Between March and May, we come back from the nesting boxes with a little less eggs than usual. This is because our chooks are going through their seasonal moult. It all happens with the onset of cooler weather in Autumn..
The chooks will shed their old feathers in order to replace them with beautiful, shiny new ones that will keep them fluffy and warm through the winter. Feathers are 80-85% protein and so, it takes a lot of energy for a chicken to go through this process. In order for them to grow their new feathers, their egg production decreases or even temporarily stops. This time also allows their organs to have a rest from producing an egg everyday, so they will be rejuvenated and invigorated for egg laying once the moult is over. A natural moult can take up to 6-12 weeks for a chicken to complete and you can usually expect the chickens to start laying physically bigger eggs once it's finished.
As moulting is a completely natural process, we let our chooks have as much time as they need and ensure that their living conditions are just right. This includes access to sunshine and fresh air, which our chickens already get every day out in our paddocks. But we can also ensure that they are getting plenty of protein into them. Some of the best sources of protein for chickens include scrambled eggs (our babies absolutely love getting treated to eggs for breakfast, which we often do for them), mealworms and pumpkin seeds.
Unfortunately though, it is not like this for many chickens in the egg laying industry..
Commercial egg farms often practice 'forced moulting' which aims to reduce costs, increase profits and optimise facilities (Faitarone et al. 2008) of the farm by forcing the bird's reproduction system to rest for a shorter period of time than what would naturally occur (Ramos et al. 1999). Basically, it is a planned and scheduled technique to make the natural moult process quicker and therefore get the birds laying bigger eggs, more often. This allows the commercial farm to force as many eggs from the chickens as possible, within the year or so that the chickens will be kept. There are a few methods in which forced moulting is induced in commercial layers. These include, the use of drugs; altering and reducing the nutrients in feed; artificial light suspension; and most commonly, feed and water withdrawal (ie. fasting/starving the chickens) (Faitarone et al. 2008). :(
Thank you all for your patience during our moult, we know everyone is eagerly anticipating more eggs. Rest assured, after this natural moult, our girls will be rejuvenated and ready to go!