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raymond michelinraymond michelin Junior Member
edited October 2006 in Poultry Health and Welfare
what age do chicken start moulting?


  • SandySandy Senior Member
    edited October 2006
    Once each year birds renew their plumage. This process of replacing old feathers with new ones is called molt.
    Hens usually go through their annual molt in the late summer, the fall, or early-winter months.
    Factors that determine the time of the molt are:

    1.[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]Time of the year the bird was hatched.
    2.[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]The individual bird or breeding.
    3.[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]Management stresses to which the bird is exposed.

    Just as bleaching is most helpful in determining layers from nonlayers during the first 8 or 9 months of production, the molt is most useful during the last several months.

    When a bird starts its molt, it goes out of production and its repro*ductive tract shrinks to the size of that of an immature pullet.

    The bird will not come back into production until shortly before or just after the molt is completed and the reproductive tract returns to normal size.

    [FONT=&quot]The [/FONT][FONT=&quot]pattern depends to a certain extent upon the type of management and feed being supplied to the birds




    Molting is the shedding and renewal of feathers and occurs about once a year. The order in which the different sections of the bird lose their feathers is fairly defined: head, neck, body, wings and tail. Molting is a difficult time for birds, since it involves hormonal fluctuations and increased energy requirements. Eliminate stress during this time: keep temperature in a narrow range (70-80o F), provide a high quality diet, and each day mist the birds with a fine spray or provide a pan for bathing. It takes about seven weeks for new feathers to complete their growth cycle.

    Domesticated chickens bred for high egg production have a definite molting pattern. A natural molt does not normally occur until the end of an extended, intensive laying period. Chickens that have been laying heavily for one year or longer molt easily in the fall since this is the natural molting season. If they finish their intensive year in the spring, they do not molt easily and may wait until the fall.

    A chicken loses feathers from various sections of its body in a definite pattern. The order is: head; neck; feather tracks of the breast, thighs and back; wing and tail feathers. Some birds molt more slowly than others; some molt earlier. A good high producing flock tends to molt late and rapidly.

    Decreasing day-length is the normal trigger for molting. Therefore, lighting programs for egg production flocks should provide either constant or increasing day-length. Stresses caused by temporary feed or water shortage, disease, cold temperatures, or sudden changes in the lighting program can cause a partial or premature molt.

    [FONT=&quot]Immature feathers, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]called pin or blood feathers, grow out of the skin rolled up in a tube-like structure called a keratin sheath. Normally, the bird will use its beak to "preen," or rub off the keratin sheath, which will allow the feather to open up. These immature feathers have a large blood vessel in their center and if the pin feather is torn or damaged, it will bleed excessively. The entire feather in its sheath must be pulled firmly from its attachment to the skin and pressure applied for a few minutes until the bleeding stops.[/FONT]
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