Forced Molting

molting closeup

What is Forced Molting?

The practice of starving hens for profit is known as forced-molting. Molting literally refers to the replacement of old feathers by new ones. In nature, birds replace all their feathers in the course of a year to maintain good plumage at all times. A natural molt often happens at the onset of winter, when nature discourages the hatching of chicks. The hen stops laying eggs and concentrates her energies on staying warm and growing new feathers.

The egg industry exploits this natural process by forcing an entire flock to molt simultaneously. This is done to manipulate the marketplace and to pump a few hundred more eggs out of exhausted hens when it is deemed cheaper to "recycle" them rather than immediately slaughter them after a year of relentless egg- laying on a calcium-deficient diet.

To trigger the physiological shock of the forced molt, a University of California poultry researcher (Donald Bell) recommends the removal of all food for no less than five days and as long as fourteen days. Survivors may be force-molted two or three times, based on economics. At any given time over 6 million hens in the U.S. are being systematically starved in their cages, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Peter Dun, an animal scientist from Scotland, said hens are force molted in the United States “until their combs turn blue.”

More information on forced molting

Help UPC's Ongoing Campaign to Stop Forced Molting of Laying Hens

  • Action Alert - Tell UEP To Practice What They Preach:Stop Starving Hens! 9 April 2002
  • Support Illinois Bill to Ban Forced Molting UPC Spring 2001 Poultry Press
    llinois House Bill 0756, The Safe Egg and Laying Hen Protection Act, would ban the forced molting of hens used for egg production.
  • California Bill To Ban Forced Molting: Update UPC Summer 2000 Poultry Press
    Keep the pressure on United Egg Producers and contact your local supermarkets.
  • The Incredible IN-EDIBLE Egg UPC Winter 1999/2000 Poultry Press
    Tell The Today Show to stop promoting the Incredible In-Edible Egg. The majority of eggs come from suffering, sick, debeaked hens imprisoned in filthy wire cages and subjected to deliberate starvation.
    Here is yet another opportunity to make your voice heard. The President's Council on Food Safety is seeking public input on ways to reduce foodborne illness in the nation's food supply. There is no deadline, but don't wait! Click above link for Docket numbers and addresses to write to.
  • AVMA Betrays Veterinarian's Oath UPC Fall 1999 Poultry Press
    Tell the AVMA to oppose the withholding of food from hens for any length of time. Tell the association to live up to its oath to protect public and animal health and relieve animal suffering.
  • Ask Your Local Newspaper to Print "Starving Hens For Profit Has Got to Stop" Op-Ed. UPC Winter/Spring 1998 Poultry Press
  • Keep Forced Molting Out of Canada UPC Spring 1999 Poultry Press
  • FORCED MOLTING of Laying Hens: Tell the Egg Industry to STOP UPC Summer 1997 Poultry Press
    DEMAND A BAN. In 1994, Joy Mench, a poultry researcher, warned a meeting of the Egg Association of America that "in terms of public sentiment," the U.S. industry needs to look at forced molting. She noted that "in Europe, feed restriction is limited to one day because of stress to the birds."
  • Stop purchasing poultry and eggs, including processed foods that include poultry and egg ingredients--"chicken broth," egg whites, and other hen horrors. Forced molting is not confined to battery hens. So-called "free-range" hens and breeder fowl are subjected to the practice, as well. Wash your hands of eggs, egg whites, and poultry products.

Previous News and Alerts on Forced Molting