Late summer, early autumn sees the onset of the annual moult for chickens. If you are a first time keeper this can appear rather alarming when first encountered especially in some breeds who seem to literally drop all their feathers overnight. This dramatic transformation into an oven ready bird can send the uninitiated keeper into a panic, but worry not, it’s a perfectly natural occurrence in poultry over one year old. Hens hatched during the spring of that year will not usually moult until the following autumn but for those in their second year or beyond there is the need to replace their weather worn feathers before the winter.
When a hen goes into moult it will inevitably stop laying transferring its energies into feather regrowth. In younger birds this moult can take around 6 weeks to complete where upon the hen may start to lay again however in older birds the moult can take a number of months to complete fully. The two birds in the image are from the very same hatch, the one on the left is half way through her moult, the one on the right has completed hers.
During the moult be sure to provide a good balanced diet, fresh water, greens and a vitamin supplement can help them through what is a rather stressful period. Also be sure to provide them with dry draught free places to shelter, with the loss of their ‘clothes’ the hen will be sure to appreciate the benefit.