Monday, October 8

M is for Moulting.



Well there I was saying how lovely our hens eggs were when the production line stopped. One quick look inside the hen house determined why - they are moulting.

Chickens moult for a number of reasons but the annual moult usually occurs in the autumn and is triggered by a decrease in daylight length (less feeding time thus reduced feed intake), combined with the end of an intense laying period.

During the summer months the hens lost the smaller feathers closer to their body in an attempt to cool down. The larger feathers will usually have been developed in the previous moult and after a summer's use they begin to look rough and lose some of their colour. The shorter day length is a natural trigger to renew all their feather in preparation of colder times to come. In this way the moult is a way of conserving energy over the winter period that would otherwise be spent keeping warm.

The renewal of feathers requires protein. It is not possible for the bird to assimilate enough protein to maintain egg production as well as renew feathers. With the onset of winter there would naturally be less food available to support chicks, so it is therefore a good time to close down egg production, renew feathers and build up body reserves for the following spring. Hens that have been laying heavily for 11 months will moult easily in the autumn since this is the natural moulting time. If they have had artificial lighting and finish their intensive laying period in the spring, they do not moult as easily and may carry on egg production until the following autumn...jury still out on the artificial lighting, but for now it will be vitamin supplements for the gals and lots of lovely food.

Apparently dried cat food is good for them! Yes - it contains the essential amino acids required to keep the girls healthy - will have to give it a try! Watch this space!

Update -

This morning I mixed some dried cat food with the hen's porridge and corn. They enjoyed it - so much they stepped on their food dish and scattered everybody away a couple of times. Mabel (large dark brown one) showed she is moulting by the absence of  clumps of feathers.




32 comments:

  1. And when they moult, don't they really moult, Denise - mine are almost bald.

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    1. Understatement Pat! I would not have known they were moulting by looking at them - it's just the pile in the henhouse.

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  2. They must be cold! Hope they enjoy their egg-laying rest and feeding up..

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    1. Thanks Rusty - yes they have really enjoyed their cat biscuits for tea - they left their egg noodles which they normally love! Keeping them warm & well-fed!

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  3. Hope you get enough eggs through the winter for your hot brekkies! How is Ernest doing? I have such an incredible photo of him! My M post is up - all about the Isle of MAN!

    Leslie
    abcw team

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    1. Fantastic Leslie! xxxx Look forward to your M post! So many happy memories xxx

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  4. Cat food! Would not have thunk it!

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  5. Me neither Roger but seeing them polish off the warm porridge & dried catfood mix for breakfast was evidence that they were enjoying it.

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  6. Are you able to do anything with the discarded feathers? They look pretty and I wondered if they'd make stuffing for a cushion or something.

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    1. Open to ideas Shooting Parrots! Read about a wreath idea! Hmmmm!

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    2. ha! that's the same thing I thought when I saw all those lovely feathers - I have friends with chickens, I'll have to find out! Mrs. Nesbitt, my first thought was masks, then a cushion...a wreath sounds great, too!

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  7. interesting! we had hens when i was a kid and i've always wondered why the hens lost their feathers.:p

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  8. this is all very interesting. i love the image too.

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    1. That's just the floor of the henhouse! lol!

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  9. Good luck with the molting!

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    1. Thanks Meryl xxx Always seems cruel that it happens when the weather turns colder.

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  10. Miss my girls - they liked porridge

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  11. I'm so surprised they like cat food. Fun post, Denise.

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  12. Your chicken eat a variety of food!!

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    1. Thanks Jama - they are ruined! lol!

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  13. Enjoyed watching them eat. They seem to be nervous eaters. Some of them weren't hungry.
    I wonder if moulting is painful or just makes them feel off colour?
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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    1. They always jump and knock the food bowl if one of them accidentally stands on it - always fun to watch. Would imagine it just makes them feel off colour - hence trying to give them a tonic of some kind. Cider Vinegar has been suggested too.

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  14. Interesting! I have seen snake skins lying around here when snakes moult. I wonder why they do it.

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  15. Looks like a well deserved rest. The feathers are pretty. I always learn so much from your brood.
    Ann

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  16. great photo - inspiration for crafting!

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  17. Mabel the hen sound like a story in a children's book:)

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  18. never even knew of thjis term! amazing how much a photo-post teaches us!

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  19. I love the education your blog gives me.
    Fun video to watch too.
    Fresh eggs would be wonderful.

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Thank you for your comments, always nice to know somebody has taken the time to let me know what they think.

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