Molting of laying hens
Each year chickens molt, or lose the older feathers, and grow new ones. Most hens stop producing eggs until after the molt is completed. The rate of lay for some hens may not be affected, but their molting time is longer. Hens referred to as "late molters" will lay for 12 to 14 months before molting, while others, referred to as "early molters," may begin to molt after only a few months in production. Late molters are generally the better laying hens and will have a more ragged and tattered covering of feathers. The early molters are generally poorer layers and have a smoother, better-groomed appearance.
Early molters drop only a few feathers at a time and may take as long as 4 to 6 months to complete the molt. Early molters are usually poor producers in a flock. Late molting hens will produce longer before molting and will shed the feathers quicker (2 to 3 months). The advantage of late molters is that the loss of feathers and their replacement takes place at the same time. This enables the hen to return to full production sooner.
The order in which birds lose their feathers is fairly definite. The feathers are lost from the head first, followed in order by those on the neck, breast, body, wings, and tail. A definite order of molting is also seen within each molting section, such as the loss of primary flight feathers before secondary flight feathers on the wings.
The primary wing feathers determine whether a hen is an early or late molter. These large, stiff flight feathers are observed on the outer part of each wing when the wing is spread. Usually 10 primary feathers on each wing are separated from the smaller secondary feathers by a short axial feather.
Molting birds lose the primary feathers in regular order, beginning with the feather nearest the axial feather and progressing to the outer wing-tip feathers. Late molting hens will lose primary feathers in groups of two or more feathers, whereas early molters lose feathers individually. Replacement feathers begin to grow shortly after the old feathers are shed. Late molting birds can be distinguished by groups of replacement feathers showing similar stages of growth.
Tornadoes and damaging storms that swept through the state Easter Sunday afternoon and evening, killing 11 Mississippians also caused devastating losses to growers in the poultry industry.
The strict biosecurity measures already practiced in Mississippi’s $2.7 billion poultry industry allow this “essential critical infrastructure workforce” to continue business as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Necessary restrictions on travel and gatherings are affecting how the Mississippi State University Extension Service operates, but its ability to respond to the needs of its clients, the public and state agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic continues uninterrupted.
Extension’s roles during crises are many: emergency management, local level assistance, support for the state’s agricultural industry, and dissemination of public information and education.
In 2019, Mississippi’s agricultural industry faced the prospect of dipping below $7 billion for the first time in eight years, but federal payments pushed its value up enough to post a slight gain over 2018.
The estimated value of Mississippi agriculture in 2019 is $7.39 billion, a 0.2% gain from last year’s $7.37 billion. Included in the total is an estimated $628 million in government payments, the largest amount of federal assistance Mississippi producers have seen since 2006