What effect does moulting have on a hen? (Part 1)

We’re in the habit of weighing our girls regularly (usually about every four weeks or so), so we get to see how their weights fluctuate over time. For example we’ve observed that they put on weight quite rapidly just before they come back into lay, then drop off gradually and stabilise at a lower level during laying. All stuff that you’d expect.

This year we had four girls of the same age (last year’s pullets: Frida, Lily, Claire and Poppy) all coming into moult around the same time, so decided we’d look a bit more closely at how moulting affects them, and see if there was any relationship between how hard the moult looks like it is on them, and what their weight does. This page is all about that!

poppy-unzipped

Poppy and Frida were first to start moulting – their last eggs were on the 19th of February and 8th of March respectively. Poppy looked like she was having a very hard moult, while Frida seemed to have a Bessie-style not-very-serious moult.

Claire was next to moult, and she looked (and behaved) like it was hitting her pretty hard. Of course she was moulting during autumn (last egg was 19th of March), and the weather was cooler too. Her behaviour changed significantly too – very much more wary of us, and she would make odd sort-of back-pedaling movements sometimes – very odd! Poppy’s behaviour was different too – much less willing to be picked up than usual. We think this is because the spiky new feathers probably  feel uncomfortable when handled. We noticed it with the others too, but it was most abundantly apparent with Poppy because she normally loves being cuddled!

Moth-eaten Claire with huhu grub

We try to give them extra protein when moulting – usually either meat scraps, mince or excess eggs (cooked up) – but we managed to get huhu grubs a couple of times from Bottle Lake Forest Park for them.  These seemed to give Claire especially a real behavioral boost too –she went around pecking everyone she could (i.e. all except Bessie) for quite a while after that – a real return of mojo!

Lily was last to moult (last egg on 24th April) and was doing it during the coldest weather – taking it pretty hard.

So how did all that manifest itself in their weights?

On to Part 2 →

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