Moulting is a natural and necessary process whereby chickens lose their old feathers and regrow new ones. Moult usually occurs in the fall when the days get shorter. It lasts about eight weeks and can cause a decrease in egg production. Here are three things you can do to improve the moulting experience for your flock.
1. Increase protein intake
Making sure your chickens get enough protein during moult is critical. After all, their feathers are about 85 percent keratin, the same protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.
When you notice your chickens starting to lose feathers, make sure they’re getting between 20 and 22 percent protein to help support healthy feather growth. You can do this by purchasing a high-protein commercial chicken feed or supplementing their diet with foods like nuts, seeds, bugs and fish scraps.
2. Limit handling
During moult, the area where the feather shaft meets the skin can be very sensitive. Therefore, it’s best to minimize petting, holding and handling your birds as much as possible. It will also reduce the risk of transferring bacteria to the chickens’ skin. Since chickens dedicate most of their energy to moulting, their immune systems may be weakened, making them more susceptible to infection.
3. Reduce stressors
Reducing sources of stress on your chickens is vital when they’re moulting. Avoid changing your birds’ living quarters and provide adequate space to rest and relax. Furthermore, ensure you give your flock plenty of fresh, clean water. Avoid introducing new birds because it could disrupt the flock’s hierarchy and increase stress.
Moulting is a natural part of a chicken’s life and something you need to be aware of and prepared for to ensure your birds stay healthy and happy throughout the process. As always, a clean, well-insulated coop with good air circulation will safeguard them against contamination and disease spread.
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