Friday, October 25, 2013

The Molt

A spooky story just in time for Halloween.

Fall was coming, the weather was changing, and the animals were getting ready by shedding their summer coat for thicker winter coats.

It started innocent enough, a fluff of feather here, a fluffy feather there. Then more and more till it looked like a pillow fight. Every day, every night, everywhere. A severe case of alopecia, the older hens were looking bald and bare. They also stopped laying eggs.

This was our first hard molt and quite unexpected. Since feathers are mostly protein, I increased the protein in the Girls' diet: BOSS --black oil sunflower seeds-- and soybeans ("No, Honey, the boiled soybeans are for the chickens, not for us."). I also watched them carefully, if they pecked at one another I was prepared to protect and isolate the injured bird at the first sign of blood. Chickens can be cruel like that.

Then it happened, the new immature feathers appeared. They're called pin feathers. They look like porcupine quills. Or, bones. Yes, bones. My chickens looked like walking skeletons. Little nightmares.

Frankenchicken (aka Baby)

Countess Dracluckula

Now that a few weeks have passed since the molt began, the Girls' feathers are coming in nicely. Thankfully, we haven't had to deal with any bleeding or broken pin feathers or a pecked on, picked on, chicken.

The older Girls and Peeps

Basking in the sun and in one another's company.

They won't start laying eggs again till the molt is completely over. Possibly not till next Spring. Now, that's scary.