Molting is the process all chickens go through to replace old feathers with new ones. Since feathers consist of approximately 85% protein, adding a little extra protein to the flock’s daily diet can help facilitate the process nutritionally and restore the birds’ dignity as soon as possible. While switching to a feed containing 20-22% protein is adequate, I like to mix things up and keep life interesting, so I bake a little special something for my pet chickens occasionally. In previous years, I have baked my flock Molt Muffins, Flock Block Substitute and Alfalfa Cakes. This year, I went into recipe development mode for my molting birds, creating Bug Bites, which are a phenomenal source of protein and calcium for molting chickens!This Partridge Plymouth Rock hen went from fully feathered and fabulous to “OMG, someone give her a jacket!” in just a few weeks!
The following recipe feeds approximately 25 chickens, one, 2″ square. The recipe can be frozen and thawed or served frozen in hot weather.
BUG BITES™ INGREDIENTS
Serves approximately 25 chickens, one 2″ square piece each
12 eggs, including shells, crushed
1/2 cup of dried insects intended for chickens (mealworms, etc)
3 Tablespoons water
8″x8″ baking pan lined with parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with parchment paper and spray parchment with cooking spray.
- In a mixing bowl, add eggs and crushed shells, whisking to scramble.
- Add remaining ingredients and pour in prepared pan.
- Bake 20-30 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.
- Remove from oven and cool before cutting and serving.
TIPS FOR HELPING CHICKENS THROUGH A MOLT
1. Reduce their stress level as much as possible. Try not to move them to a new living quarters or introduce any new flock members during a molt.
2. Limit handling to avoid inflicting pain and to keep stress to a minimum.
3. Supplement their diet with extra protein in moderation.*
Much more about the process of molting and feather growth, HERE.
*USE CAUTION WHEN INCREASING PROTEIN LEVELS IN HENS’ DIET
Only supply extra protein to backyard chickens when appropriate, such as during a molt. “The consumption of high protein diets, especially meats and eggs, can significantly increase the rates of types of aggression between hens.” 1“Incorrect diets that contain excessive levels of protein causes wetter droppings since the extra protein is converted into urates. This causes your chicken to drink more therefore you will see an increase in urates leading to wet, damp bedding.”2
TREATS IN MODERATION
Bug Bites should be offered in small amounts only during a molt. When chickens eat treats, they’re not eating feed, which is their primary source of nutrition. Commercially prepared feed is very carefully formulated by poultry nutritionists who closely monitor the composition of ingredients to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) replace a portion of those essential dietary elements.
Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, reduced egg production, malformed eggs, habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, a protein deficiency, feather-picking, fatty liver syndrome, increased risk of heat stroke and heart problems. Treats should be limited to no more than 5% of a chicken’s diet, which amounts to approximately 2 tablespoons of treats in any given day. Treats/scraps/snacks should not be fed to chickens daily due to the obesity-related health concerns which have reached epidemic proportions in backyard chickens.
Sources & further reading
1 The Chicken: A Natural History. Barber, Daly, Rutland, Cawthray, Hauber . Race Point Publishing, 2012 p. 109
2 The Chicken Vet, Diarrhoea Poultry Diseases, Pattison, McMullin, Bradbury & Alexander. 2008
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Damerow. 1995
The Chicken Health Handbook, Damerow. 1994
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