A few days ago I noticed quite a lot of feathers in the chicken coup, and this has continued to increase every day.
I have 4 different varieties of hens, so once the tail feathers began to appear I knew immediately that, Rosemary, my light Sussex, was moulting. Rosemary is a year old, and her moulting doesn’t seem to be too significant. However, a great friend, has a two-year old Black Rock hen who began her moult in December and is now looking very scraggy and off colour as a result.
Moulting is very normal and happens once a year, although in some instances can occur more frequently. The timing of a moult is determined by the time of the year the hen was hatched. A young perky bird, who looses her feathers, can take around 6 weeks to refeather, but for an older hen this process can take up to three months. Commercial poultry farmers often withhold a bird’s food for 24hrs, or move them onto a less nutritious feed to encourage the feathers to fall out faster. The bird is then put on a more concentrated diet to help accelerate the feather replacement process. The first indication of feather regrowth is when tiny clumps appear from the tubes at the back of the neck. During the moulting process hens will often stop laying too.
There are nutritional supplements on the market that you can add to your hens feed. Battles Poultry Drink contains a five mineral supplement that supports all round condition and health in poultry, and Poultry Spice is a mineral supplement particularly good for hens recovering from a moult.
For more information about my moulting experience with another hen – Bluebell – do read my January 2011 posting – Bullying in the Hen House. Bluebell moulted badly in January and ended up living inside our laundry every night for 4 days until her feathers grew back sufficiently and she was accepted by the other hens back into the coup.