Archive for the ‘Molting’ Category

Hair Club For Hen

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Strange things are afoot in the coop. Some not so strange things as well. For example, it would seem that most of the chickens are molting. That makes sense, as the days have been getting much shorter, and that’s when nature decides that chickens will dump a bunch of feathers and then grow new ones. It looks like there have been pillow fights going on every night, but I’ve been through this before, so I know it’s actually molting. The tricky thing about molting when your chickens have been dealing with mites is trying to figure out what’s feather loss from molting, and what might be mites making a comeback. Last year I was never quite sure. The mites had really dug in. This year they may have been even worse, but I tried my new treatment of spraying them with a spinosad-based gardening liquid, and something has happened that makes me think it actually worked. Henny Penny is sprouting butt feathers.

Luckily her "down below" bits are covered, as this is a family show.

Luckily her “down below” bits are covered, as this is a family show.

You might think this is no big deal. Chickens lose butt feathers, chickens regrow butt feathers. Circle of butt life. However, I should remind you, or tell you for the first time depending on how long you’ve been around, that Henny Penny has had a bald butt for over a year. It was pretty bad. She was the first to lose butt feathers last spring when the mites first arrived. The other chickens lost butt feathers too, but none quite as badly as Henny Penny. Then, when it seemed the mites had been vanquished, the other chickens grew their feathers back. Not so Henny Penny. I began to worry that there was actually something else wrong with her. There did seem to be some other ailments out there that led to bald butts, but she never fit the full profile. She went through last winter with a bare butt, and luckily didn’t get frostbite, but it was a pretty mild winter. I was always keeping an eye on her, but she seemed fine otherwise, and at some point or another I think I resigned myself to never solving this particular chicken mystery.

I write Sherlock Holmes chicken butt fan fiction sometimes.

I write Sherlock Holmes chicken butt fan fiction sometimes.

Until a recent evening butt check. I sprayed them all with spinosad every week for a month this summer. I figured that ought to cover any mite life cycle. Then I had to just sit and wait. Feathers take a long time to grow back, so it’s always tough to know if a treatment is working. I’ve been so busy lately that I would check to make sure nothing was getting worse, but I didn’t have the time to work up another plan of attack, so my being preoccupied actually created enough time to for nature to run its course. I do believe the mites are gone, and I am basing this on the fact that Henny Penny has little feather nubs popping out of her formerly long-term area of baldness. At first I thought the dark spots were the mites themselves, as it’s been so long since there were feathers there that it seemed hard to imagine them ever coming back. But they’re there for sure. Each day they come in a little more. I wonder if it’s weird for her. Like when you wear shorts all summer and then you have to wear pants one day and it feels unnatural. Except this is all in the butt area.

Skinny pants are even harder to get used to.

Skinny pants are even harder to get used to.

Now the problem is that I’m so excited that her feathers are coming back, I’m totally worried that something is going to happen to destroy them again. I initially thought other chickens had been pecking them out. What if they decide to do that now? What if the mites mount a last ditch effort to reclaim their old territory? I gave everyone a bug spray top-up last weekend, and may go for a repeat dosing, just to be safe. I’d hate for things to look up, only to, er, bottom out again. But I’m now convinced that she just had a super bad case of mites that resisted all my previous treatments. For now, spinosad will be my go-to treatment, assuming we’ll have to deal with this again next year. I’m ready. The chickens are also ready, since they hate being sprayed so much, that if I keep the coop door open for too long, they suspect I’m up to something, and nervously make their way as far away from me as they can get. I tend to have this effect on people too.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Rag Pickins by Fred Van Eps)

Steve And John’s Employee Review

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Winter seems to have finally arrived. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but it’s also not like I can do anything about it. I guess I’ll just sit here and put up with it like I did last year, but hopefully with less to put up with. The winter solstice came and went, and so the days have begun to get slightly longer. That’s always a cruel trick, if you ask me. The days are longer, but still can be terribly cold. I would like them to get warmer as they lengthen, but I suppose that would mean it would have to get colder sooner too, so let’s leave the current system in place. Even during the week of the solstice I got an egg or two, so the long darkness couldn’t hold the ladies down. And then the eggs just stopped coming around the 6th. I figured maybe the cold blast had something to do with it, but it warmed up, and nothing happened. Then I noticed that there were suddenly more feathers in the coop, and that Steve (or John’s) neck was looking awful sparse. It turns out the two chickens I got because Wyandottes were good winter layers have gone and molted in the middle of winter. Nice going, guys.

