Molting is a natural occurrence for chickens triggered by shortening day length in fall. It can take from 2 to 6 months for a chicken to complete molting; and egg production generally stops during molting for pure breed birds or significantly slows down for egg
production breeds. This egg production slowdown occurs because it takes the same nutrients to grow feathers that it does to
Chickens that start molting late in the fall usually complete molting quickly (2 -3 months) whereas chickens that start in early fall
generally take much longer to complete molting (4 – 6 months). Obviously, since they’re producing fewer (or zero) eggs during molting, the better producers are those chickens that start molting late and finish quickly. The chickens to consider culling are those that start molting early and take a long time to complete.
Chickens molt their feathers in sequence; starting at the head, neck, back, breast, stern, thighs, wings, and finally tail. You can tell how long a chicken has been molting (and how much longer it will be molting) by looking at the ten (per wing) primary feathers. These ten primaries drop out at two week intervals and take approximately six weeks to regrow. A slow molter will shed primaries one at a time, and will therefore take up to 24 weeks to completely refeather. Fast molters drop their primaries in groups rather than one at a time; and therefore return to production much faster.
Since we have a few new chickens raised by the broody hens, we really should put some in the freezer before winter. So, we’ll be examining the birds while they’re molting to see which molt quickly and factor that into the decision on which go to the freezer. However, as those new feathers are coming in, handling can be painful for the chickens, so we’ll be handling them slowly and carefully during molting. They sure do look funny………………..