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Some of our chickens are moulting

moulting hen and pekin bantamI went down to the run today and it was covered with a light sprinkling of feathers. My initial gut reaction was slightly panicky. Had a fox got in or a giant rat? Then I remembered that sometimes chicken moult at this time of year. As chickens get older they are more likely to moult. It’s never the whole gang and that is why it’s a bit disturbing. We have three hens, looking great with bright red combs stepping about perkily. The other two look as if they haven’t seen a hairbrush for months.

My bantam book is reassuring. As the feathers drop from the head they are swiftly followed by new, squeaky clean ones. Also, chickens keep their ability to fly during a moult, retaining essential wing feathers for this task. The longer the feathers the longer they take to grow back.

It’s great that they can fly as this means that they have a chance if trouble strikes but it’s the eggs that I’m interested in. Our problem is that we haven’t collected an egg for days. They go ‘off lay’ when moulting. What about the three that are not moulting? Surely they could lay an egg or three to keep us happy.

Danny is kinder than me, ‘At least they’ll live a bit longer, if they have a rest,’ he said as he cracked a handful of eggs from John’s shop into the frying pan, ‘you’ll hate it when Carol dies.’

Thinking about it, he’s right. Although I do miss the warmth of a newly laid egg in my hand, in the morning.

Tips and tricks:

  • Generally if you see a lot of feathers in the run at this time of year it’s an indication that some of the hens are moulting. If you suspect feather pulling and bullying, hang a head of cabbage in the run. Position this at a height that forces the chickens to stretch and jump to reach the cabbage. This should stop the feather pulling quickly.

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  1. Elaine

    Two of my hens seem to be moulting but it is the beginning of July ? Is this possible or are they sick. They seem to be moving around as normal and no obvious signs of parasites. I am new to chicken keeping. I have had one egg from one girl a couple of days ago but non now and the other has just been broken from a broody spell…but ni eggs now. Cam any one help ?

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