He did it.

Now she did it.

Suzy Creamcheese Junior only just came out of her molt. She got it really bad this year, but it was her first time, so maybe just a rookie mistake. That took her out of the egg laying arena for a while, though. Someone was holding up their end of things, since I’d find one just about every other day, or every two days. For winter, with a few aging birds, that didn’t seem so bad. But to suddenly just have none for such a long stretch seemed surprising, until I saw the feather explosion that was distinctly Steve and John-colored. The fact that this happened right when it got cold put me in a position I think I’ve found myself in every winter since starting with chickens. If they have bald patches of skin, they shouldn’t be out in the cold, right? But a chicken that is molting is much more sensitive to touch, so picking them up to bring them inside will be painful, right? So which is worse? Since they are in the coop with 4 other chickens, I vote to leave them outside. They do snuggle in with the rest to stay warm, so that’s good, but I worry. I worry about everything though. It’s kind of my resting state. There’s a long cold spell in the forecast, and more feathers seem to fall off every day. How long will I be able to resist bringing them inside? This ignores the question of how hard would they be to catch, which I think is a question best not put to the test.

Those suckers are fast.

Those suckers are fast.

Anyway, I would like to take this moment to address Steve and John directly. Look, you two, I know you’re new at this, but you’ve got colleagues who molted at a perfectly good time in terms of cold. They had their feathers back before it got really bad, and so are more comfortable than you right now. Yes, I know you can’t control it, but I just wanted to throw this out there. This is not a great system. I’ve got two chickens I’m concerned are going to get frostbite, and that aren’t producing any winter eggs, which was the exact reason I got them. I’m sitting here eggless, like an idiot, and worrying about you two the whole time. Do you know how much I have to do? Grow those feathers back this instant, and get eggin’. Given that this is your first evaluation, I can let some things slide, but next year, please get it together, o.k.?

Great. Now just sign this form that says we had this discussion, and I’ll forward it to H.R.

This is my "lecturing a chicken" face.

This is my “lecturing a chicken” face.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Maple Leaf Rag by The US Marine Band)

End Of The Year Wrap-Up!

Friday, December 18th, 2015

I’ve been doing Too Many Chickens! since January 2013. I’ve been posting about my chickens on the internet for even longer than that. When I first got chicks, I was so excited that I filled up my Tumblr with any little thought I had about them, and that eventually grew into this. First, as a segment on Garden Guys Green Revolution Radio, and then finally here, as a podcast. That’s a long time to be talking about chickens, but I’m still learning as I go, and I’m laboring under the delusion that if I share my mistakes, it may help other people, or at least entertain them. Pointing and laughing at people who don’t know what they’re doing seems to be a popular pastime. At any rate, I’m going to keep doing it, but let’s stop and think about what 2015 had to offer.

point and laugh at me

Just another day in my life.

This year was fairly eventful due to the mite infestation, which I’m still dealing with. It started in the beginning of the year, when I thought it was feather pecking, then as it spread from one chicken to another, I thought it might be more feather pecking, then vent gleet, and finally it dawned on me what was happening. Then I tried multiple means of treating it – diatomaceous earth and “poultry powder.” The affected feathers are still only just coming back in, but it took a long time to treat, and feathers aren’t the fastest-growing things in the world. I’m trying to feel positive that 2016 will be a year of butts with feathers in our household. You’ll hear about it one way or another.


May branch out into a butt-only podcast.

