Molting Madness

As the Autumn leaves fall so do the feathers on chickens. Many chickens molt this time of year which results in your coop looking like some ones emptied a pillow in there. Like dogs and cats chickens will molt. Usually when they reach around 18 month old hens and roosters will molts just before winter sets in so they will have a nice, new cover of feathers to keep them warm. An annual molt can take between 5-12 weeks for new feathers to grow. Usually they will start loosing head feathers and then work the way down their body. As feathers are lost new ones regrow and therefore you should never have a fully bold hen, although some do have extreme molts. Newly growing feathers are called pin feathers and can be sore so try not to touch or agrivate these. Since feathers are mostly protein give molting hens protein rich treats such as meal worms. Don’t feel the need to purchase your chicken a jumper! They restrict feather growth and can agrivate pin feathers instead make sure they have shelter and maybe a weekend treat of porridge with raisins and corn.

A close up of Maias pin feathers.

Young birds go through  a pair of little molts between the ages of 2-12 weeks of age to grow adult feathers.  So don’t be starteled if you see Down and little feathers scattered in your brooder. Also if your hens continuously have feathers missing it could be a parasite or feather pecking/bulling read my blog on mites and lice or on Preventing feather pecking.

 Key points:

  • Loose feathers around Autumn when they’re about 18 weeks old.
  • Lasts upto 12 weeks.
  • Feed protein.
  • Be gentle with pin feathers – they don’t need jumpers!
  • Chicks have mini molts.
  • Don’t mistake parasites with a molt.

I hope you feel less worried about your scraggly hens now, any questions comment or email reedhorspool.theurbanhens@gmail.com and feel free to share. 

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Sum up Sunday 10/9/17

What a week! We’ve rehomed birds and taken in some and managed to put together a play house. The play house was given to us and is perfect to keep the silkies warm on wet cold days so a lick of paint and some felt and it’s nearly ready to put them in, we just need a nest box and perches, a door and Windows and then they can move into “cluckingham palace”we also rehomed Ronnie and the four other roosters on Saturday. A short drive took us to the smallholding where the man took them to a barn with thirty or so pullets. He said on Tuesday he will take them to the market. We explained that we hatched them so he gave us a box of Orpington eggs and two young pullets that I picked out from a array of chicks. He said any roosters we hatch we can take them back. The two chicks exploring their run, he has no idea what they are I reckon the one on the right is a silver campine. When I returned home my mums friend had delivered her two chickens in their eglu go. She had to rehome them since their dog was frightened of them as they would chase him  inside 😂 one of thems a little; very hen pecked but hopefully her feathers will grow back.and finally I’ve been avertising the quail chicks for some time now and if I could rehome at least 7 I would hatch the eggs as I would be able to cope withso many birds! I didn’t think any one would want them and decided to crack the eggs, 4 were fertile and then soon after I found that bobtail orpingtons are quite rare and now some one wants all eleven quail. I should of kept them! Any way the quail will be going on Tuesday then I may hatch some more. 🐣

Integrating new flock members.

Betty (who we now know is a boy) looking happy in his new pen.
Chicken math hits you again, you’ve got a flock who get on as happy as Larry and now all hell breaks loose because you’ve added new members. The thought of sharing the coop with the newbies leaves your hens distraught. They have no other choice but to attack so here’s 6 steps to help your chooks become best friends…

  1. If you have brought them from a market or have any worries that your hens might be carting diseases quarantine them until you are sure they are fine (search a healthy hen in the blog post to know what a healthy hen looks like). 
  2. It’s always best to add birds that are the same age or the same size as you’re existing flock for instance a 4 week oldchick and a two year old hen might not go down well. 
  3. If you have birds that may be younger or smaller than your original chickens givethem a space only they can access for instance a shelter with a door only they can fit through, here they can relax and you can givethem food and water in this area incase they are scared to come out for the first day.
  4. Create a distraction such as hanging veg, giving them some chicken toys. (To find out more search hentertainment  for a blog on entertaining/distracting chickens).
  5. Add extra drinkers and feeders to the run so if the original chickens guard the food and water The newbies have a supply too.
  6. Some people suggest keeping them separate for a week in a run inside your original chickens run so they get used to each other although I’ve never tried this.

Don’t worry (he says as he checks them every five muinets) a peck and a kick is normal and will establish a pecking order. But if any of the flock are being really bullied spray them with anti pecking spray or use beak bits with the bully. These can be found in most country stores or on good old eBay. I hope this helps as it can be a very stressful time mixing birds. Thanks for reading 😊