Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Chicken molting

Chicken featherChicken feathers lining the ground don't necessarily mean that a fox got one of your hens.  Chances are, you're just seeing the most obvious sign of the annual molt.

Chickens start molting when they're about 18 months old, usually in late summer or early fall, but some birds will molt in the spring.  In addition to seeing feathers all over the ground, you'll notice that your chickens look bedraggled during the molt and have stray feathers sticking out in all directions.  Old feathers are being dropped while new feathers slowly grow back to take their place, a process that is repeated annually, usually at around the same time of year.  Different varieties and ages of chickens will molt at different times, though, so you may see one chicken molting in your flock while the others are happily going about their daily business.

Molting chickensUnfortunately for the chicken-keeper, molting chickens tend to slow down laying or perhaps stop egg production entirely for the entire two to four months that they are regrowing feathers.  Looking at it from the hen's point of view, the egg-laying break makes sense --- it costs a lot of energy to make feathers and to make eggs, and it's just too much to do both at once.  This is the one place that our cochin really shines --- although she's not a very good layer, she does tend to molt much earlier in the fall than our Golden Comets, so we continue to have a few eggs to cook with during the main flock's molt.
Flock of chickens
Although chickens will naturally end their molt and ramp up egg production again on their own schedule, you can help them out a bit by boosting their protein rations when you start to see feathers lining the coop floor.  Some chicken keepers add cat food, meat, eggs, or yogurt to their feed during the molt while others simply switch their flock over to the higher protein chick starter feed (with the addition of oyster shells to provide the calcium missing from this alternative diet.)  Digging up some worms and grubs might be the most natural way to keep your flock in prime condition during the molt.

Copious, clean water from our homemade chicken waterer also helps ease the molt.

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