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Digital Subscriptions > Chickens > Sept/Oct 19 > TO COPE WITH the MOLT


Molting is a fact of bird life. Learn what happens — and how to help your flock — when the feathers start to fly.

For those of us enamored with chickens, a hen or rooster in glossy fine feather rivals any postcard-perfect sunset for sheer loveliness. Consider the Rhode Island Red’s vivid cinnamon suit, the Barred Rock’s outfit of dapper black and white and the Australorp’s iridescent night cloak — and these breeds comprise only a tiny portion of a beautiful, feathery whole. Feathers are so integral to our birds’ beauty that it can be disconcerting when they start dropping all over the place, often making the coop look like a poultry slaughter scene. In the northwestern United States where I live, this usually occurs in September and October just as the weather turns cold and rainy again.

“Why do they always do this now?” I complained to a fellow raiser when it happened to my Barred Rock hens last fall. “I worry they’ll freeze.” She was similarly perplexed. So I looked deeper into this mysterious process — known in the avian world as molting — to find out what I could do to better help my girls cope with these bad-feather days. Here’s what I learned.

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Chickens Sept/Oct 2019,