By: Jessamy Miller | March 31, 2016
I know autumn has arrived when the backyard is dotted with fallen leaves and the chook run with feathers from moulting hens. The rake gets a double workout at my house. The leaves are piled into the chook pen and the girls love to scratch them over before I compost both leaves and feathers. I do a full henhouse clean and replace the litter, brush down the walls and scrub nest boxes before the advent of winter.
It’s normal for chooks to replace their feathers at this time of year, so expect some half-dressed hens in your yard. Once new feathers fully emerge, they are non-living, so if you want to supplement with a peck block or soluble vitamin mix, it is most beneficial in the weeks prior to moulting. A balanced ration of pellets or mixed grains contains the protein and nutrients needed to build new feathers. Avoid diluting it with too many low-nutrient snacks like bread, and instead offer a handful of sunflower seeds for essential fatty acids.
Concurrent with the moult, many hens will stop laying until spring; this allows them to rest and build up nutrition before the next laying season. If you want eggs over winter, purchase point of lay pullets due to start laying now, in autumn. These won’t moult until the following year, so you’ll have a regular supply of eggs for your hot winter brekkie.
Poultry breeders up north are reporting pythons regularly visiting the henhouse, while in the south foxes have been a problem. So there is no possibility of predators wreaking havoc, check over your henhouse and yard, stop up any gaps, and make sure doors are set flush. Where seasonal heavy rain is common, try installing weather protection such as Lazerlite sheets over the run so the hens have a dry area to scratch and dust bath.
Autumn is not just about chores; many poultry clubs hold annual shows once the fowls are in full feather, so this is a great time to venture out to a chook show. Enjoy the noise and colour and line up your next favourite breed, it’s a great day out.