The chickens are looking a bit shaggy and disheveled, which means it’s that time of year: molting time. Molting is the process chickens go through of shedding feathers and replacing them with a new, fluffy coat. They are never completely featherless, but rather they lose feathers and regrow them in patches.

The temperatures dipping are a signal to the girls that winter is around the corner. Chickens can handle quite chilly temperatures in large part due to their winter “down” coats. They fluff up their feathers a bit to make room for pockets of warm air to sit near their skin. A new, thick coat will ensure they have enough padding to stay toasty.

Extra feathers scattered in the run are my cue that it’s time to prep them for colder weather. I’ll start throwing in some extra scratch every morning to give them more fat. They burn through it when they are working to stay warm. I don’t want fat chickens – that’s not healthy for them – but a little more meat on their bones will help keep them warm.

We have had a gorgeous fall so far – blue skies, sunshine and crisp leaves. But one of these days fall will catch up with the northwest and the rains will come. Think about how it feels to ride your bike in different weather. Riding in the rain when it’s warm is no big deal. Riding in the cold when it’s dry, we can handle. But riding in the cold and rain = miserable.

Along those lines, keeping the chicken coop dry and full of extra bedding will help them stay comfortable when it’s chilly and wet outside. If you have a leaky roof on the coop, get out there and fix it now before the rain really sets in. Preparing for the wet and cold now means you can rest easier this winter knowing your ladies are toasty in their coop.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson