Photo credit: Tracy Halladay

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ugly Side of Chickens

This time of year brings the ugly side of chickens.  Most of my hens are molting.  Molting is an annual process where chickens lose their feathers and new ones grow in place.  One thing I have noticed is that the older the hens are, the less they molt.  Some of my oldest hens are molting very little or not at all.  I have also noticed that they do not like to be held while molting.  I wonder if it is uncomfortable as those feathers grow out.  
Henrietta our leghorn mid-molt
It looks painful to have those feathers coming through the skin.

Sam has lost feathers around neck and back.
 One other problem with molting is egg production stops.  That's only a problem for us that want eggs, the hens need all the strength and nutrients to be invested in feather creation.  I know the new feathers will help them in the cold winter but I find it interesting that they don't lose the feathers earlier.  It has already started to get cold here!  If you notice from this last picture, I have already wrapped their run with plastic sheeting and stapled it to the supports.  Here is a close up of the run.

This keeps the wind off them, keeps the snow out when it comes and keeps them a bit warmer.  I leave a space at the top for air flow.  It's interesting in the winter, there will be several feet of snow around them, I'll open the door to feed them and they'll look outside and and want no part of it.  They don't even want to venture out in the cold!

A side note about my herb garden in front of the chicken's pen.  There is a window arch/keystone at the bottom right of the picture, this was from one of the windows in Lorenzo Snow's house when he settled Brigham City in the mid to late 1800s. (See History).