My pullets are moulting

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dianefairhall
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My pullets are moulting

Post by dianefairhall » Fri Oct 18, 2019 10:18 pm

My girls are now about 19/20 weeks and appear to be moulting. Do I need to give them extra/different food? They are all three healthy and active and free-range most of the day but they do like their grub and come running up when they see me.
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chrismahon
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by chrismahon » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:29 am

They won't be moulting as such, but they do lose small feathers and grow bigger ones as they themselves grow. At the moment they should still be on rearer pellets- change to layers pellets when you get the first egg.
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Marigold
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by Marigold » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:48 am

'Growers' - young birds between about 12 and 18 weeks - do always go through a juvenile moult, shedding their chick feathers and growing stronger, warmer adult ones. I expect yours are still throwing a few old feathers, quite normal - and, because you have them at a time of year when the light is declining fast, they probably won't be in any hurry to come into lay and may even delay this until after the winter solstice, in the New Year. In Spring or Summer months, 19-20 week-old hybrids would be about to lay, or already laying, because the hormonal trigger of abundant light would have done the trick. This may disappoint you, waiting for eggs, - and they may yet make it into lay before the end of the month - but if not, they will grow on steadily and slowly and be good strong birds who will lay brilliantly once they get going in a few weeks' time.
At their age, I would just finish up whatever growers pellets you have, and then start them on layers pellets once it's gone. Maybe introduce the new food gradually by mixing it with the old for a week. No need to buy any more growers feed at this stage.
dianefairhall
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by dianefairhall » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:12 pm

Thank you both. I suspected it might be the juvenile moult because there aren't many feathers about and they're quite small. Yes, they are on growers pellets, I wasn't sure when to start them on layers. They still seem quite small birds to me so I wasn't expecting eggs yet. I've just bought a new bag of growers, too. Over the couple of weeks we have had them the days have shortened about an hour and a half. Soon it will be dark at 3pm but after the solstice it rapidly gets lighter in the afternoons.

Supposedly not raining or windy tomorrow so maybe I'll get some photos for you.
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Marigold
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by Marigold » Sat Oct 19, 2019 10:02 pm

Thats fine, just finish up the new bag and then move them on. Even if they do start to lay before the growers feed is used up, it won't hurt them to stay on that for a while. It's best to feed growers when they're not yet in lay because layers pellets contain extra calcium to support shell production, and this can accumulate and possibly cause kidney damage if fed too early to growing birds who don't yet need it for eggs. But even if they start laying whilst still on growers, they won't be laying enough eggs, or big enough ones, to produce calcium deficiency in the first few weeks. There's a difference, but not a lot really.
Looking forward to the photos!
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by dianefairhall » Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:24 am

That's good to know, Marigold. I don't think they are mature enough yet to lay (but of course I've no experience). I'm wondering if the supplier got the hens' age wrong as my friend up the road bought some in July from the same supplier and they've only just started to lay.
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Marigold
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by Marigold » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:41 am

Pullets do grow quite a lot between 16 weeks and laying, but if you haven't got any adults to compare them with, this is harder to gauge. If you put your hand over their backs, just behind their necks, do they crouch down? (hoping for a cockerel to mate them) Are they going into the nest boxes to inspect them, without actually laying anything? and are their combs growing and getting red? There is another test, where you feel the spacing between the bones on either side of the oviduct, which spread with maturity as they come into lay, but this needs someone more experienced to show you, and the other three tests are just as reliable and easier to observe.
That elusive first egg is always a lovely surprise, whenever it comes! Of course, this is the only conclusive test of when a pullet is coming into lay!
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chrismahon
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by chrismahon » Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:43 am

Another reliable indicator of them coming into lay, regardless of their age, is the size of their poos. A week before they lay the poos will increase in size dramatically, from dozens of small ones to a few big. If you clean out the coop every day and particularly if you are using newspaper under the perch, this will be easy to spot.

Hybrids will lay from 21 weeks upwards, but this will depend on the temperature and daylight hours, so you may get some eggs this year but as said it will be better for them if they now waited until Spring.
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Marigold
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by Marigold » Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:59 am

If you can get some photos, try to include close-ups of combs.
dianefairhall
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Re: My pullets are moulting

Post by dianefairhall » Sun Oct 20, 2019 11:20 pm

Marigold wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:59 am
If you can get some photos, try to include close-ups of combs.
Easier said than done, they've always got their heads down noshing.
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