What’s happened to my eggs?

My hens are now about 18 months old.  They are molting.  There are feathers everywhere!

Molting is the process by which birds renew their feathers.  Unlike human hair, feathers do not rejuvenate constantly.  Instead each feather must be replaced in its entirety.  As the new feather shafts begin to grow they push out the old feathers.  Thus the ground tends to be littered with old feathers.  It looks like they have suddenly lost about 1/3 of their feathers.  When in reality if you pick them up and look closely you will see the shafts of the new feathers already in place nestled in amongst the shanks of the remaining old feathers.  It takes from 2 to 3 months for the entire process to complete itself.

Feathers are made almost entirely of protein.  So are eggs.  Thus when molting most birds cannot lay eggs or if they can it is few and far between.  It may be as much as 4 months before egg production goes back up.  And by then it will be the darkest time of the year and thus egg production will normally be low.  I sure hope I make it through this without having to buy eggs.

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