The level of egg production can be indicative of the moult process beginning as
the number of eggs laid will start to fall, then as the moult peaks and the wing
feathers are dropped, egg production will stop completely, even for the most
prolific of hybrid layers.
With feathers composed principally of protein, this new growth makes a lot of
demands on the birds and nutrients are diverted from egg production to the task
of growing new feathers, which is why egg production is temporarily stopped, as
the hens are unable to cope with producing both at the same time.
While the time it takes can vary depending on the breed, all hens follow a similar
pattern in the way the moult happens, with the feathers being replaced across
the body at differing times.
You will notice the first signs of the moult with patches of bare skin on the neck
and head, followed by the saddle area (the rear part of the back, from the
middle to the base of the tail), the breast and body, with the wing and tail
feathers being the last to fall. You may also notice a lot more feathers in the house
in the morning when you let your birds out, appearing around the garden or
enclosure.
As the feathers are lost in these areas, replacements start to grow immediately
and appear as stiff quills which are small translucent tubes which break away. At
the same time the birds are inclined to preen more as the new feathers appear,
and you will also find these quills littering the floor of the hen house.
Continued over