feathers were bright and pretty.  It amazed us that the old feathers looked normal until the new feathers came in.  We had not realized how dull they can become.

During molting, the hens will typically stop laying as well.  Even though they are not laying, the recommendation is to feed them a higher protein diet to aid in feather production.  Feathers consist of mostly protein!  The recommendations are to have at least 16% protein in their feed.  We normally feed at 20% protein year round.  We mix our feed with scratch, oats, minerals, probiotics and black oil sunflower seeds.  The sunflower seeds are another excellent source of protein for the birds.  We have found this mixture to keep them quite healthy along with allowing them adequate time to roam around and forage for insects, seeds and grass.

Soon enough the chickens have their pretty new feathers, and they look like school kids with their new fall clothes.  Laying gradually starts back up and all is well on the farm!

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