I remember when I watched our first chickens go through their fall molt. I was concerned and thought for sure my chickens were dying! They looked like a hot mess! But upon some further research, I learned that it’s a very normal part of raising chickens. In fact, chickens go through two smaller molts while they’re growing as chicks before they get to their harder molt around 12-18 months of age.
When the lazy days of summer turn into the cooler, shorter days of fall, you may also notice a few (or a lot!) of feathers laying around your coop. As the leaves fall off the trees so will the feathers fall off your chickens. This may bring some anxiety about how to best help your flock through this time. While you can find information in great detail all over the internet, I’m going to break it down into simple, easy-to-understand instructions and tips to guide you through this time.
Why Do Chickens Molt?
Believe it or not, over time, chicken feathers get worn out, broken and dull. They lose their effectiveness in protecting the chickens from the wind, snow and rain. When the days get shorter and the temps get cooler, this triggers a response in your chickens to ditch their old feathers and grow new ones.
Hens and roosters both molt. Because it is a very normal process your chickens go through, your chickens should continue to act normal. However, if you’re a chicken snuggler like me, you may notice them not being excited about that. More on this later. If they would act lethargic or abnormal otherwise, it’s probably not molting. Or, there are other factors playing into them losing feathers such as stress, excessive heat, poor diet or overcrowding. If any of these are causing your chickens to lose feathers, do your best to eliminate the problem.
Though your flock will look like they’ve survived a major brawl, this is all very normal and healthy for your chickens. Each chicken will molt differently. Some will lose more feathers than others. But most will start at their head/neck area and move on down through their body. The entire molt can be anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months. It really depends on your birds. Chickens will also slow down or even completely stop laying eggs during this time. Bummer!
Here are 4 tips to keep in mind as you help your chickens through their molt:
Eliminate Stress: Molting can be a stressful time for your flock. Do your best to not add to this stress! Now is not a great time to add birds into your flock, move or deep clean your coop, or do other things to add to the stress. If there are other birds picking on the birds molting, do your best to separate them for the time being.
Up Their Protein Intake: Those new pin feathers you see growing in? They are made up of mostly protein. This requires more protein added into their diet. You can find a higher protein chicken feed at your local farm supply store. You can also supplement with high protein sources such as scrambled eggs, meal worms or sunflower seeds. Try and limit the number of treats provided during this time as it is so important for your chickens to get the proper nutrients!
Limit or Avoid Handling: If you’re an avid chicken snuggler like me this is a tough one! My girls who use to “flock” to me to hold them, now stay far away from me unless treats are involved. Even then, they are quick to dash away if they think I’m going to touch them. Why is this? This is due to the fact that molting can be painful and uncomfortable for your chickens. The pin feathers (new feathers) are hard and full of blood. If they break or are injured in some way, this can lead to other problems such as pecking from other chickens or infection. So, as hard as it is to miss out on those snuggle sessions, do your flock a favor and just hang out and tell them how wonderful they are…without the extra handling.
Use Flock Fixer by Strong Animals Chicken Essentials: Our flock has made it through an entire year without dealing with any sickness, disease, or gross things like lice or mites! We have added to our flock twice and have had a pretty intense summer as far as the weather goes. I can honestly say, I feel the health of our flock is mostly supported by the products I use regularly from Strong Animals Chicken Essentials. I always put Chicken E-lixir in their water and add in Flock Fixer in times of stress. I figure molting season will be no different as far as my flock staying healthy! I have also made frozen treats using Flock Fixer for a fun way to keep them entertained.
As I said before, molting is a very normal season in your flock’s life. If you make sure you are doing these few things listed above, your girls (and boys!) should do quite well. You will find your chickens go from scraggly to gorgeous again before you know it!