The state of the molt. Just say no edition.

We’re getting there.

Haley continues to lay enormous eggs which are taking on more of her customary lovely copper hue. Breaking news…Coraline is squatting for me and tried to nest yesterday! She still has some of her old, faded feathers mixed in with the pretty new ones, though. Does that mean she’s going to be half old feathers/half new for the next year?! Cuz…ew.

I’ve tried to get squats out of Tallulah and Hermione, but they’re not having it. Yet.

Here’s the thing. It’s December 10th, and still no sign of molt from either Abby or Buffy. They continue to lay (huge) eggs, every other day, and there is no evidence of undue feather loss. What the hey, chickeneers?! Do they get a pass? No naked for you?

I was pondering this mystery out loud at the breakfast table yesterday, when Stepdaughter the Elder tossed in this little gem of pre-pubescent wisdom: maybe they’re not molting because they were broody.

<facepalm>

Could she be right? Could this be the answer? The only two hens who went broody this past summer are the only two who show no signs of molt. This can’t just be a coincidence, right? Is this some piece of common chicken knowledge that has somehow eluded me?

I know, I know; it seems a stretch, but bear with me. Both these girls (especially Buffy) had a prolonged period of egg cessation already this year. Maybe their bodies don’t require another at this time. Or, maybe their molts will be greatly delayed because they were broody earlier.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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11 thoughts on “The state of the molt. Just say no edition.

  1. So many questions!
    I’m not sure how old your hens are, but I read recently that they often don’t molt their first year at all.
    I had a mixed breed hen hatch in April and she not only hasn’t molted but laid only 2 or 3 eggs in late July, then quit -I think she just laid one yesterday and it was TINY. It may have been caused by a few close calls with a hawk (stress of any kind can put them off).
    I then added 11 birds to the coop in October, which coincided with not only molting but added stress. (I ended up with 6 roosters in a flock of 17 hens, 8 of which are too old to lay.) The new hens were mostly pecked naked from overcrowding and I read that they often won’t replace the feathers until their NEXT molt! They laid about 1 or 2 eggs each and then quit until just last week – it was like as soon after I contained most of the roosters the laying commenced again. Was it stress or molt? This morning it got down to 2 degrees, so what will that do?
    They are a mystery…

    • My original recipe 1.0 hens are 19 months; this is their first molt. Stress will definitely do it. I wonder what Trixie’s excuse is? She’s been extremely stressed since March?!

  2. None of our chickens molted before 18 months. Kyri, Patricia and Queen went 2 years before a first molt. Queen was broody, but Kyri and Patricia never have been. I think different breeds start molting at different times. At least that’s been my experience and we’ve had 7 or 8 different breeds by now.

    • There is definitely a breed factor. My Production Reds both went first, then my Light Brahmas. Coraline (PBR) stopped laying and molted, and is now back to laying. Her PBR sister Maisie stopped laying but hasn’t molted, and the other PBR, Abby, never molted OR stopped laying. Trixie (BO) is molting, but her sister Buffy is not.

      My head hurts.

  3. Did they have a lot of feather loss when they went broody? Cause 4 of my broody hens did a double duty. They raised chicks and molted during their setting. All 4 wouldn’t have been laying anyway. I was pretty happy that they did it at the same time.

    Also some hens can be very gradual molters. They can continue laying during such events, and you won’t even notice them molting. I had some very noticeable molts this fall, but I’ve had some questionable hens as well.

    As for the hen with the new and old feathers, she is more gradually molting I’m guessing.. Are you talking her wing feathers? I do find those are the last to go.

    • Buffy and Abby both had MAJOR feather loss when they went broody…self-inflicted! They both pulled out ALL their belly feathers. Chicken Debbie told me they do this to increase skin contact with the eggs to keep them warm.

      No, Coraline is “new and old” on her back. I really must get a decent pic now that she is squatting for me again. And Maisie is nesting as we speak! Of course, that doesn’t mean much…

      I just can’t get over the size of Haley’s eggs. They look like turkey eggs.

      • Belly feather loss would be the only feather loss a broody should have. My broodies lost feathers on their necks, butts, backs, wings, etc. They were full on moulting!

        Coraline must look strange with that combo. I’d like to see that.

  4. Molting is a natural event in a birds life, meant to renew plumage in preparation for migration and the coming cold weather. Some experts say the best layers molt “late and fast”(2 to 3 months), with poor layers molting “early and slow”(taking up to 6 months). Molting may occur out of season as a result of disease or stress, such as chilling or going without water and food. When a hen is broody not only is she stressed out, her water and feed intake are drastically affected, so it stands to reason a partial molt is definitely a possibility. Many hens will “drop feathers” especially around their back end to make their nest all nice and cozy, and to create skin to egg warmth (this would be a partial molt). Georgia went through a partial molt in April when she was broody, then again last week she dropped half her feathers in one day, and is now almost naked. The rest of my Dom’s (like Georgia) are in a similar state, my RIR’s look scraggly but still feathered, and our new White Leghorns look sleek and pretty but there are white feathers all over the ground. Molting has too many variables, I say. I wouldn’t worry about the molt unless I had a hen going through an unusually early molt that wasn’t broody or that I couldn’t pin point a cause for stress.
    A great book to have on hand is “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens”. Whenever I have a question that’s the first place I look. Tons of valuable information and practical advice.
    Good luck with the girls.

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