Brooding, moulting, and worming

Four broody hens crammed into the nest box

We currently have eight large fowl. When they are laying properly, they produce far more eggs than we can use. At the moment, though, we are only getting one or two eggs per day. For many weeks we had up to four broody hens stubbornly encamped in the nest box. I have read of various ways to discourage broodiness, but have not done more than turn them out from time to time. Of course, whilst brooding, and for some weeks after, no eggs will be laid. Even those still laying had some difficulties getting into the crowded nest box, and there would often be an egg or two just outside in the coop.

To add to our egg shortage, several of the girls are now moulting. This is their first proper moult, as they were still young last autumn, although one of the Barnvelders did shed some feathers in the coldest part of winter for no sensible reason. Pop, one of our Rhode Island Reds, was the first to begin and is now looking a bit sad.

Pop, looking a bit dishevelled, but otherwise healthy

The first sign of the moult was a large number of feathers in the coop. It is surprising how many they can shed before the loss becomes obvious on them. Thankfully, they have not just dropped all of their feathers, but are moulting more gradually. We can expect this process to take six weeks or more, so egg production will be rather low for quite a while now. We will be keeping a close on eye on them, as the moult can be quite a stressful time – so far, apart from looking rather scruffy, they seem to be in good health.

It is also time to treat the hens for worms. This needs to be done several times a year, but as they do not seem to eat properly when brooding, we have been waiting for them to cease. The recent change in weather appears to have persuaded them to give up for now, so I have ordered a 20kg sack of medicated feed – Marriage’s layers pellets with Flubenvet. Flubenvet seems to be a common treatment, and does not require any egg withdrawal. It can be bought in various formulations, but the prepared feed seems to be an easy solution. They will be fed the medicated feed for 10 days, and any excess will then be mixed in with their usual feed.

Our egg production might be a bit low for a while, but at least the girls are otherwise healthy and happy. So far we have not had any real problems; brooding, moulting, and worming, are just part of the chicken keeping routine.

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