Each year your hens will moult which is completely normal. They go through this process to renew their feathers and the areas where they are most likely to lose coverage is the head, neck, thighs back, wing and tail.
It's a tough time for the birds as their hormones fluctuate and they require more energy to be able to produce the new feathers. You'll be surprised at the rate with which their feathers drop. When I first experienced this, I thought there'd been a fight in the coop!
Depending on when the hen was born depends on the time of year they moult. This can be early spring or early summer and even in the months of January and February!
Your hen may go off lay as it's energy is focused on growing new feathers. The whole moulting process can take between 4-8 weeks.
To assist in this yearly event you can ensure that the diet is high in protein and that she does not experience too much stress. I add chickcrumb to their diet to give them a protein boost. Some people give their moulting hens organic cat food or tinned tuna but personally, I'd rather avoid the whole idea of meat consumption to avoid the risk of salmonella. You can also offer them some chopped up toast which has been spread with a touch of marmite. The B vitamins will give them an energy boost.
How to spot a moulting hen
Firstly you'll see an amount of dropped feathers and perhaps some bald spots on the bird. The comb may shrink in size and go more of a pink shade rather than red. When holding the hen if you lift the top feathers up, there should be immature feathers protruding from the skin. They grow out of a tube-like structure which is called a keratin sheath. You'll notice your hen will preen herself a lot and this is to rub off this keratin sheath allowing the feather to open up.
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