Monday, October 7, 2013

Around our homestead - It's molting time

I've been noticing that our chickens have been producing fewer and fewer eggs lately. We have a timer that turns on LED lights in the hen house and then lights in the chicken run during the shorter Winter months, so I went ahead and checked our timer. Yep, it was working just fine.

I then looked in the yard and in the hen house and noticed feathers everywhere. After counting chickens to make sure that there wasn't a predator issue, I remembered that our girls went into molt around this time last year.

"What is molting?" and "Why should I care? you may ask. Well, to put it succinctly, chickens stop laying during their molt as their bodies turn to replenishing their feathers to get ready for the colder Fall and Winter months.

The following quote from The Poultry Site explains it a bit more:

After a hen has been producing eggs for several months, she becomes increasingly likely to molt. Molting and egg production are not mutually compatible, so when molting occurs, egg production ceases. The rest from egg laying allows the hen to restore its plumage condition by shedding old feathers and growing new ones. At the same time, the hen’s reproductive tract is rejuvenated, allowing it to increase its rate of egg production and produce higher quality eggs when it returns to lay. Under natural day lengths, molting tends to coincide with the change in season so that hens molt in the fall after they cease egg production due to declining day lengths. In these circumstances, it is normal for all the hens in a flock to go out of production and molt more or less in synchrony. However, if artificial lighting is provided, a hen may molt at any time of year and not in synchrony with other hens. If this happens, she should return to lay in several weeks. 

So all you chicken farmers/ranchers who may be new to this, take heart. Your girls should be back to laying in a few weeks.


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