I guess that it didn’t help that there was cat in yard standing at attention in the first garden plot when I noticed that Dorothy our Gold Laced Wyandotte had started seriously molting. Blanch the Plymouth Rock came flying into our patio area as I ran outside to see why the hens were acting crazier than normal. Low and behold, there ran 18 month old Dorothy looking more like a quail than a chicken. I saw the cat, and called for the guard dog, Judah, he came running to attention, with his tail wagging and the fur standing up on the back of his head. The problem with our cat guard is that he gets so excited when called to duty, he is often unable to focus on what he is looking for. By the time I point out the cat to him and he charges it in a mad barking rush, I could just have easily shooed the feline away myself. However I understand that this is the circle of life in my yard, and I am trying to do my best to interfere only when needed. The fish fertilize the water for the garden, the chickens hunt the critters and fertilize the soil with their droppings, and the dog protects everyone from predators, mainly the occasional chicken hawk and feline visitors. And this morning, even though there were feathers all over the yard giving off the impression that one of the hens had a late night rendezvous with a four legged creature, it was only an illusion. Nature was taking it course, and with the shorter days and longer nights, one of our little 18 month old hens was starting to molt.
What is molting? “Molting is the process of shedding old feathers and bringing on new ones.” According to http://www.fowlvisions.com/”During this time the hen will normally slow down in production of eggs or stop laying totally. The timing is determined by the breed and age of the chicken.” Dorothy started just on time. I had noticed allot of feathers in the yard days earlier, but had not noticed much of a change on any of the girls until Dorothy’s tail feathers were gone.
Molting or Moulting, spelling actually depends on who is spelling it, is hard on a chicken and often makes them tired and lethargic. They will actually pull feathers out, equally on both sides, and new ones come in. According to Mississippi State Agriculture dept, “The order in which birds lose their feathers is fairly definite. The feathers are lost from the head first, followed in order by those on the neck, breast, body, wings, and tail. A definite order of molting is also seen within each molting section, such as the loss of primary flight feathers before secondary flight feathers on the wings.” When the new ones come in the look like pins coming out of the chickens skin. I am trying to sneak Dorothy extra protein through out the day in the form of worms and other critters so that she has the required energy to produce the new feathers. The problem is that I have to separate her from the other two, or they will just take over leaving her nothing.
The molting process should take about a month or two to complete and then she should start laying eggs again. The other two haven’t started yet, and they may not for another few months. I will keep you posted.