Molting: What is it and how do you tend your fowl during this seasonal Process?

Late August is the sign of cooler temperatures and shorter days in many states. For us humans, fall is a sign that signifies that it is Back to School Time. For chickens, ducks, and quail, this means it is time for them to renew their feathers. This stage of their life is called molting. This process occurs every year when the days get shorter.

moltFeathers are analogous to our nails and hair. They are made out of the protein keratin and are referred to as a “dead” structure. They cannot mend themselves. Instead, when they are damaged, they leave the body, and a new set of feathers will grow in place.

What does molting mean?

Molting is a hormonal process in shedding old feathers and making way for new growth. This process is different depending on each species of bird. Chickens, ducks, and turkeys tend to molt once a year once they become adults. Certain species of quail such as the Coturnix will molt twice a year due to their high productivity rates. Other species will molt from their juvenile plumage to adult plumage and then twice a year when adults. Molting is natural and nothing to worry about. It just means the season is changing.

Does nutrition have a role in helping a bird go through a molt?

Feathers are made out of 85% protein. When birds molt, they use a lot of energy to grow their new feathers in. They may stop laying eggs for some time or just not lay as often as you are used to seeing. When a bird molts, your pen will look like a pillow fight occurred! Do not be alarmed as this is normal. Since the birds have more bare skin batches, this is the time to also check for parasites such as mites, lice, and ticks. You want the bird to be as stress free as possible.

**Tips on getting your Chicken, or other fowl, in perfect feather shape through a molt and back to egg production**

Make sure the bird’s stress level is limited. Avoid moving the bird around and try not to add new members to their surroundings.

Because the chicken or fowl is losing a lot of protein and energy in regaining it’s new feathers, you can increase their protein level in their feed. If they are on a 16% layer formulated diet, you can give them a 20% chick starter mixed in or a game bird starter of at least 24% protein. The more protein the better. You can give them treats high in protein such as alfalfa sprouts, mealworms, soaked alfalfa cubes, and more.

The duration of a molt depends on each species. Chickens can be in a molt as long as four months whereas quail can go through their molt as little as 2 weeks. It all depends on their environment, nutrition, and whether they are in stress free situations. Once your bird is over their molt, they will look fuller and beautiful again.

5 responses to “Molting: What is it and how do you tend your fowl during this seasonal Process?”

  1. Misty says:

    I am pretty sure that my quail have stopped molting but they havent started laying eggs and i dont want to use a light are there any oter ways i can get my quail to lay I am pretty sure this is their first molt too.

  2. Anna Pattermann says:

    Hi Misty,
    After molting it can take a little time for them to start laying again. You may want to add a little bit of extra protein to help them recover. They should be laying again in no time at all! Have a great day!

  3. Laurie says:

    My turkey hen, is molting. Do they stop laying and eating, or should I watch for illness of some kind.

  4. Chuck says:

    My quail must be molting because they have lost feathers mostly on their backs. The egg production has slowed way down also. The feathers are growing back now and they are laying a little better. My question is, does the molt affect egg fertility? My hatch had gone down from 80% to 25%.

  5. Anna Pattermann says:

    Hi Chuck! Thank you for asking! If your quail are going through a molt, they will slow in laying and/or completely stop laying depending on how hard the molt is. This can absolutely impact the fertility rates of their eggs as well. Once these beauties are back to being fully feathered and well recovered from the molt you should see a significant increase in fertility again!

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