Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Chooks Are Going Bald!

It's Moulting Time in Australian Chicken Yards:

Chickens need to replace their feathers each year and sometimes they can go a bit overboard!
Excessive moulting can be due to a protein or vitamin deficiency (or a prolonged heatwave like we've just had is SA) but moulting is normal and they won't lay again until they've grown all their feathers back.

As all the energy from their food is going to make new feather growth and they stop laying eggs during this time, it's important to feed them well even though they aren't giving you any eggs.
I know someone who gets rid of their chooks each year when they moult because they make her garden untidy with all those feathers blowing around. rolleyes

Juliette de Bairacli Levy in her book The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable suggests the following herbs as a tonic for plumage growth feeding:
Dill, Anise and Fennel plus Seaweed, Nettles, Cleavers and all the Onion family including Garlic.
She has some suggestions for brews to rub on to the chooks also featuring Rosemary, vinegar and Southernwood!

Alanna Moore also lists these herbs as tonics for feather growth.
In her book Backyard Poultry - Naturally Alanna suggests the brew of Rosemary (or Southernwood) plus Vinegar (cider vinegar is good) can be added to the chooks drinking water on a weekly basis.
That sounds easier than applying it externally. wink

Keep up their feed with plenty of protein (meatmeal, cooked soya or fishmeal in their mash), sunflower seeds but not too much corn. Include lots of healthy greens and a good supply of calcium.

Alanna's recipe for a good tonic for moulting hens is Linseed:
1 cup simmered in 1 litre of water for 20mins until it forms a jelly and give each chook a dessertspoonful of this jelly with a wet mash.
Make sure you cook the linseed though and don't give them too much. eek

Look after your girls during this time, keep them warm if it's suddenly gone cold, keep them dry and feed them well...soon they be back to themselves with a whole new outfit of beautiful new feathers.

For further posts on feeding chooks:
Chook Mash here
Chook Forage/Fodder Plants here
Chook Sprouts here


  1. Our eggs have dropped off lately because the moult has started. thanks for the advice about special care of our hens chooks during moulting.

  2. I didnt know supplementing their diets could help them through the molting...great tips!

  3. Great Suggestions. Ours arn't moulting right now, but they probably will later on this spring.
    I may have to try some of these ideas to help them out a little.
    Greg II

  4. Hi Greg
    Hope there's something there to help your feathered friends! :)

  5. I had no idea that chooks moulted their feathers each year! What an interesting range of foodstuffs to feed them! I wonder if you fed a certain kind of food it would effect the flavour of the eggs? Garlic? onion? Mint?

  6. One chook regularly loses the feathers along her back. They eventually grow back but almost as soon as this happens, she starts to lose them again, plus loses interest in her food - any ideas??

  7. Hi Anonymous??
    Just a few Q's
    Does she lay at all?
    Does she seem to be getting picked on by the other chooks?
    Are the chooks free ranging or kept inside (deep litter)?
    What are they fed?

    Use the "Click here to Email Me" link in the left hand column if you wish. :)

  8. Thanks for your answer to my constantly moulting chook. No -she hasn't laid in months. I feed both of them coase mash, veges, porridge and some sunflower seeds and sometimes mix in linseeds, plus shellgrit at the weekends. They roam in the late afternoon and at weekends, for the rest of the time they are in the coup. She gets on well with the other one. Thanks, Viv

  9. OK Some more Q's :)

    So are you saying that since she's been moulting like this she hasn't been laying? But has she laid in the past?

    Where are you...southern or northern Hemishpere? Chooks usually go off lay and moult in Autumn/Winter.

    They could need more protien in their feed too. Try some meat or fish meal or cooked soya meal.

    Just a thought...
    Do you cook the linseed? (raw it contains a pyrodxine inhibitor)


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