None of the chickens died this year, which is nice to report. That’s an improvement on 2014. I’d like this trend to continue, but I don’t really have much control over it. Even the best cared-for chicken can die under mysterious circumstances (like the late Mandrell Sister), or a disease there’s no cure for (like the original Suzy Creamcheese). I do what I can, and the rest is up to nature. I’m not going to slack, but I realize that even if I do everything perfect, there are still things out of my control. That counts for non-chicken things too, but those things often aren’t as fun as chickens. What’s the point of not being in control if it doesn’t come with chickens?

Being in control with chickens is the ideal situation.

Being in control with chickens is the ideal situation.

It’s almost the winter solstice, and we’re getting very few eggs. This happens every year, and it’s one of the few things that happens every year that I remember happens every year. Once the days begin to get a little longer, the eggs will trickle back in, and by Spring I’ll start to worry about what to do with all the eggs again. It gives me something to look forward to even when we’re still in the dead of February. I never really paid attention to the fact that February has longer days than December until I got chickens. It just always felt like the last awful month to get through until winter was over. Being more in tune with the daylight thanks to eggs has made February slightly less of a drag. I’m still no fan of winter, but I can see a literal bright side to it now.

Got the "Look On The Bright Side" calendar this year. Not sure it's working.

Got the “Look On The Bright Side” calendar this year. Not sure it’s working.

Mites aside, 2015 was a pretty good year for the chickens. I hope 2016 is even better. All it really has to do is avoid parasitic infestation, and it’s a big step up already. Looking ahead in the shorter term, I’ll be taking the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day off, and then we’re back in business January 8th. Happy holidays, happy new year, and may all your eggs be double-yolkers.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Everybody Hula by Helen Louise and Frank Ferera)

Odds And Ends And Leftovers

Friday, December 4th, 2015

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can be hard to focus. People also tend to take their Thanksgiving leftovers and throw them all together and see what they can make (Mike Dukakis is a prime example). You have a bunch of things that don’t exactly make a whole meal on their own, but when combined with other loose ends, now at least you’re full, if not satisfied. I think that might be my new slogan for Too Many Chickens!, or at least the theme of this episode.

full, but not satisfied.

Testing out some postcards with the new slogan.

Suzy Creamcheese Junior has some feathers on her butt now. I’m not going to get my hopes up that this is the road to a non-bald butt for her, as this happened once before and then they fell out, but I’m going to at least get hopes. I’ll just keep them down. While her butt looks decent, the rest of her still looks really awful. Her right wing looks totally skeletal at the base. I realize it’s actually feather and not bone, but that doesn’t stop my immediate reaction of “Oh no!” every time I see it. Some little tufts seem to be sprouting in there, which probably means the new feathers are on their way, but they sure are taking their time. Her chest looks rattier than ever. Since that started getting fuzzy during the mite conquest, I’m not sure if it’s molting or mites. I make sure to get it when I give everyone a diatomaceous earth shakedown once a week. Only time will tell. Time seems to be pretty tight-lipped these days.


Why do I keep buying these awful clocks? This one won’t even tell me what time it is.

Boss Chicken has been toughing it out in the cold, though we haven’t had a ton of cold nights so far. We’ll get one or two in the 20s, and then it’s back into the 40s for a few weeks. I decided to figure out a plan for what constituted too cold for her to be out there alone. The night I found her under the coop (which was the night her legs gave way) it had been 18 degrees out. She survived that being exposed in the run, so I figure that at the very least is a baseline to go off of. However, given my overdeveloped sense of worry, I think if it dips below 20, that’s when she comes in. Even though she’s more protected in her hutch than she would be outside, I’m still not willing to take too many chances with her. So hopefully by the time it gets that cold at night, we’ll have figured out the Spooky situation.


