Monday, March 14, 2016

Natural Moulting Tonics

Our chickens have gone off the lay. I wondered why and then on closer inspection I discovered the hens are moulting.
It's normal for chickens to start to moult at the end of summer. It takes a lot of energy to regrow new plumage, so they usually stop laying during this time. Once I found this was the cause of an empty nest box I relaxed and sought to make sure the hens stay in good condition through this time and support their system.
Although some chickens can end up almost naked during moulting, most chickens moult without any hassles. Many people simply leave them to it and continue to feed their normal diet, but I like to give them extra nourishment during moulting to ensure good health and also get them back into top condition again. It takes a lot of protein to grow back new feathers.

I consulted my favourite chicken keeping book for natural tonics and read that a brew of rosemary with a little apple cider vinegar added to it, mixed into the chickens water once a week is an excellent plumage tonic.
Since I have plenty of rosemary I harvested a large handful and made the chickens a rosemary tea. After brewing it for around 15 minutes I added the cider vinegar and then put a cup of the mixture into the hen's water. I'll repeat it next week, and as I haven't used this tonic before I'm looking forward to see what difference it makes.

Another moulting tonic is to feed linseed, although you have to be careful not to feed too much or it becomes a laxative. It's the only moulting tonic I've ever used, and the chickens certainly seem to love it. The linseed must be soaked for 4 hours and then cooked for around 20 minutes or until it becomes gelatinous. The cooking destroys the pyridoxine inhibitor contained in the grain - do not feed your chickens uncooked linseed. Alanna Moore recommends a dessertspoonful of cooked linseed per bird mixed into a wet mash, which is the way I have always fed it. I'll be cooking some up this evening and giving the hens some throughout the week.

Have you any natural tonics or remedies you always use with your hens? I'd love to know about them.

If you're interested in keeping poultry organically/naturally I highly recommend Alanna Moore's excellent book Backyard Poultry - Naturally. It's in it's third edition now and is a wonderful resource for both the beginner and experienced flock keeper.


  1. I'm a little late to this conversation, saw your comment on Fox's Lane and came to see more. My chickens are moulting too, so much so a friend walking her dog on the park next door came running, very upset, to tell me something had killed my chickens. I was surprised as I hadn't heard anything, and felt a little alarmed until they all came running when I called them, and obviously were all fine. She'd seen the deep layer of feathers in their yard and thought the worst. I give mine scrambled egg with chilli flakes and a dollop of kefir a couple of times a week while they're re-growing their feathers, they have ACV in their water year round, but I like the sound of your rosemary and ACV tonic, and will be trying that along with the linseed mash. Thanks for the tips and an interesting blg.

    1. Hi Nanette,
      Thanks so much for your comment!
      When mine first start moulting I get a fright as I enter the pen and there are feathers scattered everywhere.
      Apple cider vinegar is so good for their health isn't it? I add it to mine's mash couple of times a week. Your chickens sound very loved and so well looked after.

      Sarah x


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