Molting: the naked truth

There comes a time in every chicken’s life (usually around 14 – 18 months old) where they start to lose all their feathers, look gangly and downright ugly. But don’t be alarmed! This is a natural process that occurs annually. This process is called molt.

example of a chicken going through a hard molt

This would be considered a hard molt.

What is molt? Molt is the natural shedding of feathers and regrowth of new ones. This usually happens in the fall as day length shortens. It is the chickens way to refresh old feathers and grow new ones for the coming winter. Molt happens in an expected order, starting at the head, down the back, breast and ending on the wings and tails.

There are two types of molt that chickens can go through, hard and soft. A hard molt means all feathers are lost at nearly the same time. A soft molt, however, means feathers are lost over a longer period of time. Chickens use molt to build up their nutrient reserves and typically slow or even stop laying eggs during this time. Though they are not laying eggs, it is important that your chicken continues to need a high quality diet since feathers consist of approximately 85% protein!

How to help your chickens get through molt
40 lb. Feather Fixer Bag ImageThe best thing for your chickens in molt is to offer a feed that is high in quality and protein such as NatureWise Feather Fixer™. Feather Fixer™ is a complete feed, so you don’t have to worry about finding other protein supplements to feed along with layer feed during molt. It is simple and easy. In addition, Feather Fixer™ is optimized in other ways; it has organic trace minerals, which are more bio-available to the chicken than regular forms. Especially important are zinc and manganese which are needed for feather growth.  This is a newer feed, so ask your favorite retailer about their plans to stock it today!

Another way to help your chickens through molt is to reduce stress as much as possible. Try to avoid handling your chickens, and bringing new birds into the flock, if possible. Molt is a normal process, so your chickens shouldn’t act differently, even though they make look very different. In total, molt will take between 4-16 weeks, depending if it is a hard or soft molt. You do not need to add any medications or other vitamins if you are already feeding a high quality and high protein feed. So don’t panic the next time your chickens start to lose their feathers and stop laying eggs! Instead, use these tips to help ease the process.

Mite Prevention For Your Flock

This is a typical photo of what a mite infestation would look like.It is a simple fact that may make your skin crawl: all poultry are susceptible to mites. In fact, mites are one of the most common problems when raising poultry.
Your flock could become infected with mites by new birds being introduced to the flock, by wild birds, or by taking them to poultry shows or auctions that have mites in the coops. These external parasites live on the host chicken, feed on its blood and quickly multiply. Within a short amount of time, mites can cause a large amount of damage.
Chicken owners initially notice mites by seeing a distressed look in their flock and noticing decreased egg production. Though mites do not infest humans, mites can crawl onto humans and bite, resulting in small red lesions and intense itching.
For chickens, mites can cause a plethora of problems. Chickens with bad infestations don’t lay as well and have reduced fertility. A chicken’s vent, particularly, gets affected. The vent’s moist skin and rich blood supply make it a favorite feeding ground for hungry mites. Signs to indicate mites include: scabs near the vent, lethargy, mite eggs on feathers and feather shafts, soiled feathers, and small, dark spots from mite droppings.
Mite prevention is essential to poultry health, and it is essential to check your birds often for signs of mites. Once there is a mite infestation, owners usually need to treat with chemical pesticides for the best results. However, mites can develop resistance to chemical treatments requiring the use of different or stronger pesticides. Continual monitoring of your flock is imperative to keeping mites under control.