America’s Favorite Weather Chicken

Spooky, at the time of this writing, is in a dog crate in our kitchen. We gated the whole kitchen off, and then put her in the crate for extra protection as a means of introducing her to the household. Our big tom cat, whose real name is Hamish, but we call him “The Bone,” came up, took a look at her, snorted (he has sinus woes) and walked away. He has never been the one we’ve been worried about fighting with Spooky, though. He’s pretty unflappable and easy-going. Jenny, our tortie, is the one who used to try to smash through the glass door to get Spooky when Spooky would come to peer longingly into the house. Jennie did go right up to the gate and stare Spooky down, but it remained pretty civil. That’s a good start. Spooky just came out of heat a day or two ago, so I hope that will make things easier. The day we decided to go the dog crate route was the day she went into heat, so there was more howling than I would have liked. She’s much quieter now, but still a little freaked. It is a lot to take in, and our house is a bit of a mess. I’d be freaked too. I’m kind of freaked right now. But soon I think we may have one big crazy cat family, though we’re only at 4, and I’m told 6 is when you’re a crazy cat person. Almost there!

cat chart

This time of year, it always feels like you’re running around a lot, but not necessarily getting anywhere. We are running around a lot, but I feel like I’ve at least figured out a plan for the things I have some control over. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s feather issues are out of my hands. Boss Chicken’s cold weather digs I totally have a say in. The Spooky introduction I can control, the behavior of the rest of the cats is, well, cat behavior. Good luck influencing those people at all. I’m doing the best I can. Hopefully Santa will notice.

He noticed!

He noticed!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Who’s Sorry Now? by Memphis Five)

Suzy’s Got It Rough

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Captured on video – Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s rough molt, only on Too Many Chickens!


Space Management

Friday, November 13th, 2015

It has been an absolutely gorgeous Fall this year. It’s already November, but it’s been so warm, and full of my favorite sort of Autumn days. A little breezy, a little gloomy, but warmer than usual, so you can be outside without a jacket, hanging out and smelling the fallen leaves. What makes it even nicer is that I read an article saying that there has never been a time when the first week of November was warmer than average that didn’t result in a mild winter. I’m really hoping this is the case.

snow heap

The view from our kitchen at the end of last winter. Now you know why I want it mild this year.

What’s been extra nice about it being unseasonably warm (aside from the fact that it makes up for June having been unseasonably cold this year) is that I don’t have to worry about bringing Boss Chicken inside yet. Since she is alone in her bunny hutch, when it gets really cold, I worry that without other chickens to clump with to stay warm, she might get too cold out there. When it dips below a certain temperature (and I don’t have a system for this, at some point I just decide, no, this is too cold) I bring her inside and put her in a dog crate in our storage room. It gets nice light during the day, and she’s close to all the chicken supplies. She kicks wood chips everywhere, but that’s what brooms are for. She’s also killed a number of mice that have gone into the dog crate to steal her food. Even with bum legs, she is not to be trifled with, and she’s helping keep the in-house rodent population down.

mouse killer

Striking fear into the hearts of mice everywhere.

This system is breaking down this year with the addition of Spooky the cat to our menagerie. Spooky, being FIV positive, needs to be kept apart from our other cats in the main part of the house. (We’re looking into ways to peacefully integrate all the cats, but haven’t reached any that we feel confident in. There has to be no biting, and we suspect there will be biting.) Spooky will hopefully also help out with the mouse situation in that room, but my concern is that if you put a chicken in a room where there is also a cat who had been surviving on her own out in the woods, it may not go well. Spooky is a sweetheart, but I don’t know how she’ll behave around a chicken. Boss Chicken would be protected in her crate, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to get at each other (and Boss Chicken might just win that fight). On the other hand, both animals seem like they could use some company, so maybe this could actually work out. That seems a little too optimistic, though.

best buds

My new reality show. Coming this winter.

We have another, smaller storage room that I thought Boss Chicken could go in now, since she doesn’t get around much, and so doesn’t need much space. It gets less light though, which I think is kind of important. I could try putting her in there and seeing how it goes. I had also thought of switching out her dog crate for a big storage tub, in the interest of containing the wood chips some more, but that would leave her more open to attack from above, so she definitely could not be in the same room as Spooky. Spooky also knows how to open some doors, so she might even be able to get into the other storage room. So perhaps Boss Chicken needs more fortifications. There are a lot of ins and outs to this situation. Maybe if the winter is really mild I won’t even have to bring Boss Chicken inside at all, and I can put this decision off until next year. Who knew that collecting animals that have health problems was going to be so complicated?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Just Like A Rainbow by The Columbians)

