Chickens in Moult… it’s Ugly!

The weather is getting cooler, and the leaves starting to fall.  I write this as everyone seems to talking about chicken moult, but no one posts pictures of it… and after it happened to us, or rather our chickens, I can see why.

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A chicken, not in moult.  Striking a pose at harvest time. Note how lovely her feathers are!

We have about 80 hens, of Americuanas (blue egg layers), New Hampshire, Light Sussex and Jersey Giants, and a few crosses to produce additional gorgeous green coloured eggs. Both kids and adults love to open a box of “rainbow eggs”, and I love collecting them.  As we have been slowly adding to our flock, our gals range in age, and therefore are at all stages of development; some just starting to lay, to strong layers that barely bat an eye when they hop in and out of the nesting boxes.  We have raised up all our chickens from chick, and have hatched up lots of our own, and I love watching the feather development and seeing what grows in.  It’s like all those kids’ farm books, showing baby animals and what they grow into… egg, chick to chicken!  Except it’s real life!  Yippee! The Shepherd couldn’t be happier!

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Helena agreed to have her photo taken, but she was sooooo embarrassed.  Her feathers are patchy, and you can see the new pin feathers growing in.  The coop looks like there have been some wild pillow fights in there.  Feathers everywhere!

Which is why the whole moult thing is like the elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about… when you talk to a group of hobby farmers now, it’s “Ooohhh, yup.  The girls are in moult…”, while they shuffle their feet and stare at the ground.  If you’re a hobby farmer, I get it.  Essentially, our beautiful and healthy birds are going through a really, really, ugly stage, that non-farming folks don’t understand.  We all hope the gals get through it quickly – since blowing all your feathers off and growing in all new ones has got to be hard!    And because of all that energy and hard work of growing new feathers, is just that – hard work – egg production drops to almost nothing.  That’s right.  Yesterday I collected TWO eggs from our coop.  TWO.  From 80 hens.  Granted, in the last week I have been collecting about 6 a day, but 2 yesterday seemed to be really bringing home the point.  The chicken Facebook discussion groups have all been featuring some really heated debates… how to get your chickens to continue to lay by adding artificial lighting, the ethics of doing it, or should you be giving your chickens the well deserved break from a hard year of laying.  And people are passionate!  Really passionate!  How do you get your hens through this challenging time?  Additional protein for feather development?

 

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Side profile: Look at her awful tail now!  But I’m sure the next one will be gorgeous! Can’t wait!

And how long is this supposed to last?  Well, depending on what source you read, it can be between 6 weeks to 6 months.  It’s started for us here at the beginning of November so lets hope we get through it quickly.

 

So it’ll be a little while till we are back in the game with egg production, as the gals are a little busy at the moment – growing brand new coats in and all.  And I hope they hurry, it’s getting cool and damp!

Good luck to all the hens out there! Brrrrr!

Sincerely,

The Shepherd

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