I cruise out the back into the garden and have a look around. Nothing unusual, the plants are healthy and growing greatly, the compost is composting, the bees are buzzing and the chooks are ZOMBIES!?!
What happened to my beautiful chookies? Did the dog dig and old bird up and it’s come back to life?? As awesome as that would be, and might I add scary, the real answer is far less Hollywood block buster than you’d imagine. What actually is happening is that the girls (and boys) are molting. No not melting, but molting – loosing feathers.
This is a natural occurrence, so do not panic, you chookies are not Zombies but rather exchanging broken and busted feathers for new fresh ones. This happens once a year for birds over 18 months of age. This all makes a lot of sense but what doesn’t is the in the chooks design plan. Whilst in the Northern Hemisphere their plan works terrifically, shed excess old feathers right before Summer. But, here in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s more of an inconvenience as it’s our Winter!
How long does this last? Well it can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. It’s funny watching the new pin feathers come in. Kind of reminds me of my old punk days with spiky hair! This loss of feathers can be subtle and start in Autumns end or as the day light hours decrease.
In most cases you should notice a few feathers on the coop/run floor. You may even start seeing a little bit of ragged looking necks and shoulders, then it will slowly start to work its way in uniformity, from the top of the chookie to the bottom. Next usually is the breast, don’t be alarmed if only the breast starts loosing feathers at this stage. Don’t worry, you Zombie chook hasn’t finished yet. In some cases they may not molt for long, nor loose many feathers, but in some other cases they can molt and be almost naked within weeks. Try not to rush out and grab a bikini or bra, the chookies don’t mind a little bit of skin showing. After all they are vein and love strutting their stuff, even if they look like they have had a long weekend in Vegas! Molting in the winter may seem a little bit strange, but we do have a benefit her in the Southern Hemisphere. The colder weather actually can help speed up the process of renewing feathers. No need for someone to knit a jumper or scarf whilst in Corona Virus Isolation 😊
Something that you can do, as you also may have noticed, is the drop in egg production. Chookies can’t produce the amount of protein needed to function on both feather reproduction and egg laying so, they will go off laying for the duration somewhat. So here is what you can do to help the girls and boys get back to looking awesome and popping butt nuggets again. Add a high protein diet with added calcium and magnesium, silica and vitamins and amino acids.
This can be as simple as a meal additive to their feed. Add some Meal Worms, actually bug bars and any insects like crickets are great, along with stinky fish or I like to give them sardines myself, some livers and kidneys, bone marrow, prawns and oysters/muscles, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, bean sprouts as well. Make sure the feed is readily available to the chookies and that they have lots of fresh water also.
By this time I bet you are all wondering if the eggs will start again with all this extra added nutrition. Not straight away but soon enough you will see the feathers coming back, colour will be lighter, and eventually fully covered, at which point you may even find a butt nugget. As soon as molting is over the egg production starts again. Once the laying has gone back to normal and you are into your second week or no molting you can switch back to layer feed and add a bit of the high protein food as a top up supplement. After a month, you can once a month, add it as a mix with the layer feed as an extra boost. Small amounts of high protein to the feed and mix up. Maybe a small handful per 2 cups of feed.
So, your chookies weren’t Zombies after all and they are looking great again, smashing bugs, eating feed, dropping eggs, dusting themselves and ultimately getting back to good looking ladies!