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What is molting and why do chickens do it?

written by

Aliceson Bales

posted on

September 7, 2023

Hey everybody! Thank you for stopping by. If you’ve seen my posts on social media today you’ve seen some beautiful blue skies, random feathers and grass blowing in the breeze. It’s a beautiful day here on the farm and we are heading into my favorite season.

Summer on the farm is HOT, humid, long, busy and hot. Did I mention hot? It is hot. VERY hot. And when I’m hot so are the cows, chickens and pigs. And if I need a drink of water they definitely need a drink of water. So summer consists of a lot of watering, feeding, rotating to new pasture and just plain old grunt work. Plus garden and canning work. And when I see summer fading into the background and taking with it the humidity and oppressiveness? I’m so thankful.

Fall ushers in a time of rest. Rest for the humans, rest for the land and rest for the chickens. Around Labor Day each year adult chickens begin their molt. That’s when they lose their old feathers (you’ll see feathers laying around everywhere but don’t be frightened - this is natural) and will grow new feathers. Chickens’ feathers help keep them warm in the winter, cool in the summer and are mostly water-proof. Feathers keep their skin dry and the chicken warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But in order to be waterproof and the best they can be, the chickens need to get rid of the old feathers and grow new ones. It’s a tedious process that takes about 12 weeks and, I’m sure, is not exactly what they want to do for those 12 weeks. I’m sure it’s a little painful for those weeks to actually grow feathers - I’m sure it’s like kids’ teething. Some of our chickens get a little grumpy and moody but for the most part they’re okay with it. They always seem happy with the result and they do look smashing with the new, improved feathers! 😄

When they are molting chickens need all the protein they can get, really, because it takes a lot of protein and nutrients to grow actual feathers. They will decrease their activity level, and in my experience, their food and water intake as well. But keep everything available because they do need food and water during this season of life. They need to be able just to rest and recuperate. 

Chickens won’t lay eggs during the molt (or at least will lay about 90% less). You’ll need patience for the 8-12 weeks of the molt (I put the 8 in there even though for us it’s ALWAYS 12 weeks) because you won’t get any eggs. It takes a lot to grow new feathers! 

But as fall gives way to winter you will start to see beautiful, healthy chickens who are excited and full of energy. You’ll have an increase in egg production and everybody will be happy happy happy.

So that’s the easy and simple answer to the molting question. Chickens need it for their health. And if you’re patient there will be eggs at the end of the molt.

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. Let me know if you have any questions!

Aliceson 

chickens

pastured poultry

eggs

Molting

Family farming

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