If you have chickens there's a good chance right now you have a few running around naked. At this point I'm seeing quit a bit of nakedness. I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago about my molting hen and got many questions about this process. I often forget how many of you all are chicken newbies. Some of the questions people asked are, does this hurt, itch, how long is the process, when does it happen, do they feel bad? I had a lady come to the farm this week who said, "my hen just stopped laying, she's always a good layer, I don't know what's wrong with her." I asked how old is she? The Lady said "she's about 1 and a half years old". I told her, more than likely she's getting ready to molt.
Chickens molt at the age of 18 months, it usually happens in the fall. The first sign will be a decrease in egg production, feathers will begin to drop off as they slowly replace the feathering and then egg production will stop altogether. Molting can take up to 2 months or longer. It's hard to know if the process is painful. I notice the hen that is molting does seem to often hide and duck and I see others want to pick on her. This could happen because they see bare skin, or because she suddenly looks so different. Birds will molt naturally once a year.
Did you know that the large poultry industries here in the US force the hens to molt. This is achieved by withdrawing food for 7-14 days, the hens loose 30-35% of their body weight which caused the reproduction tact to reset, after they begin to feed the hens again laying is resumed. 75% of all large poultry farms in the US force molt. How does this make you feel? Pretty much makes me sick to think about it. Just one more really good reason not to buy eggs from the store. Put a couple of hens in your backyard, I happen to know where you can get some....Check out the website at http://chickenscratchpoultry.com/ I bet you'll find something you'll like.
If you have a question feel free to leave it in the comment area, I'll do my best to answer it but keep in mind I'm no expert.
Have a good day!