Molting is a natural part of a chicken’s life cycle. It happens at the end of egg laying season and signals that the body put energy into growing new feathers. For many new chicken owners, the molting process may be shocking! Coming out to a balding, non-egg laying chicken often times triggers panic. But those with many years’ experience with egg-laying hens know that this is a critical time to supplement the chicken with the nutrients it needs.
Feathers are about 85% protein and require both energy and protein stores from the chicken’s body in order to be grown. Each chicken has about 8,500 feathers, and all of them must be shed and regrown! The energy demand from your chicken can often be observed in their behavior. A molting chicken will become subdued and less active. Many farmers say it’s very important to provide your chickens with a calm, stress-free environment, and to handle them as little as possible. Even tiny stressors can sap them of the energy needed for molting.
Mealworms are a strong source of protein and other nutrients for your chickens to aid them with the high energy needed for the molt. Mealworms contain 12 of the 16 elements found in living tissues. They’re high in vitamins A and B which are essential for tissue growth, in this case, feathers! Mealworms are 30% protein; compare that to the 16-18% protein content of most chicken feeds. Chickens who are molting can be seen frantically scratching the grass for any bugs to eat. By giving them mealworms, you’re stopping them from wasting energy on scavenging AND you’re providing more energy than they would possibly find. Your chickens will know you understand what they want and need when they see your hand full of shiny, tender, buttery mealworms, and if they could shout “Thank you!” they surely would!