Backyard chickens often begin molting in the fall. Molting lasts 8 to 12 weeks and can cause a decrease in egg production. A high-protein feed can help molting chickens with feather regrowth.
For backyard chickens across the country, shorter days often signal time for a break. Birds may stop laying farm fresh eggs eggs
, lose old feathers and experience feather regrowth. This annual vacation from egg laying is called molt.
Molt is driven by season and usually occurs in the fall when the hours of sunlight decrease. For our birds, fall means it’s time to prepare for winter
, which requires quality feathers. That’s why hens take a vacation from laying eggs and redirect their energy to feather regrowth.
How long do chickens molt?
This feather loss phenomenon first happens around 18 months old and occurs annually. Backyard flock owners should expect about eight weeks of feather loss and regrowth but could take up to 16 weeks for some birds. The onset and length of molt looks different for each bird.
Many factors determine how long chickens molt. Age, nutrition and the environment all contribute to how long a chicken molts. Feathers may first lose their sheen. Hens may then gradually lose a few feathers, or it could happen overnight. We’ve noticed that more productive egg-layers
and younger hens
recover from molt more quickly than older or less productive hens. In any case, proper nutrients and management can help birds through molt.
Three tips for molting chickens
1. Pack the protein
Just like humans, birds need a different diet depending on their current activity or life stage
. Protein is the key nutrient in a flock’s diet during molt. Feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium.
When you notice your chickens losing feathers, switch to a complete feed with 20% protein, probiotics, prebiotics and key vitamins and minerals. Purina® Flock Raiser®
is a great option for molting chicken feed. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs
For organic flocks, try switching hens to Purina® Organic Starter-Grower
when molting begins in order to maintain organic status
and provide a higher level of nutrition for feather regrowth.
2. Keep stress low
While on vacation, people generally want plenty of comfort and room to relax. It isn’t so different inside the coop during molt. Keep molting chickens comfortable by preventing stress.
During molt, the area where the feather shaft meets the skin can be very sensitive, so reduce handling and provide plenty of clean bedding. Offer enough space
for your birds to rest and relax in private. For each bird, four square feet inside the coop and 10 square feet outside of the coop can keep them comfortable.
In addition, provide access to plenty of fresh, clean water and proper air ventilation. Hydration and ventilation can help keep the backyard coop spa-like for feather regrowth. Avoid introducing new flock members during this time, as adding in new friends and potentially re-shuffling the pecking order could add stress.
3. Transition back to layer feed
Once birds are ready to return from vacation and begin producing eggs, it’s time to adjust the nutrient profile to match their energy needs once again.
When hens begin laying eggs, transition back to a complete layer feed
that matches your goals. Gradually mix the complete layer feed with the high-protein feed over 7-10 days. This can help avoid digestive upsets and allows birds to get used to the taste and texture of their new feed. Once they’re back on a complete layer feed and have vibrant new feathers, get ready again for farm fresh eggs for your family.
Want more next-level flock advice? Download our free e-book for tips to raising strong hens.