What is Molting? How to Tend to 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.
Feathers 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 is Molting?
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 Play 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.
Molting Tips on Getting your Chicken, or other Game Fowl, in Perfect Feather Shape through a Molt
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 other fowl is losing a lot of protein and energy in regaining its 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.