Molting is a normal process for birds that disrupts egg production for me every year. Sadly, I tend to forget about it until the feathers start coating everything and the egg numbers go wayyyy down. I was just looking back on last year’s numbers and saw that the chicken molt didn’t start until the last week of September but that the egg numbers never really recovered whereas the duck molt was most of September and October but recovered after that.
Birds molt to replace their feathers. It’s important even for birds that don’t fly much because feathers are their insulation! Over time, feathers tend to get a bit worn and unkempt. To replace the feathers, the birds lose their old feathers and then regrow new ones. This process requires a lot of protein so the chickens redirect the protein they usually use to make eggs into producing new feathers. To support them, I raise the protein level of their feed to help them molt more quickly and easily, but it still takes time. Chickens can have a hard molt or a soft molt. The hard molt is when they lose their feathers quickly and look half naked. My chickens rarely do this. Instead, they do a soft molt where they gradually begin losing feathers and replace them all more slowly. This means they look a bit scruffy but rarely do they have bald patches. It takes a bit longer and this is why I don’t have many chicken eggs in the fall and winter!
Ducks molt a bit differently. They do a hard-core molt and are generally done in a few weeks. They don’t all do it at the same time, so I usually just have fewer duck eggs rather than none! The other day Abby brought me a duck who was limping slightly to check. She didn’t know the duck was molting (growing feathers can be rather sensitive so I try not to handle the ducks too much during molting). After checking her feet, I was able to take two great pictures of her wings with their feathers growing in! Check out the images below.