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Do Chickens Lose Weight When They Molt? (What You Should Know)

chicken with brown feathers molting on its wing

What Does It Mean When a Chicken is Molting?

Molting is the process of regrowing a chickens’ feathers. During the molt, chickens drop old feathers and regrow their new ones to replace them.

The molt happens as the seasons change from fall to winter. When the days become shorter and colder, chickens start molting in anticipation for mating season.  The entire molting process can last anywhere from 3 to 19 weeks, depending on the chicken.

Do Chickens Lose Weight When They Molt?

During the molting process, it is common for chickens to stop gaining wait and even lose weight at times. It’s also normal for a hen’s egg production to stop during this process.

Why Do Chickens Lose Weight When They Molt?

The reason chickens stop gaining weight and even lose weight while molting is because of how demanding it is on a chicken’s body to grow new feathers. Feathers are 85% protein and require a significant amount of energy to grow.

As a result, energy is taken away from other demanding processes such as growing muscle and producing eggs.

While it’s completely normal for a chicken to lose weight while it goes through the molting process, you still might be somewhat alarmed at the sight of your chickens the first time you go through the molt with them.

How To Help Your Chicken Molt Faster

While molting is a natural process that all chickens go through in order to grow new feathers, there are a couple things you can do to help your chickens through the molting process.

Feed Your Chickens Hight Protein Food

The most important thing you can do to help your chickens molt faster is to feed them protein-rich food.

Protein is the most important nutrient for feather growth. If you normally free-range your chickens and feed them cracked corn or table scraps, you should supplement their diet with a protein source while they are molting.

Nutrition facts can be found on feed bags at most commercial feed stores. Select one that is high in protein (at least 16% protein.)

Keep Your Chickens Warm

Since molting happens when the days shorten and the weather gets colder, it is not uncommon for your chickens to be naked and exposed to cold conditions. 

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To combat this energy divergence, we must keep our chickens warm. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

Some people hang heat lamps (such as these found on Amazon) close to the ground for the chickens to sit under and warm themselves.

Other farmers insulate their chicken coops with chicken coop insulation (like these) to keep cold air out of their chickens’ living quarters.

You can stuff nesting boxes to the brim with dry straw or other nesting material, and the chickens will hunker down in it to stay warm.

Some people go the extra mile and make chicken sweaters for their birds to wear during the molt. If you like to crochet, you can find a pattern for your own chicken sweaters here.

Why Do Chickens Molt?

Chickens were originally jungle birds from Southeast Asia. They were smaller bantam-type birds that bred seasonally in the jungle before selective breeding.

In the chicken world (and often in the human world, too), the key to getting a good mate is to look your best and put on a show. Ooh la la! Shiny bright feathers, voluminous tail, and long, dangerous-looking talons:

After a year of wearing the same feathers in the jungle, these little birds began to look worn out. Their feathers were dull, and some were broken, and this wasn’t going to “fly” in terms of attracting a mate.

As a result, chickens evolved the molt, allowing them to shed old feathers and grow new ones each year.

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