Egg Shortage Looms

Friday, November 6th, 2015

We’re down to two eggs. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a couple more today, but between the molting and the shortened days, we’ve entered into the Zone of Egg Conservation. Luckily (I guess, not sure this counts as luck, really), we don’t have time during the week to have nice egg breakfasts. We save those for Saturday mornings, and then Sunday mornings we have waffles. Waffles take two eggs, our egg breakfast is usually five, though if I have to, I can get away with four. I prefer to not have to “get away” with anything, but what can you do? In the summer, we have enough eggs that I’d steam a bunch and have two as a snack every day at work. That seems like a magical time, now that we’re in a drought. I even worry in the summer that too many pile up, and I find excuses to give them away. Now, I have to think about scrimping so that the people I give eggs to will continue to get them (since it’s usually a trade arrangement, and I get something in return). This is kind of like looking for change in the sofa when you’re broke and want a candy bar or something. I have to think about who really needs the eggs, can I space out my interactions with these people so I have time to build up enough of a supply to share, and if I share, will I have enough for myself? I’m not very good at math, or planning, so this gets really tricky. If it was just eggs for us, we could get by on one egg a day coming in. That would leave us with our five for Saturday, and two for Sunday. But I have created a world for myself where I have decided to be generous, and so I have people who rely on me for the occasional egg handoff, and I don’t want to let them down. There’s a lot of goodwill built up around eggs.

two eggs

Two is the second loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Boss Chicken is always reliable with her eggs. I could usually count on her for one every other day. However, she is molting, and molting hard right now. I went out at night to check on her the other day, and all I could see in her cage was feathers, and so many, that I had a brief shock that something had gotten into her hutch and ripped her to pieces. There were that many feathers. She was fine, hanging out in the “back room” part of the hutch, but it was a scary couple of seconds. I know I won’t be able to count on her for eggs for a while. The others are touch and go. They started molting sooner than Boss Chicken, but since there is still the possibility of mites in the main coop, I really can’t predict what may happen. The average seems to be two a day, but sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s zero. Every so often, it’s three, and then we have a huge celebration in honor of the bounty. Not really, but we’re reaching that point.

Something like this, but with more chickens.

Something like this, but with more chickens.

I know this time of year is always coming, but I haven’t figured out a way to prepare for it yet. Stockpiling isn’t great, because I want the eggs to go to good use. When they stop coming, it’s usually pretty sudden, though I know this is the time of year for it. I’ll just have to hope for a quick molt, and a speedy return to regular production. Of course, that pretty much overlooks the presence of winter, which after last year, I’m pretending isn’t going to happen. It may just be another year of giving what eggs I have to the people I’ve promised them to, and then wearing a disguise to the grocery store to buy eggs for our home use. If I had just shut my mouth about having chickens, I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up appearances, but here I am.

Keep an eye out for this guy.

Keep an eye out for this guy.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Just Gone by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band)

Lousy Mites

Friday, October 30th, 2015

I was all at ease thinking the mites were long gone and once the molt was over, everyone would be back to normal. This is why I should never be at ease. The mites, I think they are back. I’m not 100% positive, but I’m maybe about 90% positive. What makes me slightly unsure is that they only seem to be affecting Suzy Creamcheese Junior, but at the same time, when they infiltrated the flock, they moved one chicken at a time. So maybe Suzy is holding onto the infestation somehow, and they’re going to begin to work their way back out, using her as a base station. I just don’t know. I’m still getting a handle on how these horrible things work.

how mites work

A little itchy reading.

Suzy has always been the one who seemed to get it the roughest. She didn’t lose quite as many butt feathers as Henny Penny, but she did also start to look like some chest feathers were being affected. One side of her chest got all ratty looking, but they never fully fell out, like on her butt, nor did they ever seem to recover. I wasn’t ever quite sure if this was just something to do with molting, or what the cause really was. It just sort of lingered, as a strange mangy reminder that feathers are a mystery.


