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Does a chicken's molting schedules change over the years?

 
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I have one hen that is molting right now at the coldest time of the year.  I can't remember her leg band color at the moment.  If she's a fall chick from last year (14 months old), does her molting in January indicate that she's likely to always molt in January?  If so, I'm thinking that isn't the best trait to have in a Wisconsin chicken breeding program...
 
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Interesting question since I grew up getting eggs from the hen house at noon and in the evening....each hen would molt whenever she felt like it or so it seemed...however, I never picked one chicken and followed her life cycle so I can't say.

doing some quick reading out of curiosity, I found that historically eggs became expensive in the autumn because "the hens would molt in autumn"...then a practice of forced molting occurred which is illegal in the EU but ?legal? in the US....this was done by starving the chickens for 7 to 14 days.

hmmm.... now memories are coming back and I do remember them all molting at the same time.....one molted in the winter (I thought she was sick and about to die) and I was accused of not feeding and watering them....   did you forget to fill up the feeder for awhile?  or change to something not as filling? I know I kept them all in food and water. I didn't starve them for more than 13 hours overnight.

 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Orin, if I can figure this out for sure, I'll put a different band on her leg and the next time I'm butchering, she'll get the axe too.  But if she'll rotate to the fall, all is well.  Her fate lies in the balance...
 
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Our hens have all fluctuated over the years. Some that did their first molt in mid winter in the coldest month (-20*F) eventally switched to a fall molt and never went back. This year we had a spring hatchling do a full molt in the fall, after starting to lay eggs at age 5 months. The other spring hatchlings did a "mini" molt but no eggs. Now all have started to lay eggs at the start of the new year. A few years ago we had an Easter Egger lay a few eggs in December then nothing for the whole next year. She did a full molt in the fall. Then she started laying in April of the following year, after her "gap" year. Chickens are nothing but mysterious and that's part of what makes them so interesting.
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Larisa!  That helps this bird out but makes it trickier for me in the future.  I guess I'll have to learn how to tell if they're laying by their vent conditions.  Oh well, another skill to pick up.

Thanks for your real life experience!
 
Larisa Walk
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I've never learned the vent inspection trick. As we've only had a maximum of 5 hens at a time, I've just noticed who's up to what during the course of the day. Also, we've had a mix of breeds and I can tell the eggs apart as the color and shape are a bit different for each hen. Another indicator for me is the color of the combs, brighter red during egg laying season, and the hens will crouch into the mating position when petted on their backs. Our birds are pets and used in the orchard for pest control so we don't care if they are prolific egg layers or not. Mostly just want to keep track of how they're doing in case there is a reproductive health problem. For instance we had one hen who developed egg yolk peritonitis, the chicken equivalent of ectopic pregnancy. It's more of a problem in modern hybrid birds, those that crank out eggs day after day all year long. Not much to do to counter that problem, but we didn't know about it until it was too far gone.
 
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