Why do chickens choose to molt……IN DECEMBER? I can understand the desire to have a new set of clothes. But why, when I am piling on loads of sweaters and pulling on my long johns, are they taking their clothes (read feathers) off and walking around half naked in sub freezing weather? It is a wonder to me. My husband says because they are busy making eggs during the good weather in order to reproduce. When the weather is bad or cold, the offspring are less likely to survive so they lose their feathers in winter.
Since chickens need protein to both grow new feathers and to make eggs, they cannot do both at once. Dictionary.com tells us that molt means
verb (used without object)
1.(of birds, insects, reptiles, etc.) to cast or shed the feathers, skin, or the like, that will be replaced by a new growth.
verb (used with object)
2. to cast or shed (feathers, skin, etc.) in the process of renewal.
3. an act, process, or an instance of molting.
4.something that is dropped in molting.
Actually it is more like teething or a tooth ache, which is something to which we can all probably relate. They feel pretty bad and so would you if you took your clothes off in 20 degree weather. They really don’t want to eat much, which means they are not getting enough protein to do the process quickly and therefore may spend several weeks to a month in this condition.
It certainly seems like a backward concept to me, but who am I to say. I have a dove setting on two eggs right now. She is very tenacious and it will only take 16 days until the babies hatch, but their survival is going to be tricky because it is so cold. They are such feeble little things when they hatch and the mama has to feed them regurgitated food for about a month until they can eat on their own. I would bring them in the house, but the constant feeding schedule is too difficult and doesn’t match my being home to do it. I can see taking the babies to my classes and feeding them every five minutes. My students would find that interesting for about five minutes.
On the subject of molting, I have started culling my closet. I have managed to empty about twenty-five hangers. They will go to the local thrift store which is my favorite place to shop. Hopefully I won’t decide to buy some of them back again. Though I haven’t worn them in some time or they no longer fit, I am loath to part with them. Well we will call it a time to molt for me as well, though I feel badly about it too!