Tufty in the front, bald in the rear.

She also seemed to be itchier about all this than the others. When I check them at night, I will often catch her picking at the edges of her bald butt, or under her wings. Under the wings seems to be a popular place for mites to gather, but she never seemed to lose feathers there. But, if she was picking at that area, it made me nervous that mites were present. I would get her under there with diatomaceous earth whenever I went in and gave everyone a dose of that. It just may not have helped.


Another popular mite gathering place.

What makes me think she still may be infested is that her tail feather growth not only seems stalled, but might actually be moving backwards. Even though all she had was new feather nubs, there seem to be fewer than before, and her bald spot in the butt area might be getting bigger. I can’t be sure, but I have some suspicions. Meanwhile, she is still picking at her underwings, and her chest tuft is still tufting. It could just be that with molting also going on now, that everything is going to take longer, since feather regrowth takes a while anyway, and a molt will just make it all go slower. Or she could have had it so bad that it never quite got fixed. What I think I’m going to have to do is try the mite poison again. There is a technique I have heard of in which you put the poison powder in a bag, and then put the chicken in the bag up to her neck, and then shake the whole thing so the chicken is fully coated with poison. This seems like a bad idea for a number of reasons, the least of which is trying to get a chicken into a bag. So I’m not going to try this. I’ll put on my contamination suit and head out there with the poison in the next night or so, and do it the old-fashioned way. I don’t like using poison, but I think in order to rule out further contamination, I have to. It’s getting colder, and she can’t be out in the winter with a bald butt. We don’t have much room in the house for chickens, though I do bring Boss Chicken in when it gets severely cold. I can’t move the whole flock inside, especially if they’ve got bugs. That would just create whole new worlds of trouble. Using the poison is probably the easiest thing at this point, and if worst comes to worst, I’ll get her a butt toupee.


I don’t know whose butt toupee that is, but it’s terrific!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Hawaiian Twilight by Hawaiian Trio)

Moltin’ Ain’t Easy

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Fall marches on, and the molting continues. It always seems to take longer than I expect, but I’m still pleased they started before it got too cold. It’s been chilly at night, but not yet below freezing. They’ve begun to clump on the roost, which means they’re keeping each other warm when it gets a little brisk. We’re down to an average of two eggs a day, since growing new feathers takes a lot of energy, even more than laying eggs, so it’s one or the other. I’ve started giving them black oil sunflower seeds each morning in addition to their daily bowl of yogurt. Protein is something they really need during a molt, and the black oil seeds are a good source of that. I should probably also be giving them scrambled eggs, but then we get back into that whole “oh man, they’re eating their own eggs,” icky feeling. But it’s good for them, so I’ll do my best to get over it.

chicken eating eggs

They’ll never figure it out.

Most of them are having what’s called a “soft” molt, which means that they look a little threadbare, but otherwise fine. Maybe some feathers are sticking out at funny angles, like they just rolled out of bed and didn’t have time to do their hair, but otherwise you might not know anything was up if you didn’t know what to look for. One of the Mandrell Sisters, however, has entered the world of the “rough molt.” This is when they have big bare patches from a ton of feathers falling out. If you search the internet for rough molt pictures, you will find chickens that look way worse than she does, but she still looks pretty bad. It also seems like she doesn’t feel too great. It would make sense that the more feathers she loses, the more energy she needs to grow them back, so she’s going to seem tired. Her neck is pretty bare, and she tends to walk very slowly and seems kind of spaced out. If she wasn’t molting, I’d worry about her, but this all makes sense during a molt, so I just feel for her, and hope things move along. Of course, rough molts take longer to recover from, so she may be this way for a while.

reverse turtleneck

Like a reverse turtleneck.

