"I feel pretty,
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and bright!"
Oh goodness...has the month been SO busy that I have not been watching my flock very closely? The other night as I was locking chickies in for the night, I saw something that made me do a double-take. There perched on the bar connected to the nest box, I saw a chicken I didn't recognize. I thought, What an odd looking Silver-Laced Wyandotte I have. Why haven't I seen her before? No...that's not who I think it is. Did this chicken get into a fight? She looks OK.
Then I realized what I was looking at...a molting chicken who was re-growing her pinfeathers! Had I really been absent from the coop that long? Or did this suddenly decide to take place and FINALLY re-grow!? After looking around at everyone else, I saw a Light Buff Brahma going through the same thing (the white chickens with feathers on their feet). But the first chicken...Holy Cow..she looks AWFUL! (Like she's been rode hard and put up wet...sorry for the crude analogy, but I honestly don't know how else to describe it!)
Thankfully, molting is a completely painless process. Molting will occur during a chicken's second autumn, and, like egg production, it's also linked to the amount of daylight hours. The waning sun (daylight savings, anyone?) tells the bird to get ready for winter and re-grow some feathers. Some chickens molt for 4 weeks and can go as long as 12 weeks. Usually the molt begins at the top of the head and works it's way down to the booty. Some chickies will lose all their feathers at once, and others lose them more gradually (like Prissy). Next, tiny pinfeathers grow in...these make me want to itch for some reason...I don't know why.
Here's a decent picture of whitey's pinfeathers:
Molting takes a lot of energy from the hen and usually affects egg production. The body puts all it's energy into growing new feathers, which are 85 to 90% protein. Chickens help to maintain the heath of their feathers by taking dust baths which helps to rid the body of mites, lice and parasites. After a refreshing romp in the dirt, chickens will preen their feathers. During preening, the chicken takes oil which is secreted at the base of the feather, onto her beak, and distributes it over her body. I guess that are too good for Herbal Essences.
These girls look horrible, but they remain in good spirits. I'm guess from the constant musical numbers from West Side Story they are excited to become pretty again. I was outside this afternoon and I heard:
"See the pretty girl that mirror there?
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face
Such a pretty dress
Such a pretty smile
Such a pretty me!"
Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk are excited too. They told me they are sick of some of these older ugly broods. (You'd think Foghorn was back...)
Our first Light Brahma who went through this, is now the prettiest in the flock. I can't wait to see what the end result of this is going to be!
...cluck... cluck... cluck...
Urquhart, Kristine, Mercedes. "Molting Matter." Chicken Magazine September/October 2012: 10+