So it’s here! I’ve been thinking about it, and concerned about it starting last year this time. It’s that time in a chicken’s life when they lose all their feathers. It’s a time when they molt. During this time a hen will stop laying eggs. The chicken’s first molt will occur at about 18 months of age, and again about a year after that.
Chickens, like all birds, molt. Humans constantly lose hair and replace it with new strands. Dogs constantly shed with a bigger hair loss around seasonal changes. The dog’s lost hair is then replaced with hair more appropriate for the coming season. Birds lose all of their feathers at one time and replace them with beautiful new plumage. Before the arrival of her new feathers, the hen is quite odd looking with bald patches over her body. She will also be very tender and quite grumpy towards her other chicken friends.
Right now two of our original five girls are molting. I’ve noticed that the girls that are molting are territorial with their food. I believe this is due to an increased need of protein for their bodies to make these new feathers. The other three will probably start their molt in the next few days. We can expect the molt to last anywhere between 3 to 4 weeks all the way to 12 to 16, depending on the molt.
This is causing my husband to have rather sad mornings. He’s had to supplement his normal over easy egg breakfast with oatmeal, muffins, or other foods that aren’t quite as good as eggs. With the reduced sunlight, molting non-laying hens and our young chickens too young to lay, we are left with 0 to 2 eggs a day from our flock of over twenty. Compared this to our summer egg numbers where we were collected between six and ten eggs daily from 10 hens.
After the molt, the chickens will lay fewer eggs in number, but the eggs they do lay will be larger. I believe the young hens will begin laying about the same time our older hens are out of their molt.
So right now, we feed them, watch them, and enjoy their antics but not their eggs. They are also fenced into my garden and working hard to create lots of fertility for our veggies next spring. Their feathers will return as will their eggs. And we will be ready.