Why do chickens molt?
Has your egg production slowed down or come to a stop? If yes, then your hens maybe molting. This is when they shed old feathers and grow new ones. So why do chickens molt and what can you do? Or do you need to do anything?
Instead of converting protein into the egg whites you cook into delicious, nutritious breakfasts, your hens use dietary protein to make new feathers instead. It’s these fresh feathers that will keep them warm through winter.
Feathers are made of keratin, as are beaks, talons, and even human hair and fingernails. Keratin is a very strong, lightweight and fibrous protein.
In humans, protein deficiencies cause hair loss and soft, brittle nails, so it’s easy to understand why dietary protein is so important for a chicken during a molt. The health of new feathers depends on today’s diet, and those feathers have to last until next year’s molt.
There are many ways that you can help supplement a hen’s diet and increase their protein intake to ensure healthy feather re-growth.
1. Free-Range the Yard
Free ranging can help molting hens get the extra protein needed during molts. The creepy crawlies and flying things living in your lawn are all animal protein. Chickens are not vegetarians.
2. Enlist Garden Clean-Up Help
As you clean out the garden and turn the soil, employ your less-feathered friends for help. They’ll gobble up all the bugs and plants you unearth.
3. Feed Cooked Eggs
Your homestead flock supplies you and your family with food, so consider sharing the wealth. Whip up some warm scrambled eggs and feed them back to the molting hens. They love eggs!
4. Bulk-Order Mealworms
Freeze-dried mealworms are packed with protein, they last longer than living mealworms, and the best part is, they don’t squirm. If you order them in bulk, you can save some cash. Feed them to your chickens as treats, sprinkle on a scrambled egg ration, or scatter them for free-ranging fun.
5. Cut Carbs and Scratch
If you aren’t able to supplement your flock’s diet with extra protein, at least temporarily, stop supplementing with high-carb kitchen scraps, like breads and cereals, and eliminate the use of chicken scratch. Chickens are volume eaters; if they are filled with scratch and other empty carbs, they won’t eat enough protein from feed rations or other sources.