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Raising Chickens: Tips to Raising Chickens

Raising Chickens: Tips to Raising Chickens


Chickens Are Losing Feathers, Chicken Moulting Process

My chickens are molting. Actually most new chicken owners start out with, “Help my chickens are losing all of their feathers and I am afraid they are sick or will freeze to death in the cold temps that will soon be upon us where I live!” Actually it is probably something that is a natural occurrence in chickens and it is called molting. Most of the time you will find that the natural process of molting usually occurs right around 18 months which puts it right after it’s first full year of laying.

The shorter daylight hours of the fall and winter months usually will stimulate the onset of the chickens moulting. Usually you will find that each of your chickens just as they have an individual personality will also be an individual when it comes to molting as well. Usually you will find that the duration of a molt will vary from breed to breed and even from individual bird to individual bird within a breed.

Some of your chickens will molt pretty fast and will actually continue to lay a few eggs all through the molting process. I find that in my flock it is usually the higher producing hens that will molt fastest. They tend to just get the job done and get back to laying. The hens on the lower end of the productive scale usually will take longer to molt and at times depending upon the chicken I may cull this bird out of the flock. If she is a low end producer and then she is also going to spend all of her time molting and not producing eggs, she better have a very good personality or something very special when it comes to breeding her like top show quality breed stock, or she is on her way out.

It is a good idea to keep the protein levels up in their feed as feathers are all protein. This will not only help keep them warm in the cold days ahead, but it will help the feathers to grow back in better conditioned and somewhat faster.

Many times you will find your chickens molting at a different time than the shorter days months of the year. The reason for this is that many times we can inadvertently bring on a moult through just plain poor managing of our flocks. You will find that there are many things that can cause stress or fatigue to your flock and this can and many times will trigger an early moult. One thing that will trigger an early molt is the case of the flock owner that will start out with lights on in the coop when the days get shorter and then decide that the energy used is costing to much and then shut them off. This can send the chickens into a forced molt as they will begin to think it is fall due to the all of the sudden short days.

There are also flock owners that will use some kind of forced molt methods to induce molting at a particular time of the year or for a particular reason. The biggest reason for a forced molt is profit. I am not sure why the everyday backyard chicken farmer would have a need for forced molting unless it might be to make sure the girls were fully feathered in EXTREME COLD conditions. But I have never seen a need for it as usually nature handles this just fine as it has for years. God designed things to work as they should and we usually do not need to interfere with the process.

Usually a forced molt practice is seen in the large commercial flocks that are just interested in egg production. They want larger eggs.

If you have been raising chickens for any length of time you will very quickly understand that once a pullet has gone through her first molt, she usually lays larger eggs than in her first egg laying season. Commercial poultry owners know that the larger eggs of course are going to bring a higher price and the faster or earlier the hens start laying larger eggs, the more profitable she becomes. By inducing or using a forced molt method, the egg producer can increase his profit margin.

Like I already said stress causes molts so basically, you force a molt by creating some kind of environmental stress in your flock. Creating stress used to be done by withholding food from the hens for a few days. Of course seems kind of cruel to me and it also did to many others once word got out that this is what was happening. So know they use different practices like a lower quality feed ration. I believe I heard they used something like just alfalfa pellets if I remember right. But this is all just information to chew on because like I said already, I don’t see any reason to force a molt for just the typical backyard chicken owner like us.

Besides molting the other main reasons for loss of feathers in your flock are feather pecking and pulling by other birds, Inadequate Nutrition, and Disease and Stress.

Unhealthy birds or birds that are under stressful conditions may also exhibit feather loss. Using best management practices and observing your birds for possible disease conditions is very, very important to your flock. As an owner you are responsible for their care.  If you are not going to be involved and pay attention it is best you find a new hobby and leave the raising of animals to the ones that will do this correctly.

Many times people get into things they just do not understand and find themselves in over their heads and the animal is the one that suffers.

There are many elements that can become a stressful conditions that can result in the loss of feathers in your flock of chickens, Conditions such as heat, cold, disease, and lack of adequate amounts of feed and water can are the main elements.

Most of these can be prevented by proper management. If you suspect that the loss of feathers is not from a molt then it is time to evaluate your management practices. Good quality feathering is vital to your flocks well being. Providing good management programs, adequate feed and water and minimizing stressful conditions in your flocks will help assure strong feathers and a healthy flock.

In the extreme heat you can find ways to improve ventilation or cool the conditions down by doing simple things like providing a fan. If you have young children feeding your flock always do some checking to make sure that the feeding and watering is actually getting done and that there are not times that the flock is out of either. I have raised 6 children and I know that they are no different than you and I and they get side tracked from their responsibilities now and then.

Proper management goes a long way to keep the flock happy and healthy.

Just love on them and let them do what they do best. Provide food for our tables and entertainment that I am pretty sure helps many of us just get away from the cares of life and release some of the stress. Let them chickens molt away.

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