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Early chicken molt: Does it portend a harsh winter?

Early chicken molt: Does it portend a harsh winter?
Early chicken molt: Does it portend a harsh winter?
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

People often rely on lore and myth to predict what the weather will do in upcoming seasons. Things like the thickening of fur on animals or an abundance of acorns in the late summer or early fall have been cited as omens of a particularly harsh winter. Community Chickens even posited a theory that the early molt of chickens could be an indicator of a cold or cruel winter.

One family in New Hampshire, the article said, noticed their flock had seemingly molted overnight, leaving a flurry of white feathers in their wake. Old time farmers used to view this event as a harbinger of an excessively cold winter. Given the rather mild and enjoyable winter most parts of the country have experienced, the idea doesn’t seem all that farfetched.

Chickens typically molt twice a year. One is alight molt and the other is usually a heavier molt. The heavier molt usually occurs in the late summer to early fall when temperatures begin to cool and the daylight hours grow shorter. So a mild summer that begins to give way to cooler temperatures a bit earlier than usual certainly could trigger a molt. This is no more an indicator of a harsh winter than are thick onion skins or corn husks.

According to the Mississippi State University website, hens will stop producing eggs while they molt because they are conserving the energy for reproducing feathers. Some may continue to lay during the process but the molt will generally take longer than if they stop producing. Handling the birds during their molt can be painful and stress them out. Let them be during this time. If you notice other symptoms, something else maybe going on that deserves closer attention.

As for winter predictions, the Farmer’s Almanac has been collecting what they call “Natural Signs of a Rough Winter” for years. Among the more notable signs are trees still full of green leaves late in the fall and the early arrival of crickets on the hearth or chimney.

What indicators do you use to predict how cold or harsh winter will be? Leave us your tips in the comments.