Some of our hens look pretty rough right now! They are losing their feathers, but don’t worry, they will grow new ones soon. Chickens molt in the fall around or after their first birthday, when days start getting shorter. During this time, they generally don’t lay eggs or at least lay a lot fewer. Feathers, like hair and fingernails, are made of protein. Since the hens need so much protein to grow feathers, their egg production suffers.
In commercial hen houses, hens are either sold off (and not to the farm!) when they are about to molt or “force molted” with a drastic change in light, so that they start laying again more quickly. This process is efficient for people, but stressful for the hens bodies. By allowing our hens to live a natural life cycle, we can count on more years of decent egg production.
When our hens retire from egg laying for good, we will keep them around as companions for any younger birds that we acquire in the future. Be sure to come visit our molting hens and tell them how pretty they will look once their feathers are back!