chicken-and-egg - page 49

49
Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
The annual moult
Your hen is in peak condition, glossy
feathers and red comb one minute then
almost overnight she starts to look tatty.
Some hens drop lots of feathers (a hard
moult) while others have a partial moult
(soft moult.)
The important point is that moulting is a
natural process and does not mean that
your hen has a skin disease or parasites.
Moulting allows your hen to exchange any
broken or loose feathers for new plumage
to ensure she has good feather coverage
during the colder months.
Most first adult moults happen at around
18 months of age usually in the autumn but
some hens buck the trend and moult in the
summer. It normally takes 8-12 weeks but
can last longer.
The shortening daylight hours are usually a
trigger to moult and some birds moult at the
end of an egg laying cycle. Other triggers
include stress, hatching eggs, lack of water
and changes in the coop.
Where feathers have been lost new pin
feathers will emerge giving the appearance
of a hedgehog to your already tatty hen!
These pin feathers taste nice to other hens
and may be plucked so take care to protect
a moulting hen.
We can help our hens through the process
by adding extra protein and calcium to their
diets (feathers are 80% protein). Switching to
a higher protein feed will help.
Don’t be surprised if your moulting hen goes
off lay or her egg production drops. She
simply can’t produce enough protein for both
processes especially when a full moult takes
place.
Colder weather will also speed up the
process of new feathers growing back, so
please don't be tempted to knit a jumper for
your hen, she is quite capable of producing
her own new outfit.
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