The Case of the Mysterious Molt

Summer is winding down and the best season of the year is just around the corner.  Canning is in full swing,  cooler nights will make for great sleeping,  local produce is abundant in home gardens and farmer’s markets and……………THE EGG COUNT IS DOWN AT CITY BOY HENS!

018“OK Honda……….What’s going on?  I’ve only ever asked you to provide this City Boy with 1 farm fresh egg each day.  So what’s the problem?  I know that you take the occasional day off, but this is quite a stretch!  What is it?  Was there not enough watermelon on those extremely hot days?  Did you not get enough vacation time at the cottage this summer? 105 Are you jealous because you 3 ladies now have to share the limelight with the honeybees on the blog? 070“Come on Honda….out with it!   You did sooooooo GREAT over the last 12 months since that most excellent day back in July of last year when you laid your very first egg while vacationing at the cottage.  Since that day, you’ve hardly ever taken a day off and I know I wouldn’t be stretching the truth by telling everyone that you laid over 340 eggs in those 12 months.  You are a champ among champs! You always lead by example and Lord knows, Swiffer could sure use some learnin’ from those examples!”

“So what’s the problem?  You know that school will be starting up again shortly and those teenage kids of ours will be looking for some farm fresh eggs in the morning.  You know it’s important that they start their day off right so that they can hopefully absorb some of the lessons that their teachers are teaching.”

“Oh…and by the way……what’s up with those eggs you were laying just before you shut down the factory?  Were you gettin’ bored laying those beautiful large brown  eggs each day?  Just so you know…..I’m not impressed with the crinkled light-colored eggs or those soft-shelled ones that Swiffer has taken a liking to eating!”  Well…As Desi Arnaz would say… “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do”.002


It turns out that Honda is the first of my 3 hens to go into molt.  During this time, the hormone levels in the hen dramatically change and enormous amounts of energy are used to produce new feathers.  Because feathers are made up of around 85% protein, something else in the “protein using department” has to suffer and egg production always takes the hit.  As a result, hens in molt generally ceases or dramatically slow down producing eggs.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was concerned in the beginning of this change.  At first, I thought Honda was sick.  You’ve got to remember that these hens are ISA Brown sex-links and they were bred to pump out eggs.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that these ISA Browns easily produce 340 eggs each in their first year of lay.

My biggest stumbling block  in not being able to recognize molt was that Honda was not loosing many feathers.  Sure, there were a few here or there, but nothing like I had read from other folks.  So after fretting for about a week (Ya…I’m ok with letting you know that I did worry about my chicken!) I contacted an acquaintance of mine who just happens to be a Chicken Vet.  Mike helped me rule out disease, suggested the strong possibility of molt and offered the following info on the change in Honda’s egg shape and color:  “The color is the last thing to be added to the egg, so the mottled egg, as well as the wrinkled shell indicates an interruption in her lay cycle….the egg didn’t travel through her reproductive tract at the speed it should have… went too quickly.  Eggs start out as membrane covered sacs of yolk and protein, then get filled with water and “plumped” out.  If the passage through the oviduct is too quick, the plumping out is incomplete, and this results in wrinkled eggs.  The excess speed also messes with pigmentation, explaining the color.”

In a nut shell, Mike was informing me that Honda was “rushing” her egg development on the days when her body was trying to muster up enough strength to create an egg during this stressful period. As a result, she ended up laying eggs that were either soft-shelled, crinkled, or lighter in color.  I guess this is a testament to sex-link hens.  Even amidst such  dramatic hormonal changes, my girl still tried her best to come through with the goods!

“Well Honda…..It’s been around 7 weeks since we’ve had one of your delicious offerings.  In case you forgot……here’s what you looked like when you were the starting pitcher at City Boy Hens………….  In the mean time…Rosie’s warming up in the bull-pen and Swiffer’s Ping-Pong ball contributions are lookin’ pretty good from here!  Oh…..and Mike….thanks again for your help.  You are “just down the road” from City Boy Hens.  I hope you’ll stop in and I can re-pay you with a beer or 2 and some homemade salami, olives & cheese.

Honda gettin' busy!

Honda gettin’ busy!


18 thoughts on “The Case of the Mysterious Molt

  1. My Welsummer, Lucy, has been molting also. So sad, we miss her dark brown eggs! We have six other hens of varying breeds so we are still getting some eggs daily. Our hens are going into their third year now. It’s just my husband and I now that the kids are grown so we’re getting plenty of eggs for us, just can’t “share” as many as we used to! Love the picture of Honda on the nest!

  2. We only have ever had one of our chickens moult, she was quite bare. Only stopped laying for 4 weeks, but it seemed like a life-time! Hang in there Honda!!!

  3. I’m glad to learn about molting. We just got our first three girls and one is a little sex link. They’re only about five months old so we’re still waiting for eggs. Good to know about molting before it happens…love your writing style!

  4. Rick,
    I found your post on In and Out of the Kitchen blog hop. I have 8 backyard chickens and they’ve been losing feathers since March. I think they’re pecking each other and eating the feathers. Now they are only giving us two or three eggs a day. I hope they get better soon.

  5. Hope Honda comes around. She’s such a pretty girl and sounds like she’s been quite the performer too. Cool nights for sleeping is my favorite thing about Fall. Thanks for sharing with SYC. Not seeing a link back to the party.

  6. There’s so much to learn! Fascinating information, I’ll share with my Father-in-Law! I am delighted that you shared with Home and Garden Thursday,

  7. Thanks for sharing all this. I do not have chickens yet but we are planning on getting them in the upcoming season (spring) so I am reading all I can now. The breeds, terminology, care, etc are all new to me so a detailed blog like this is so helpful and great learning for me. I had no idea that egg production was affected during molting and that eggs could appear differently because of that or that you could go so long with out eggs. Thanks for sharing on the Friday Farmgirl Blog Hop!

    • HI Debbie,
      Thanks for your comments. Go get those chicks next Spring. You will have a blast! I recommend Sex-links for their egg production and disposition.
      Congrats on the hop hosting position!

        • Hi Debbie,
          Sex-link chickens are a hybrid cross between 2 “breeds” of chicken. They themselves are not recognized as an actual breed. What makes them unique to other breeds of chickens is that they “hatch out” in particular color which generally varifies gender. This is important because folks do not generally want male chicks because they ,obviously, won’t lay eggs. Sex-links are also noted for SUPERIOR egg production. It is not uncommon to have one of these hens lay over 340 eggs in their first year. Please have a peek at the following post for more detail:
          I hope this helps.

  8. OMG, I hope you write a book someday! It would be so fun ( and informative ) to read!
    Our 9 gals have slowed/ waaaaaaay down too. auracanas are good layers but as soon as the days get shorter so does the egg production!

  9. Haa haa, been there, went through that. I hate when we start getting those odd eggs because you know it means the factory is shutting down for awhile. I had one hen molt fast and get back to it in record time. And then I had one who I could have swore was hiding her eggs because she took sooooo long to get back to work! Thanks for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist. Looking forward to seeing what you share this week.”

    Mindie ~

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