What Happens when Chickens Moult November 18 2015

Chickens will start to moult when the hours of day light reduce, or when their laying cycle has finished or when they are in stress.  During the period of moulting, the chicken’s reproductive system will rest.  Moulting (losing their feathers) can be quite stressful for chickens, so it is important to make sure that they are healthy and happy during that time.  New feathers will help to keep a chicken warmer in the winter and after moulting your chicken will become hardier and more resistant to disease.  It should also be noted that cocks also moult.

When a chick hatches, they are covered in down and not feathers.  A chick will have four mini moults – at 1-6 weeks, 7-9 weeks, 12-13 weeks and 20-22 weeks.  It is during the last moult that the tail feathers will grow.

A fully grown chicken will moult in the autumn when the days get shorter.  It takes a pure breed six weeks to complete a moult but a hybrid is usually quicker.  Occasionally the chicken will lay an egg during the moult but usually they do not.  The reason why they do not lay eggs is because feathers are made up of 85% protein and a chicken cannot lay eggs – which are 13% protein -  and make new feathers as well.

Do make sure that you keep a watch on your flock because sometimes other chickens will peck at a chicken with bald spots, thus increasing its stress.  You should be feeding your moulting chickens on a feed with a higher amount of protein in it, such as one with 20% protein, and this will help the chicken to grow its new feathers.  Amino acids, vitamins and minerals should be given to your chickens and Apple Cider Vinegar is rich in minerals and vitamins and thus should be given.  It can be easily added to their water.  The new feathers that are coming will push the old ones out.  Do not feed your chickens on too much corn as it will reduce the protein intake of your chickens. 

First of all the chicken will lose head and primary wing feathers and then lose feathers down the body.  If you have clipped your chicken’s wings, then you will have to re-clip them once the feathers have grown.  However do not clip too early as when a feather is growing, there is blood inside the quill and if you cut it too soon it will bleed – and that can be hard to stop.  A quill which is full of blood will be dark in colour instead of clear.