Dawn : I have been meaning to write to you for ages and send photos of my coop but just haven’t. I enjoy your newsletter very much. I have a question, though. When do chickens moult and what does it indicate? I live in Cape Town, south Africa, so it is just going into winter. I have had chickens for years and they have only moulted mildly but this year, my best layer is losing all her feathers, even though it is already quite cold. We have been told that we are likely to have a severe winter. Is this another indicator? Is there anything I should be doing for my moulting hen other than giving her shelter?
My Reply : Moults can be triggered by stress but usually it is a yearly occurrence, starts at around 18 months old, and often coincides with the colder weather. The yearly moult in hens also signifies the end of that particular laying cycle. With each laying cycle that goes by there is also usually a reduced number of eggs during the following one. It may be that the cold coming earlier has made her body speed up the process so instead of losing a few feathers here and there gradually, a lot more are going a lot quicker. A treat of black oil sunflower seeds can sometimes help with moults as they are a good natural source of the protein needed for feathers to grow (alternatively a poultry nutrient/vitamin supplement would probably help in the same way).