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Do Chickens Really Stop Laying Eggs When They Moult?

Chickens can temporarily stop laying eggs for many reasons, but one of the most common is because they’re going through a moult, where they lose feathers in order to grow new ones.

Moulting usually happens when chickens reach around 18 months old and its common for the first to take place place at around September/October before winter sets in.

Many chicken keepers report that chickens stop laying for some weeks during the time they go through their moult, but this really is dependent on the individual chicken and how much the moult effects them.

As a chicken keeper myself, I’ve seen the impact moulting can have on their general health and how it can affect general health.

In short, chickens can stop laying eggs completely when they moult as their bodies focus on new feather growth, but in many cases, egg-laying can just become intermittent or it can stop for a short period.

Because the chicken’s body is going through a big change it’s only natural that this will impact laying in some form, so any eggs which are produced during this time are a bonus for the chicken keeper.

Read on to find out more about what you can expect as chickens go through a moult along with more information on how their laying and health might be impacted by the event.

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How Chickens Behave and Appear When They Moult

When a chicken starts to moult their bodies will go through a number of changes including hormonal changes and the redirection of nutrients from egg production to feather production.

Just like hormonal changes can affect the way we feel and behave, this is the same in chickens.

Here are just some of the common side effects you can expect as your chickens go through the moulting stage:

  • Noticeable feather loss from all areas of the chicken exposing white feathers beneath.
  • Possible bald patches and in some cases completely bald bottoms.
  • Egg-laying completely stops or reduces.
  • The chicken can appear lethargic and generally unwell.
  • They may go off their food for a short time or eat less than normal.
  • Their combs, wattles and faces can appear paler than normal.

In short, a chicken will generally look quite sorry for its self when they go through a moult and it’s not unusual to see them standing still looking lethargic on a bad day.

Others might appear to behave completely normal (other than losing feathers), it really depends on the individual chicken.

The good news is, this moulting process doesn’t last forever and the end result in time should be a healthy, happy and fluffy chicken.

How Long Do Chickens Stop Laying for When They Moult?

During moulting, chickens typically stop laying eggs for about 2 to 3 months. This period allows them to replace old feathers with new ones. Egg production resumes once moulting is complete.

Moulting is a natural and essential process for chickens, but it can be a bit alarming for first-time chicken keepers. During this time, chickens lose their feathers and grow new ones, which can make them look rather scruffy and unkempt.

It’s important not to mistake this for illness. The process requires a lot of energy, hence the pause in egg production.

Offering a high-protein diet during this period can help chickens regrow their feathers more efficiently and return to laying eggs sooner.

Another critical aspect to be aware of is the stress factor. Moulting, combined with the lack of egg production, can be stressful for both the chickens and their keepers.

It’s crucial to avoid introducing new birds or making significant changes to their environment during this time.

Also, while extra nutrition is beneficial, avoid overfeeding as obesity can prolong the moulting process and further delay egg production. Regularly checking for parasites and maintaining a calm, stable environment will help your chickens get through moulting with minimal stress.

Chickens Still Laying While They Go Through a Moult

If chickens carry on laying while they go through a moult this isn’t anything to worry about.

Laying throughout a moult shouldn’t lead to any health issues providing they’re fed with a good-quality, high-protein feed.

Any eggs which chickens produce during this time are really just a bonus and to avoid disappointment its a good idea not to expect them!

Image of ex battery hens grazing

How to Get Chickens Laying Again When They Moult

The simple answer to the question of how to get chickens laying again during a moult is that you can’t.

This is the reason why commercial farmers want to remove layers from farms once they reach their first moult at around 18 months old. It’s deemed as no longer commercially viable to feed a hen who might not produce eggs in return.

If a chicken stops laying while they moult, its because their bodies are putting everything into new feather growth which will help to keep them warm during the winter months.

The fact this change can cause physical exhaustion is a clue that they’re going through something which is putting a major strain on their small bodies.

When it comes to egg production it’s just a case of waiting for it to happen naturally and supporting the chicken with nutritious food while they go through the moult (which I’ll cover next).

What to Feed Chickens When they Moult

When chickens go through a moult, it’s important to make sure they are getting a good high protein feed which can provide the nutrients they need to support feather loss and re-growth.

This article was first published on January 26, 2021 by Pentagon-Pets.

A feed with a good level of protein for laying birds will be around 14-16% and if hens are free-range or allowed to graze for natural food they’ll also find extra protein in insects, worms etc.

Even if our hens stop laying or become intermittent layers for a short period we continue to feed them layers feeds to make sure they’re getting enough calcium to prevent a soft-shelled egg which can cause them distress.

A good layers feed will give a hen all the nutrients she needs, but there are some natural supplements you can try too, which can give them an extra boost as they go through a moult.

We recommend Verm-X vitamin supplement pellets for Moulting chickens – you find out more about where you can get them via the link below:

Verm-X for chickens – how and when to use it

I also recommend giving chickens sardines when they’re looking down and under the weather due to moulting.

Straight from the tin is fine, they’re packed with nutrients and are high in calcium because they eat the bones too. I feed mine a treat of sardines with a scoop of Verm-x and even a drizzle of honey and it does seem to perk them up.

Ex-Caged (Battery Hens) Egg Production During Moulting

When ex-caged hens are removed from chicken farms to their new rescue homes they’re likely to be in or about to go into moult.

In comparison to free-range hens, ex-commercial hens appear to be going through a heavier moult with some having bald patches and especially bald bottoms which can look a bit disturbing when you first get them.

It’s not just the moult which causes them to look like this, it’s the stress of the commercial situation, constant laying and pecking which can happen when hens get bored in a confined space.

So, although ex-caged hens might carry on laying after they get re-homed and while they go through a moult, there is a chance that they might stop completely and some never start laying again.

So when re-homing ex-commercial hens it really needs to be for a restful retirement after doing their bit to feed us humans with any eggs they lay being a bonus.

There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing these birds loving life after the tough time they’ve had in an unnatural situation.

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I hope this post has helped you to find out more about chickens who stop laying eggs when they moult, you might also find the following articles helpful too:

Ex-battery hens not growing feathers – what to do

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on January 26, 2021.

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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on January 26, 2021.

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