When you get out to your chicken yard and it looks like your girls have been having a pillow fight, you know it is Fall and the molting has begun!
For newer chicken parents, you might not realize what is going on, as the first year of raising chickens might not include a molt. Older chickens will molt either Spring or Fall, some overachievers might just do it both seasons. Lucky you!
However, there are several useful tips and tricks for making molting easier on your girls this year.
Two Types of Molting
Some chickens have a fast, few feathered molt, you might not even notice them losing a few feathers. The disruption in the egg laying cycle might be your only clue. Chickens will stop laying while molting and may not resume until the feathers are fully grown back in.
Other girls may adopt a slow and thorough molt that takes more time to recover from, this is sometimes called a hard molt. She may look like a pincushion, but her needs are more than just a sweater for the cold.
Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter
When a chicken molts, she needs a higher protein content feed, or maybe just a supplement to help grow those feathers back. Add mealworms or cat kibble to help her grow those feathers out. Additionally, making sure her cooping area is completely draft free is another good idea. Her lack of feathers will inhibit her ability to keep herself warm, so a cozy place to rest is important.
It’s also good for that outgoing girl that is always out in the rain as well, she needs a draft free area to dry herself too. Don’t cover ventilation holes, just make sure there isn’t wind blowing onto the roosts, as chickens fluff and hold air in their feathers to keep themselves warm and drafty spaces will sap their energy and keep them awake at night. A lack of good rest can be seen in very grumpy chickens during the day, picking fights and sometimes complaining loudly. No one wants a grumpy chicken!
I mentioned sweaters, but it’s just a joke. Chickens have their own down blanket naturally; a sweater would just inhibit their ability to keep themselves warm. Sweaters shouldn’t be a thing for birds, it's not in their nature to need clothes.
Chicken Feeding Tips for Winter
As soon as you see the feathers flying, bump up the amount of protein you give them daily. It's also okay to give some cracked corn to boost the warmth they produce. Definitely keep an eye out for sad looking hens that are not eating or preening those new feathers, this could be a sign there is something more acute going on. Our only way to tell if our girls are fighting other aliments is to keep an eye on their behavior.
Be an astute keeper and you will always know when molting or other issues are coming on, even if you don’t pinpoint the problem until the feathers start flying.
This article was contributed by Tonya Meyer. You can get chicken tendering help from her at The Chicken People.