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Raising Chickens: Hens and Molting

Every year, chickens molt. They lose their old feathers and gain new ones. That usually means they also stop laying eggs during this time. Those hens that do continue to lay eggs will have an extended molt time.



There are both early and late molters. The early molters will only lay for a period of a few months before they molt, and they aren't the best layers. Their feathers during molt will look a little better than the late molters. The late molters will lay for a year or so before molting, and they are your best layers. Late molters will have rougher looking feathers during molt than the early molters.

The loss and regrowth of feathers is consistent, so it is not difficult to notice when it occurs and whether each is an early or late molter. Early molters will lose only a couple feathers at a time and may take 4 - 6 months to molt. Late molters have a shorter molt period of  2 - 3 months and shed their feathers quickly. Late molters will produce again quickly because the shedding and regrowth of feathers happens at the same time thus shortening their molt period.

The order that feathers are lost will always be the same as follows:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Breast
  • Body
  • Wings - The outter or primary flight feathers are lost first from the center followed by the secondary flight feathers. Late molters will lose primary feathers in pairs or groups and early molters will lose one at a time.
  • Tail

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