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Expert tips and tricks for backyard chicken keeping

How to help your chicken through the moulting season

Facts & Tips, General

If you notice feathers on the ground or see naked chickens during the end of summer and beginning of autumn, don’t be alarmed. This is the time of year when chickens moult, although the timing can vary depending on several factors such as age, breed, and environmental conditions.

Moulting is a natural process in which chickens shed their old feathers and grow new ones. It happens once a year and is crucial for their health and well-being.

Chickens over a year old are more likely to moult than younger chickens, and some breeds may moult more frequently than others. Additionally, the amount of daylight hours can also affect the timing of moulting. As the days start to get shorter, chickens’ natural instinct is to moult and grow new feathers before winter arrives.

Moulting is an annual break from egg laying. Chickens moult for several reasons.

Firstly, it allows them to replace old and damaged feathers with new ones. This process ensures that their feathers remain in good condition, which is essential for their ability to regulate their body temperature, protect them from the elements, and enable them to fly.

Secondly, moulting is necessary for the production of new feathers. Chickens require a significant amount of protein to produce feathers, and during the moulting period, they redirect the protein from egg production to feather growth. As a result, egg production may decrease or even stop during this time.

During moulting, chickens may look scruffy, and their skin may be visible. The process can take several weeks to complete, and it is essential to provide chickens with a stress-free environment during this time, as moulting can be physically demanding.

Ensure they have access to plenty of food and water, and provide them with extra protein to support feather growth. The number one nutrient switches from calcium to protein, so it is crucial to feed your chickens a high-protein diet during this time. You can also offer high protein treats such as sunflower seeds, mealworms, soldier fly larvae, and sprouting seeds. Calci-protein blend and protein power bars are perfect for boosting your chooks protein levels. If you can, switch to a higher protein feed such as red hen 17. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs. Adding apple cider vinegar to their water can also help support their immune system.

It is important to keep stress levels low for chickens during moulting. The area where the feather shaft meets the skin can be sensitive, so reduce handling and provide plenty of clean bedding. Keep the coop clean and free of excess feathers to prevent pest and parasite infestations. Offer enough space for your chickens to rest and relax in private.

Watch for signs of illness, as moulting is a time when a chicken’s immune system can be depleted. Avoid introducing new flock members during this time, as this can add stress.

In conclusion, moulting is a natural process, and once your chickens have gone through it and grown their new feathers, you will notice a big difference. Their new coat will be glossy and perfectly formed, covering their skin and protecting them from wind, rain, and frost. Just remember to provide them with a stress-free environment, plenty of food and water, and extra protein to support feather growth.

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