It’s that time of year again. The days are shorter with less sunshine and warmth. The grass and trees are heading into dormancy, the vegetable garden is becoming less productive, and the chickens are beginning to molt.
Molting is a natural part of life for chickens. The process of losing and replacing feathers is a yearly event for all but the youngest (usually 1 year and younger) around here.
For this post, instead of discussing all of the details about molting, I wanted to focus on one of the larger challenges we face during this time of year – wound care.
When the hens lose their feathers, it exposes their skin underneath. While some of the darker-feathered hens have dark-colored skin, some of the lighter-feathered hens have pink or red skin.
That “redness” creates a problem sometimes, as other chickens perceive it as blood and begin pecking at the exposed skin. During the day, when the chickens are outside free-ranging, this doesn’t pose too much of a problem, as there is plenty of space for the one being picked on to run away from the others. However, in the early morning hours, if it happens before we’ve let them out of their coops, then the poor chicks are like sitting ducks, and often times when one starts the pecking process, and blood is drawn, the others join in, and the next thing you know, we’ve got an ugly mess on our hands.
We’ve found, in our experience, that chickens are pretty resilient. They heal pretty well on their own, even when no special care is given, but sometimes the wound is fairly substantial, and we need to give the chicken some more help and attention.
This can come in the form of something as simple as washing the wound with water to remove as much of the blood as possible, and then releasing the chicken back into the flock to continue on as normal.
Sometimes we spray it with hydrogen peroxide to disinfect, if the wound is more than surface.
If the wound goes deeper, or if, after releasing the chicken back into the flock, the pecking starts again and does more harm to the chicken, we isolate the chicken, giving it a few days to a few weeks to fully heal and then integrate it back into the flock.
Here’s a current patient happily healing and enjoying a roost all to herself:
We’ve got another one, though, whose wound looks a little sketchy, so, something new we’re trying out on this one is this spray wound dressing:
It’s an antiseptic and germicidal spray that’s meant to help prevent secondary infections from setting in. We’ve never had a problem with that happening, but we thought it couldn’t hurt and may even help speed up the healing process. We’re also hoping that, maybe, the purple color won’t appeal to the other chickens and that they’ll leave her alone until tonight, when it will be easier to spot and catch her, and then remove her to an isolation/recovery box of her own.
What kinds of problems/issues do you run into during molting season? How do you remedy them?