non-feedwithdrawal induced molting of laying hens - Poultry [Skip to Content]

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Dr. Koelkebeck, I am the veterinarian that is experimenting with non-feedwithdrawal induced molting this year to see if it would be feasible to do on future flocks. I am starting the fourth week and have some questions about what is happening.

I started on November 15th with five 67-week old mixed breed production red and one black sex-link laying hen (6 hens total). They had been on 13 hours light prior to starting the molt diet. They are housed indoors on wood shavings with limited access to a dirt run outdoors. Pre-molting egg production had slowed just a bit from peak production earlier in the summer and was currently around 30 eggs/week.

On November 15th, I decreased coop lighting to 9 hours/day, but they do have occasional access to the outdoors. Natural daylength on Nov. 15th was around 10 hours/day. I switched feed to wheat middlings plus trace mineral mix with soluble vitamins in the water and kept out the free choice oyster shell. They ate very few of the wheat midds on the first day, but by day three, they were consuming them readily. For the last week, I have been throwing in a small amount (approximately 1 measuring cupful) of shell corn for them to keep the litter scratched up.

I did not see any decrease in egg production until about day 13. I am now on day 21 and the past 5 days, I have gotten a total of 5 eggs over that period of time so I am at about 23% of pre-molt weekly egg production. I do understand, however, this is a very small group to evaluate statistically. I believe, there are two hens out of 6 that are still laying somewhat. I only see evidence of feather loss/new feather growth on 3 of the 6 hens and that did not start until day 18.

My question is should I increase light to 12 hours and put them back on laying ration next week (day 28)? Or since (it seems to me) that they are slow to molt, would it hurt to continue the decreased light and wheat midds diet an additional week? What do you think?

Thanks so much for all your help on this. Diane Veale, DVM



First of all, thanks for your interest in our non-feed withdrawal molt program. My answer to your question at the end of your discussion is to NOT increase the light back to 12 hours and wait an additional week. Also, I think you can wait until probably Day 35 then start them back on laying ration.

I have a few suggestions for your situation in the future. Try to keep the daylength a minimum of 14 hours when in production and probably around 16 hours. Since natural daylength this time of year is about 10 hours or so, when you decrease the photoperiod from 16 to 10 it will have more of an effect on them going out of production. It has been our experience that hens will not completely go out of production, but reach a low of about 5 to 10%. Also, you should still probably feed some oyster shell so the birds will not go down in the legs. If they aren't laying very much it won't hurt. Also, birds on a litter floor will consume/eat litter as well and this program may not work as well. Good luck next go around.

Ken Koelkebeck Extension Specialist, Poultry

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