The Annual Moult ...
It is worth being aware that feather pecking, which is an anti-social behaviour
you may not have experienced in your flock before, can occur during the moult
as some birds may be attracted to the new quills and pull them out. Birds in this
stage of moult usually drop in their ranking becoming the lowest in the pecking
order, more nervous and often reluctant to stay with the main flock. They can
even emit a low squeaking noise, which unfortunately can have the effect of
increasing the pecking from other flock members. For this reason it is important
during this period to ensure the birds have access to food and water because
other birds may try to prevent them from doing so. While a few feathers being
pulled is not a problem, this behaviour can quickly become a bad habit that will
continue after the moult has finished, and in extreme cases can lead to blood
being drawn if all the feathers have been pulled exposing bare skin.
Feather pecking is relatively easy to deal with in the early stages and there are a
number of good anti-pecking sprays available which create a disgusting taste
designed to discourage this behaviour. If it is still a problem after applying a spray,
simply separate the hen doing the pecking for up to a week, not the hen being
pecked, as this will help place the “pecker” further down the pecking order when
she is returned to the flock. If, however, you ever notice blood on any of your
hens, immediately separate the affected hen as the other birds will be instantly
attracted to the red colour and may continue to peck at it potentially causing
serious injury.
The good news is the overwhelming majority of hens cope with the moult with
absolutely no problems, and once you understand nothing is wrong and it is
simply a part of the natural process, you can look at ways to support your flock
through the moult and the demands is makes on their bodies.
There are a number of tonics readily available and added to the drinking water
these ensure the hens receive extra vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and amino
acids, helping with feather re-growth and boosting resistance to infection.
It is also worth noting that apart from the annual moult, you may
sometimes have what is called a partial moult, which is when only a
small number of feathers are lost, and this usually affects only one
or two birds and can occur at any time of the year. If this
happens, keep an extra vigilant eye on your flock as it can
be an indicator of stress or an underlying disease
And of course, once your birds have come
through the moult process, you can stand
back and admire the gleaming new
feathers and dense, soft and fluffy
undercoat’ which will protect them
through the cold and wet winter
weather. Clever girls!