Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Moulting Time

If you've seen some birds in photos this fall that look like they're suffering from some horrible disease, with bald bits and scraggly feathers and pointy quills sticking out every where, don't worry. The hens might look bedraggled, but they're perfectly fine. They are simply moulting.

Like other birds, chickens go through a period of moult at least once and sometimes twice every year. They lose a portion of their feathers, and then stop laying eggs while the feathers grow back. This year our Cinnamon Queens had a particularly hard moult, and looked like they were plucked for the market for a while. Look at the tail on the top bird, and the back on the second one.

See the pointy white things on the poor girl's back in the photo above? Those pointy things are new feathers coming in. The new feathers are not terribly comfortable, and they're itchy, too.

The photo below is of a hen who's a bit farther along in regrowing her feathers. Those pointy quill tips have opened up and little bits of new feathers are peeking out--see where the feathers on her back are sort of short and squared off? And look at her poor bald head and scraggly tail and flight feathers!

Once all the feathers come in, however, the birds will be ready to take anything winter can throw at them. Below is a hen that's finished moulting. See how lovely she is--and those smooth, pretty new feathers are extra warm for winter. Look at that fluffy rump!

As far as what we do for moulting hens, there's not much that we can do. Moulting is an important natural process--it helps a bird get rid of worn feathers so that they have new, warmer feathers for the winter. The hen's body helps this process by not laying eggs while she's regrowing feathers. We help the hens by making sure they have a way to get in out of the wind if they're cold and giving them a higher protein feed so they have the necessary nutrients for feather growth.

I hope they hurry up--I'm not really up for knitting tiny sweaters if they're still bald when the snow starts flying! :)