So the autumn has finally come around and you’ve noticed for the first time your hens have started loosing feathers, they’re typically going through the molting stage which takes place on a yearly basis when the days start to get colder and shorter. To be honest, your hens shouldn’t be eating less during the process they should be maintaining their current consumption or increasing it as molting requires a lot of energy.
In this article we’ll be going through the following; should my hens be eating less when molting, what the molting process consists of and general tips to help during the molting stage.
Should my hens be eating less when molting
When your chickens are molting it shouldn’t really affect their eating, if your notice your hens are eating less during this stage then it might be linked to other causes. However give the birds some time, if it’s their first time molting it can be a stressful stage, letting them get through it, is the best thing you can do. If you have noticed a drop in appetite it shouldn’t last for long, their bodies are probably adjusting to this new cycle.
During the molting stage, your hen’s will actually need significant amounts of protein to grow new feathers, if their diets are not on point then it could lead to further complications. Your hens have stopped laying for that very reason, all their energy has to go into the molt so without a constant source of food you could imagine how difficult it would be. However if you do notice your hens have decreased feed consumption then we recommend taking a step back to try and find what’s wrong, possible stressors such as predators could be posing a threat to your hens which sometimes causes a loss of appetite, to make sure this doesn’t happen it’s crucial to have a well built coop and lock your hens up for the night.
Your top priority during this stage is to try and keep the birds as comfortable as possible, if you notice hens being picked on within the flock then this could be another cause for a loss of appetite for some birds. Making sure that all birds have access to food and water is always important but more so during this time. If you want more information about how to deal with bullying within the flock then feel free to check out our article on how to stop my hen from being bullied.
What is the molting process
The molting process takes place during the colder months, chickens tend to loose their feathers and begin to regrow them. During the molting stage hen’s will often completely stop laying, this is because all their engergy is needed to undergo the losing and growing of new feathers.
You’ll notice hens start loosing the feathers around the neck first, this is completely normal and is a sign that the molt in beginning. The feathers will continue to fall off and regrow until the tail feathers, which usually happens last.
The process will take place once a year, during the molt is crucial that your hens are not stressed out, this can lead to the molt taking longer than it should, Typically the molting process can be over within a month however most chickens take 2 to 3 times as long. Some hens molt faster than others so don’t worry, your hens should start laying soon enough.
There are some key things to try and implement during the molting stage, they allow the chickens to get over the stage as quickly and easily as possible.
Tips to help during the molting stage
During the molting stage hens require a very high level of protein, what we found to work well during the molting stage is to switch over their layers pellets to a more protein based feed, here’s the one we use.
Our general recommendation: Extra Select Complete Layers Pellets Poultry Feed (check current price on Amazon)
This feed contains 16% protein and is perfect for providing your hens with that energy boost they’ll need to grow new feathers. Its also packed full of vitamins and minerals giving you hens increase nutrients to help them get through the molt.
We usually change over to this feed once the hens start developing early signs on molting, this is usually a loss of a few feathers around the neck area. Our hens really like the feed and are always back to their normal self within 2 months. If you’re looking for a good feed, filled with health boosting nutrients give the extra select pellets a go, they can be used for daily consumption however we find the feed to be most effective during the molting stage.
If you’ve read some of our other articles you’ll know we’re strong believers in giving hens leftovers, this doesn’t change when the hens start molting. We’ve discovered it’s clear that giving you hens a wider variety of food is only good for them, the extra nutrients they will get form things such as cabbage, fruit, and rice are great for maintaining good health within the flock.
The molting stage can be quite painful for the birds, this is why we advise you try not to pick them up or contact them in any way during this period, hens are fabulous pets and may like some attention however touching them in this state will be very painful and isn’t worth it. Contact with your hens during the molt will only stress them out further.
Trying to keep your hens stress free during the molt is another thing we believe is very important, the threat of predators and rodents is sometimes ongoing if you live in the countryside, so it’s crucial to make sure the coop is secure. Locking up the hens for the night will keep them safe and sound, it’s especially important during the molting stage.
Let them get through it, it’s more than likely the molt will be over before you know it, hens are tough birds and are usually swiftly return to those laying boxes.
The molt can be hard on the birds especially if it’s their first time, it’s vital that if you do notice a maintained decrease in their feeding, find out what’s causing the issue, evidently stressed out hens who are feeding less will only be weaker, loose weight and take longer to molt. If it’s something like the presence of rats or predictors in the coop, getting rid of the stressor should allow your hens to revolt back to their natural feeding habits.
So there you have it a quick insight into how molting affects the diet, if you found this article useful then feel free to check out some of our other @easyhens.com
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.