Why do Chickens Moult?
Chickens moult every year, usually in autumn as days begin to shorten and nights get longer. It is a natural and normal process – although it can be alarming at first to find a big pile of feathers in the coop or see your hens or rooster looking scraggly and half naked!
You can expect your hens to stop laying through their moult. They use this time to regenerate their reproductive system, re-grow new feathers and generally build-up nutrient reserves for the cooler weather ahead.
Your chicken care program may need to change slightly to provide everything your hens need during this time.
Although your chickens may look very strange in moult, they should still be active and behave normally. Look deeper for health issues if your hens are depressed or lose their appetite along with their feathers.
The moult process begins with feathers on the head and neck. The next feathers to go are those on the back, breast and thighs, with the tail feathers being the last to be shed during moulting. There is no need to be alarmed if some chickens lose more feathers than others.
Individual birds don’t all moult the same, and may differ in the extent and duration of moult from year to year.
During moult, some chickens will only lose a few feathers and regrow them within a month. Other birds may lose a lot of feathers and take several months to regrow them.
New feathers emerge as pin feathers which take some time to unfurl.
Nutritional Support for Chicken Care during Moult
Good nutrition is a very important aspect of backyard chicken care during a moult. It is essential that they receive enough calories, protein, vitamins and minerals to replenish their bodies.
During moult, feed your flock a good quality layer pellet (at least 16% protein) and limit unfortified scratch grain to less than 10% of the diet. (Unfortified grains are whole or crushed grains or mixes which do not have added vitamins and minerals. Fortified feeds such as layer pellets are a complete feed.)
It is advisable to also add an extra protein source to ensure your backyard chickens have enough of the right amino acids to maintain healthy skin and grow new, strong feathers.
Farmalogic Fancy Feathers is a very concentrated source of protein (30%) fortified with antioxidants to support chicken health and nutrition during the moulting process. It is also naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids important for building fertility, immunity and bone strength in poultry.
Less Stress is Best
You can also help your chickens through their moult by reducing stress as much as possible. Protect them from weather extremes, minimise handling and avoid bringing new birds in or other disruptions to their established pecking order.
Adding prebiotics and probiotics helps maintain gut health during times of stress. Feeding probiotics during moult is recommended because the moulting process itself creates physiological stress.
Farmalogic Rejuvenate probiotic live yeast, prebiotic yeast cell wall products, nutribionic microfibres and zeolites designed to promote the health of backyard poultry flocks.
Research shows that poultry fed these products are more resistant to stress and environmental challenge, have better gut barrier and immune function which leads to enhanced health and performance.
Rejuvenate is easy to add to your chicken’s normal layer feed, and can help to stimulate the immune system and improve nutrient retention during moulting.
Supplements for Moult
In Australia, all Farmalogic products including Farmalogic Fancy Feathers and Farmalogic Rejuvenate can be purchased from hundreds of stock feed stores and online retailers who buy from the distributors AIRR, Eastern Distributors and Natures Harvest. Please let us know if your shop doesn’t stock Farmalogic products and needs help ordering it in for you.
You can also buy online here.