by Rebecca Nickols
I'm going into my second winter of chicken-keeping, but this is the first molt I (or my chickens) have experienced. What I have observed is a splotchy, tousled appearance, and it may be my imagination but it seems that they're more nervous, panicky and fearful of everything. However, the most apparent observation is that the egg laying has halted ...
My beautiful Buff Orpington has gone from this ...
... to this.
Henrietta, my Buff Orpington, is over a year old and her molting was expected, but what's weird is that my 8-month-old Plymouth Barred Rock is also loosing feathers. Her molt is not nearly as impressive as my older hen, but she's losing her share of feathers also. At first I thought my Buff might be plucking out the young pullet's feathers in some sort of a stressed reaction to her own molt, but that wasn't the case. After searching the Internet and chicken forums to see if she could possibly have some sort of ailment that was causing her feather loss, I came to the conclusion that, although it's not common, an early molt can happen.
Here's some odd end-of-the-year thoughts I've been pondering ... I started out the spring of 2010 with four Buff Orpington chicks. Everything went well for the first six months, then I lost two girls expectantly. Recently, another Buff died, leaving me with only one of the original four. The remaining (surviving) Buff, Henrietta, became ill close to the time I lost the first two, but a quick trip to the vet spared her from her sisters' fate. I wonder if they were exposed to something before I purchased them that weakened their immune system or did I just have a run of bad luck with my first flock? Their symptoms (if any) were vague and didn't signaled any obvious disease and I suppose that since I didn't have some sort of post-mortem autopsy performed, I'll never know the cause of their deaths. I hope my luck has changed, as I've grown rather attached to my new flock and would hate to have a repeat of last year... Anyone else out there in the chicken-keeping world have any thoughts or a similar experience?
To view what else is happening at our southwest Missouri property, visit the garden-roof coop.