Hen welfare, Moulting season

Moulting Season

This year has been like no other. But this time we’re not talking about the pandemic. We are talking about the weather. We’ve had some terrible weather and a lot of us have been asking whether we even get summer this year. But even with the long weeks of rain, there have also been sunshine and a few heatwaves. This means moulting season is well and truly on its way…

As the evenings start drawing in and the days become shorter this can act as a trigger for birds to start to moult. There are several reasons why hens begin to moult. Some moult at the end of an egg-laying cycle, others due to stress, hatching eggs, lack of water or even changes in the coop.

One minute your girls will be looking their best, preening those glossy feathers and strutting about the place looking fabulous. The next thing you know, their feathers are starting to drop!

But be assured, this is completely normal and all part of the natural cycle that your hens go through every year.

Whilst your girls may look in a bit of a sorry state, moulting is actually good for them and you shouldn’t worry too much. Moulting allows your hens to shed any damaged or loose feathers and replace them with a fresh set. The whole process is usually gradual, to ensure the hen has enough feathering to protect her from the elements, but in extreme cases, a hen may drop most of her feathers in one go.

Most hens will have their first moult around the age of 18 months, and whilst it is usually in the autumn, some hens will buck the trend and moult in the summer. On average, a moult can normally take from 8 to 12 weeks but can last longer.

Top tips when your hens are moulting:

  • 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.
  • Did you know feathers are 80% protein? By switching to a higher protein feed, we can help our hens through the process by adding extra protein and calcium to their diets.
  • 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.

Need something to help?

On our BHWT, we have many products that can give your hens a boost when they are going through a moult.

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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? The Verm-X Poultry Zest Pellets will do the trick. They act as a nutritional supplement that helps your birds to recover quickly after moulting. 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.

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Or try Nettex Poultry Seaweed, a natural feed supplement to help feather quality, so perfect for the moulting season that we included in our Cozy Hen Autumn Bundle!

Make sure to take a look at our BHWT shop for any other products to help with your hens moulting. And if you would like any advice, be sure to phone our Hen Helpline below.

If you’d like advice on your hen’s health, why not visit our Hen Health page, where we discuss important things to look for in your hen’s health, whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, head to our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle.

If you need to seek medical advice, click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
You can also call Hen Central on 01884 860084 to speak to one of our rehoming assistants.

Giving a gift today helps fund our Hen Helpline. It helps support hen keepers, giving them the best advice on how to care for their hens. If you have found our advice helpful, please consider giving a gift towards the hen helpline here.

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