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February 29, 2012

MOULTING?

Posted by Anais Dervaes

Oh dear, I look so raggedy and unkempt. I must look frightful.

Almost featherless birds are quite an unusual sight this time of year.  Could it be because of the warm winter?   One chicken and one duck out of the flock have started to moult.  Lucky that it is not a hard moult but it is enough to scatter feathers everywhere.

Dora, our beautiful blondie, leaves small piles of feathers wherever she goes. The animal enclosure is littered with feathers-- all sorts of feathers - great for the compost pile!

Annalee, the duck, is just losing some of her wing feathers and they are growing back quite quickly - a good sign!  Means the bird are healthy!

I don't know what it is, but I find it very fascinating to watch our poultry moult and see new feathers emerge from pointy white sheaths.  Of course, the chickens and duckies rather not be photographed in such a disheveled state.  Can't say that  I blame them since, right now, they are looking somewhat pathetically hilarious- but don't tell them I said that!

Mature birds normally undergo one complete moult a year, usually in autumn, although this depends on the time of the year at which the bird commenced laying;  however, stresses caused by temporary feed or water shortage, disease, cold temperatures, or sudden changes in the lighting program can cause a partial or premature moult.   So, if you are new to keeping poultry, don't panic if one day you go out and it looks as if a fox has been in the hen house.

Maintaining a healthy flock is essential.  We are always on the look out for slight changes in any of our animals' behaviors, manure, etc.  One lesson that we have learned is that it's vital to catch any problems early.  That way, you get a jump on treatments, especially if you choose to treat the animals holistically and naturally.

Moulting stresses the birds, so we make sure they have a  supplement in their feed (especially with Jordanne's holisitic mix).  Seems like since using her herb & mineral mix the moults aren't too severe.

During moulting season, egg production will diminish or even cease.  To help the birds through the moult, it's good to up the protein intake.  Some folks add cat food, meat, eggs, or yogurt to their feed or simply switch their flock over to the higher protein chick starter feed (with the addition of oyster shells to provide the calcium missing from this alternative diet.)

We like to dig up worms and grubs in the animal compound.  ' Tis our morning ritual and the ladies just love it.

Apple Cider Vinegar is a great help to chickens at times of stress and can easily be added to their water to help them through the moult.

What about you? Have you noticed anything unusual with your homestead barnyard because of the unusually warm winter?

:: Resources ::

Moulting a Natural Process

Poultry Management: Moulting

Local Homesteaders?

Do you raise chickens or ducks in your backyard?  Check out our new selection of poultry treat, supplements, etc.  now at the Front Porch Farm Stand  (Open Sun - Fri 9 AM - 7 PM) 

Don't forget, before you leave, to pet our new bunny.


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4 Comments: "MOULTING?" »

  1. Anais, birds do look a little pathetic when they go through there moulting stage. It was always a sight to see our egg laying chickens running around the yard with half there feathers missing. I just grew up with that stage every year and didn't think any thing of it. I expect to a person new to the raising birds thing, it would be a scary thing the first time it happens. I can't imagine that your birds would be stressed out for any reason. They are loved and become a part of your family all the days of their lives. They are truly blessed animals and the looks on their faces in your pictures show that they know it.

    The flower beds are beginning to wake up. The Tulips and Daffodils are peeking up through the ground to see if they should continue to grow or wait a spell. So far they like it. We have dodged the freezing rain and snow. We received .64 inch of rain yesterday and 40 MPH wind all night and into today. Hopefully that will go away soon. The temperatures are starting to maintain 40s and 50s during the day. It's a sure sign that Spring is 19 days away and counting. I can't wait to finally get outside and start digging in the dirt.

    Happy leap day (Feburay 29th).

  2. Oh, yeah, PET PET PET and scratch scratch behind the ears.

  3. It's so funny how embarrassed they seem to get during a moult.

  4. We just noticed that our oldest chicken, Rose, has become awfully skinny. There are also feathers all over the hen house! I thought she might be molting, but now I'm sure. I think she molted in the fall, too. Do you think she's unhealthy to molt twice in one year? I'll add apple cider vinegar to their water, and add more protein to their diet. My husband wants me to check that our chickens won't turn into zombies if we feed them egg (haha!). I can't be sure if he's serious or not.

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