It’s getting to that time of year again where our birds start to look a bit tatty. As summer gives way to autumn, the change in seasons acts as a trigger for our hens to go into moult. You may notice feathers drop or the odd bald patch appearing but don’t panic! Whilst your hens may appear to be in a sorry state when moulting, it’s a perfectly natural process.
You can find out all you need to know about the mechanics of moulting here.
In the meantime, here are a few ways in which you can make the transition from threadbare to fabulous as seamless as possible for them.
How to care for chickens in moult
Here are our top tips for helping your hens during moulting season…
Pile on the protein for a healthy plumage
Shedding and regrowing feathers is an energetic business for your hens, so ensuring that they are adequately nourished is vital. Whilst it may be tempting to increase the amount of food you provide; you may find that your chickens’ appetite decreases so the focus here is on quality rather than quantity. The key is to offer a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein and calcium.
Chicken feathers are made up of 80% protein, so it makes sense that they need extra to grow healthy new feathers. As a guide, a normal diet should contain around 16% protein but during moulting season, this should be increased to 20%. This is relatively easily achieved by either switching to a higher protein chicken feed or simply by adding in tasty snacks such as sunflower seeds or insects.
Give them plenty of space
Growing new feathers can be itchy and painful, with the area where the feather shaft meets the skin becoming particularly sensitive. Try to create enough space for your hen to relax in private, with plenty of fresh, clean bedding available. Keep handling to a minimum too – she may look a little sorry for herself but rest assured, she’ll be back to her preening, glossy former self soon and then you can hug her to your heart’s content.
Keep calm and carry on
It goes without saying that moulting season isn’t the best time to introduce any big changes to your chickens’ environment or routine. Keeping stress to a minimum will make things much easier so save any ‘big’ coop cleans for after your hens’ new feathers have come in. If we have a cold snap, don’t be tempted to kit your birds out in a snazzy sweater to keep them warm – exposure to the chill actually encourages new feathers to grow, so they’re much better off without the knitwear.
Need something to help your chickens in moult?
On our BHWT shop, we have many products that can give your hens a boost when they are going through a moult.
Products such as Nettex Vit Boost Tonic can help to support chicken overall health, particularly in times of stress such as moulting, laying, heat stress, mite infestation, illness or during the introduction of new birds to the flock. All you have to do is add it to their drinking water.
Want something a little zesty? Verm-X Poultry Zest Pellets will do the trick. They act as a nutritional supplement that helps your birds to recover quickly after moulting. This is a natural formulation of spices and minerals is enriched with turmeric, ginger root, fenugreek and aniseed, with added sunflower oil on a micronized ground wheat. You can also continue to eat the eggs whilst your hens are these zesty pellets.