How to: Help your Hens through Moulting Season

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 01 December 2018

Have you noticed your feathered friends are looking a little bare? A few less eggs in the egg basket? This could mean that your ladies and gentlemen are moulting! Why do Chickens Moult? Moulting is a natural cycle that both hens and roosters go through in the course of their lives. It allows chickens to shed any old, worn feathers and replace them with shiny new ones! It is also an essential time in which their reproductive organs can rest and rejuvenate - they need a well-deserved break from all their hard work.

Moulting leghorn chickens in backyard coop

What Causes Moulting? The top three causes for moulting are:

  • Lessening hours of daylight – the coming of winter
  • Their egg laying cycle has finished – their organs need to rest
  • Stress – something in their environment is depriving them of one or more essential elements

When will your Chicken Moult? Baby Chicks: As baby chicks develop you should expect four cycles of moulting to occur:

  • 1-6 weeks
  • 7-9 weeks
  • 12-13 weeks
  • 20-22 weeks

Adult Chickens: Fully-grown hens and roosters can be expected to moult twice a year:

  • Autumn (March-May)
  • Spring (September – November)

What To Expect: Moulting can cause some chickens to look unhealthy and lose weight. However, the immune system gets neglected during this time as the chicken is putting all energy, proteins and nutrients into the production of new feathers.  That's why it is essential that chickens are cared for more extensively during the moulting seasons.

The Top Five Tellers of a Moulting Chicken:

  • Bald spots
  • A dull comb
  • Moodiness
  • Reduced or pause in egg production
  • Increased appetite for protein

What to do During Moulting: It is essential that slight changes be made to a chickens diet during the moulting seasons. Feathers are made of 80-85% protein; therefore, their production uses almost all the protein consumed by the chicken. This causes the hens to stop, reduce size or reduce quantity of egg production during the moulting season, as protein availability is scarce. To aid your chickens during the moulting months it is essential that you increase the right forms of protein in their diet. Have a sticky beak at ways to give your moulting chickens a protein boost here!

Sources and further reading

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