The annual moult

Posted 14th August 2017 08:43am by

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.