One night recently I was checking on them before bed, and she was there on the roost, looking bummed out as usual. The pinfeathers in her neck looked like weird fish bones (new feathers look like little straws, and then eventually the feather pops out), and it just seemed like she needed some consoling. I was about to pet her and tell her everything was o.k., like I would a cat or dog, and then I remembered that molting can actually be a little painful, especially if you touch the molting chicken. I caught myself, reminded myself that she was not a cat or dog, and then just told her she would be alright. The tenderness of the molt also explains why I’ve seen her reluctant to get in and get at the sunflower seeds in the morning. The other chickens swarm the pile, and she just stands outside watching. I suppose if she charged into the fray, it would probably hurt, and apparently bad enough that skipping the treat is a fair trade. I’ve started spreading the seeds all over the run so everyone can have space as they feast. Hopefully this will assist her nutritional needs.

petting reference

A handy reference chart

I’m getting used to dealing with molting now. It’s a part of Fall, just like the leaves changing. It’s not as pretty, and people don’t come around by the carload to look at the molting chickens, but maybe they should. Feather peeping could be the big new Autumn activity. But on second thought, traffic in our town is bad enough, I don’t need to make it any worse by attracting tourists.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Werdenfelser Trompeten Landler by Strassmeir Dachaur Bauernkapelle)

Molt-o Benny

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Well, there’s no doubt now that some of the chickens have begun to molt. Henny Penny feathers are everywhere Henny Penny has been, as if she’s leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find her way home, except that she never really strays that far from home. Lately they barely leave the vicinity of the run, but that just must mean that the bugs around there are so good, there’s no need to travel elsewhere. Under the roost and the run itself are both getting lined nicely with her feathers, like there’s constant pillow fights going on. In the interest of not being left out, others are also joining the molting festivities. I spotted a Steve or John tailfeather in the coop the other day, and one of the Mandrell Sisters has a stumpy looking butt because all her tailfeathers have fallen out. It looks a little silly, but they’re chickens. Looking silly is kind of their bit.

prop comic

Many chickens are actually brilliant prop comics.

I’m actually pretty glad that they’re molting so early this year. Last year I don’t think they started until December, and it was really cold. That’s not a good time to go out without a jacket, or too light of one, which is basically what they’re doing when they molt. Lately, around here, it’s been extremely hot. We’ve had a couple of weeks of it being in the 90s, only to finally have it get seasonable again in the last week. September is usually when I look forward to temperatures getting comfortable, but this year took its time. So shedding some feathers in the heat probably makes sense. It’s like taking off your shirt. Your chicken shirt. Luckily, our yard is pretty private, so we don’t have to worry about anyone peeping at our shirtless chickens.


You never know what’s hiding behind a rock.

The unseasonably warm and dry weather makes me wonder if this is any indication of the winter to come. Probably not, but after getting hammered so badly by snow last year, I need some small bit of hope to cling to. I’m not ready for another winter of any kind, but certainly not of the proportions of last year. Even if it wasn’t snowing, it was freezing, and it was usually snowing. I have a great picture I took of ice on the train platform that I nearly lost my hand trying to get because of how cold it was. That’s the price I pay for art! But the memory of the cold makes me especially concerned about the chickens being re-feathered by the time winter gets here. Having exposed skin in those sorts of temperatures, especially with the wind we also got, is not a good idea. If I thought molting was something they could plan, I would think they’re getting a jump on things because they too remember last year. I think it’s really just a lucky coincidence.


A hand-losingly good photo.

The downside of molting is that we get fewer eggs. Plenty of loose feathers, but not many eggs. We’ve got a pretty good egg stockpile, so I think we’ll get by. But at some point we’ll eat what we have, and hopefully by then the ladies will be back in business. Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior are all breeds that are supposed to be good winter layers, so hopefully they can prove themselves this year. There’s nothing more shameful than having to buy eggs when you have chickens you won’t shut up about. Hopefully my plan to have a steady supply throughout the winter months thanks to Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior will work, or it’s back to wearing disguises to the grocery store come January. I suppose I could make one out of all the feathers they’re shedding right now. That wouldn’t draw any attention to me at all.

feather vest

Feather vest! And matching face feathers, which all go with my hair. Perfection.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Tishomingo Blues Introducing Some Chocolate Drops by Yerkes American Marimbaphone Band)

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