- Chickens annual moult most often starts during autumn. For first time poultry keepers this can be quite a shock as healthy birds that were in full lay stop and will begin to look very scruffy and in some cases almost ‘oven ready’.
- This is a completely natural process, due to the nature of the moult and the need for the bird to build up its nutrients to aid the feather regrowth egg laying is halted in most but not all birds. The new feathers are there to help better protect the bird in the cold conditions to come and to just help the bird in its ability for flight against predators ( so it may be necessary to clip wing feathers again.)Under usual conditions, adult birds moult once a year. Some may moult twice in one year and, rarely, once in two years.
- The moult should be complete in January when the birds will start laying again. Factors that bring about moulting are that the bird is physically exhausted from all the laying, the completion of her laying cycle and or the reduction of the day light hours. Feathers are 85% protein so when birds moult, replacing their feathers laying hens will stop producing eggs. Eggs are made up of protein and it is too much for a hen to produce new feathers as well as eggs.
- Pure breeds usually take longer to moult then hybrids. For our POL hybrids we expect approximately 11 months of egg laying production per year When a hen goes into moult, her plumage will take on a dull appearance, it will normally take about 6 weeks for a hen to moult older birds can take longer. As our Pol they are high laying birds they will generally go into a rapid moult losing feathers not only on the wings but also the body feathers often resulting in many bare patches all over your bird
- During the moult you can supplement their diet to aid the process with additional protein this may mean changing their feed to one with 20-22% protein or adding amino acids, vitamins and minerals to their current feed. The addition of apple cider vinegar which is rich in mineral during the moult will help. The additional protein will help them get back into lay after they have finished their moult, although some birds because of the shortening of daylight hours may not come back into lay until early spring.
- Another thing to take note of is not to feed too much corn as this will reduce the overall protein intake of your birds when really, they need to increase it. Chickens will almost always choose corn over pellets, but corn should be treated as a treat.
- If your chickens are not getting enough protein, they may well start to peck at their own feathers of more likely other bird’s feathers to increase their intake of protein. This can cause bleeding and then further problems as chickens love to peck at blood. If this should happen separate the bird if blood is visible until they heal.
- Finally if you have had your birds wings clipped to stop them flying you may well need to do this again , However we find that once a bird is settled and full size and weight they tend not to need this doing again, but there is always exceptions. Be careful not to clip too early on as whilst growing as there is still blood inside the quill, you can check if this is the case visually birds whose quills are full of blood are dark/red/black in colour instead of clear/white