In A Flurry!

Oct 22, 2010 | 2 comments

Feathers Everywhere!

     Our araucana hen has gone on sabbatical.  No eggs.  And soon, no feathers.  She is discarding them everywhere in flurries of white that make it looks as though we’ve had our first tentative snowfall of the season.  So far she doesn’t seem upset by her oncoming nudity but according to everything we’ve read, she will soon stop cluck-clucking with her hen-friends and will become a bit depressed over her situation.
     Molting is the natural process that allows the hen to replace old, worn feathers and rejuvenate her oviduct, the organ that ’makes’ eggs. With the molt, the hen puts the bulk of her energy into feather growth, leaving little for egg production.  The process lasts three to four months (sometimes for as long as 24 weeks!) and usually begins in as the light levels decrease, so Miss Ara is right on time.  For whatever reasons, we’ve not had any other hens molt, though one is a year older than the araucana and two are the same age.  In the belief that misery loves company, even in the world of chickens, we hope that the others will follow suit soon.
     In Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens the section on molting says:  The best layers molt late and fast; the poorest producers start early and molt slowly.  Well, not in our chicken coop!  We know this because we only have one araucana and she is the only blue egg layer.  She is by far and away our best layer.  During the spring and summer she gave us a blue egg almost every day – at least five or six a week.  Even when she began losing feathers on her wings several weeks ago, she still gave us one or two eggs a week.  We think she is molting early and that it’s going to be fast.  Her pin feathers are already well in evidence; new feathers are on their way.    
     Miss Ara isn’t following the other ‘rules’ either.  She should be losing feathers from various sections of her body in a definite pattern.  The order is:  head; neck; feather tracks of the breast, thighs and back; wing and tail feathers.  So what’s with the wing feathers first?
      Extra protein is supposed to help her through this process.  Some people give their chickens cooked meat, but that doesn’t seem right to us.  We are keeping a supply of cottage cheese on hand.  Chickens love cottage cheese!  So do I.  They are definitely my kind of people, at least in that regard.


  1. Betsy

    All three of my chickens are molting – they look terrible and so does the yard! I didn’t know about the protein – I’ll get some cottage cheese right away!

  2. Brigid

    I’ll never buy a farmer’s almanac again. No need, everything I need to know is right here. Makes me want to run out and buy a farm.


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