What is molting?
Every year, once a year, chickens will lose all their feathers as new
ones grow in. They will stop laying until the molt is completed. During a molting is an excellent time to
figure out if you have good layers or bad layers. The process of molting can take between two and six months
depending on the type of molter you have.
What causes molting?
Molting is a response to the shortening of days that tells the hens to prepare
for the winter. It's the bringing in of the winter coat that may fall out throughout the year but is brought
back in to fill out and protect the chickens from the elements. Disease and stress can also cause molting;
these molts, however are often partial.
Early Molters and Late Molters
Early molters are hens that will begin molting early and can take up to six
months to finish their molt. Egg production will drop significantly or disappear for this entire time period
making birds who are early molters poor layers and hens you probably don't want to waste a lot of time on. Late
molters may go up to a year before they molt and are often finished with the molt within two or three months.
Late molters may also significantly drop or stop production altogether, however because they begin molting
later and are through sooner, the number of eggs you receive from a late molter is far greater than those you
receive from an early molter.
How can you tell them apart?
Telling early and late molters apart is fairly simple. An early molter tends
to have shiny and unbroken feathers because they are being replaced more frequently. Early molters often have a
greater "show" quality about them. Late molters tend to look a bit ragged, with broken and dirty
How Can I Tell When My Chickens Are Molting?
When chickens go into a molt, there is a specific feather loss pattern they
will go through. The loss starts at the head, goes through the neck, breast, body then wing and tail. The best
way to check how far along your hen is in a molt is to look at the feathers on the wings. The wings have two
main sets of feathers, the primary feathers and the secondary feathers. There are ten primary feathers that
reach from the tip of the wing back ten feathers to the secondary feathers. By judging how many have fallen out
at a time, you can guesstimate about how much longer your hen will be molting and your egg production
Good Molters and Bad Molters
Good molters will not only lay late, but when they molt they will lose their
primary feathers in groups of more than one. Primaries take six weeks to grow in fully and two weeks to drop
out. A good molter will lose groups of two or three or more primaries every two weeks until the primaries are
gone. This decreases the amount of time necessary for the primaries to grow back, as they will grow back in the
same numbers they dropped out. A bad molter starts early and loses their primaries one at a time. This slow
drop out rate increases the re-growth rate from 12 weeks to up to 24!
Toys for Chickens
Where to Buy Eggs and Chicks
Raising Chicks- Make Yourself the Mama
Cold Climates and Chickens
What Every Coop Needs
Poultry Diseases and How to Prevent Them
Chicken Nutrition- What Your Chicken Needs
In Its Feed
Protecting Your Flock From
Common Chicken Parasites
Chicken Care- A Month by Month Guide
Dust Baths, The Chicken Preference for
Molting: That's One Ugly Chicken!
How To Water-Bathe a Chicken
Helping Chickens Avoid Heat Stress
How Not to Care for Chickens
Maintaining Your Chicken Coop
Cannibalism In Chickens and What To Do To
Trimming Your Chicken's Beak
What Every Chicken Needs
Vegetarian Chickens or Well-Rounded Diets?
Considering a Movable Chicken Coop
Can Chickens Eat Table Scraps?
Selecting the Proper Feeder for Your
Cleaning Up After Your Chickens
The Proper Way to Handle a Chicken
Keeping Your Chickens' Nails in Check