Molting, also known as changing feathers or shedding, is a natural process that occurs in various bird species, including chickens. During this period, birds shed their old feathers and grow new ones. Chicken molting typically takes place once a year, starting in September as summer transitions into autumn. This article explores the significance of molting phase, the factors that influence it, the effects on chickens’ health, and recommended care during this sensitive stage.
The Influence of Daylight Hours
The timing of feather change in chickens is primarily influenced by the length of daylight hours. As daylight hours begin to decrease during the summer, chickens sense this change and enter the molting process. Similar patterns can be observed in many other bird species. However, if chickens are exposed to constant artificial lighting for at least 12 hours a day, along with moderate temperatures and abundant food, they may continue laying eggs and skip the molting stage. Nevertheless, this practice is not considered healthy for the birds.
The Immune System and Stress
During molting, birds experience a decrease in their overall immunity. They may become defensive, tense, fearful, and easily disturbed. Stressful situations can further compromise their immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases. To ensure the well-being of chickens during sensitive period, it is advised to avoid disturbing them, approaching them, or exposing them to stress.
Buying Chickens during Molting
It is preferable not to purchase chickens during the molting period due to the potential stress associated with transportation. Furthermore, egg production decreases or ceases completely during this time. Chicken prices often decrease as a result. Once the molting stage is over, egg production resumes, and the chickens start laying larger eggs with stronger shells. However, it is important to provide the chickens with a sufficient rest period of at least four weeks after molting. If you desire a rest period for your chicken after feather replacement, avoid feeding them mixtures containing high levels of calcium and proteins that stimulate egg-laying.
Nutritional Requirements during Molting
Feathers are primarily composed of proteins, with each feather containing approximately 88% protein. Consequently, when chickens molt, the protein stores in their bodies are redirected toward feather growth, causing a decline or cessation in egg production. To support healthy molting, the chicken’s diet should include a higher percentage of protein than the regular mixture, typically around 20%. It is also essential to provide adequate vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and iron. Nutritional supplements can be added during this period.
Beneficial Foods during Molting
Several natural foods are beneficial for chickens during the molting period due to their high protein content. These include sunflower seeds, worms, insects, almonds or nuts, peas, soybeans, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and hard-boiled eggs. While some chicken breeders express concern about offering boiled eggs, fearing that chickens may develop a habit of eating their own eggs, reputable references have stated that boiled eggs do not encourage egg consumption.
Molting is a natural phenomenon that occurs in chickens and other bird species. Understanding the timing and effects of this period can help chicken owners provide appropriate care during this period. By ensuring optimal lighting conditions, minimizing stress, and adjusting the diet to meet the nutritional requirements, chickens can successfully undergo the molting process, leading to healthy feather growth and improved overall well-being.