Each egg a hen lays depletes energy, protein and other nutrients and winter is the time when you may start to notice that your hens are nutritionally depleted.
As autumn rolls around the more mature hens will start moulting. This is natural as it helps them prepare for the cold weather as they grow new feathers to keep them warm in winter.
When a chicken moults she usually will stop laying because she is saving her energy for regrowing strong, new feathers. Feathers are comprised of up to 85% protein, and it requires a lot of energy to accomplish the regrowth in time for winter months. You can support her through this process by feeding a high protein layer pellet such as Aus Organic Feeds Egg Booster.
So, while your chickens will tend to lay less in winter it is critical that you continue to feed them a high quality diet during this time. This not only helps with feather rejuvenation, it assists her overall well-being through colder months.
In addition to feeding a pellet that is high in protein, make sure feed is freely available to hens whenever they need it. Avoid mess by using specially designed feeders.
It’s also best to limit your feeding of scratch mix while hens are moulting as pellets ensure they are getting the full spectrum of nutrition and protein in the ration.
You may find that some of your chickens moult faster than others, some may only lose a few feathers while others will lose a lot and take months to regrow. Aside from high protein pellet feed you can also support them by reducing stress as much as possible.
Some tips to reduce your birds’ stress levels:
Avoid adding new birds to the flock as chickens’ socialisation processes can be stressful.
Avoid handling your chickens when they are moulting as it is painful for them and increases their stress.
Moulting is a normal process and they should behave as usual so if you notice they seem sick then something else is going on that you need to look into.
Both roosters and hens go through the moult process therefore roosters will benefit from Egg Booster even though they don’t lay eggs.
Be vigilant in maintaining the coop. It should be dry, clean and weather proof yet also have good ventilation. Make sure their bedding is replaced regularly.
Supply them with a roost as it gets them off the cold ground and helps them feel safe. Also, if they are ‘cooped up’ due to cold or wet weather make sure they can still dig the floor of the coop (bury the chicken netting that protects them from rodents and other ground predators.)