Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bald and Beautiful - Facts about moulting

The seasonal decline in egg production occurs when birds go into a condition known as “moult”. Moulting is the process of shedding and renewing feathers. During the moult the reproductive physiology of the bird is allowed a complete rest from laying and the bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients. The provision of new feathers or coat is a natural process, designed by nature to maintain the birds' ability to escape enemies by flight and to provide greater protection against cold winter conditions. Normally, under natural conditions, moulting in adult birds will occur once a year, though it may occur in certain individuals twice in one year, and more rarely only once in a period of two years.


Pullets go through one complete and three partial moults during its growth to point of lay, after which the mature bird normally undergoes one complete moult a year, usually in autumn although this depends on the time of the year at which the bird commenced laying. Generally complete moulting occurs from 1-6 weeks and partial moulting at 7-9 weeks, 12-16 weeks and 20-22 weeks, and during this latter moult the stiff tail feathers are grown.


For hens moulting usually begins sometime during March-April and should be completed by July when egg production restarts. The three main factors which bring about moulting are:
  • physical exhaustion and fatigue
  • completion of the laying cycle. Birds only lay eggs for a certain period of time
  • reduction of day length, resulting in reduced feeding time, and consequent loss of bodyweight.
Eleven months continuous production is expected from pullets hatched in season, so that if a flock of pullets commenced laying in March at six months of age, they should continue laying until the following February, although the odd bird may moult after laying for a few weeks. These few birds however should begin laying again after June 22  and continue in production until the following autumn.

Pullets coming into lay in June should lay until the following April thereby giving eleven months continuous egg production without the aid of artificial light. Pullets coming into lay in spring (August) should lay well into April (9 months) but unless artificial lighting is provided, most of them will moult during May and June.


Cessation of laying and moulting indicate that the birds' physical condition is deteriorating, and is therefore unable to support egg production, continued nourishment of their feathers and body maintenance. Feathers contain protein and are more easily grown when laying ceases, because of the birds difficulty in assimilating sufficient protein for both egg and feather production. During the moult the fowl still requires a considerable amount of good quality food to replace feathers and build up condition. 

1 comment:

  1. I found this facinating.... and informative...even though I think I know hens
    thank you