In the Coop
A couple of the girls are in a hard molt and it was downright scary! I decided I had better do a little research about molting and how to help the girls out during this difficult time.
Shorter days can trigger a response in poultry to shed their old feathers and produce new ones for the upcoming winter. Feathers help to protect the birds against rain, snow and cold temperatures. This happens every year. Old feathers are dropped and new ones grow in.
I had read that young hens (less than 12 months) may not molt the first year but there are definitely a couple girls that are molting. Notice how "mottled" their appearance is...
Growing feathers is hard work so the chickens and ducks may temporarily quit laying eggs while their body puts all its energy into growing new feathers. Molting can be mild or severe. Some hens molt slowly, just losing a few feathers here and there over a longer period of time. Other chickens molt quickly, dropping lots of feathers suddenly. These are called 'soft' and 'hard' molts, respectively. Here is an example of a hard molt...
I have seen this girl get picked on a bit. This may happen when they go through a hard molt. I am keeping an eye on the situation and we will put her in the quarantine cage if things start to get out of hand. So far, she has done a good job of getting away from the bullies.
A hen/ducks egg production is also tied to light, as mentioned earlier. A hen/duck needs at least 14 hours of light each day to keep laying eggs. We do provide lighting in our coops to keep the girls laying. Our chickens and ducks receive good quality feed and treats all year long so we expect them to work in the winter too (after they have finished molting).
We did purchase some game bird feed. It is 30% protein. The girls eat about 23 pounds of feed a day so I would put out about 5 pounds of the game bird feed to increase the amount of protein available to them. I have been feeding this through the month of October but I don't expect to continue this practice. We also experimented with fermenting some feed but that will be for a future blog post...stay tuned...
Have an eggcellent day!