Thursday, December 29, 2011

Long Time, No See

It's been awhile, hasn't it? My last post was written in the days after Thanksgiving and December with Christmas parties, Christmas shopping, my son's birthday, some new creative projects I've been working on with a friend and everything that goes with those things, there hasn't been much time left to write about my lovely chickens. Now I'm back and it's nice to be back. Where we left off, my lovely Silkie died after a few days of bringing her home and my beloved rooster, Boba, had literally flown the coop. It was a sad time in chickens. As expected, Boba did not find his way back home and I'd like to think he's living it up somewhere, but he was more likely eaten by the hawk that lives in our neighborhood and who has made two appearances in our backyard to size up my chickens. I've made my peace with it. Hopefully, he's learned to crow in chicken heaven.
In other aggravating chicken news that I had previously mentioned, our chickens had started molting in early November. Well, some of them were molting. Bossy was all about molting. And she was all business about it. She lost most of the feathers around her head at once and all of her bum feathers fell out in what seemed like two days. She looked like a sorry mess. Then, Erickson decided molting was a good idea and she started looking mangy. She's about two tons of feathers, so you can imagine what our chicken coop looked like. I was cleaning it out every weekend and taking out so many feathers, I could've built a fifth and probably sixth chicken! Pouncey soon followed suit, as she seems to do with everything in life; she waits until some of the others have tried something out first and when she has decided it's safe, she joins in. That made for three chickens out of egg commission. Not good. Ochocinco was still laying a little, but not daily. One egg every three days is not going to cut it. I am proud to say I did not buy any eggs at the store! (That was partially avoided due to the two dozen eggs supplied to us by The Chicken Man). Buying eggs was out of the question. Heck no was I buying eggs when we have four hens in our backyard.
Lucky for us, as I said before, Bossy was all business when it came to molting. She got straight down to losing feathers. She also started losing some scales on her legs, which made me fear she had mites and slather her legs with Vaseline. She did not have mites. Upon further observation and research, I found out that chickens often shed their leg scales during molting. Bossy, I'm sorry for chasing you down, holding you upside down, and smearing greasy Vaseline all over both of your legs. The peeling scales did look gross, but trust me when I say you do not want to unnecessarily smear petroleum jelly all over a chicken. Her legs and feet were even more disgusting-looking with the Vaseline coated in feathers, cedar chips, and dirt. Avoid this yucky scene if at all possible. However, it is supposed to be a great cure for leg mites. I would take the nasty legs and feet over mites. Despite the leg mishap, Bossy started laying again in early December.
Now back to the molting... Ochocinco waited until the coldest weather settled in to start molting. The only nice part to this timing was that we always had one hen in egg production. Bossy was back to nearly an egg a day. By mid-December and Erickson wasn't far behind. Pounced trailed just a week or two after the other two and we're back to three eggs a day now. Ochocinco looked the mangiest of all the girls. Her neck feathers all fell out so that she looked like a naked neck, which freaked me out. She lost her tail feathers at the same time, so she was quite a sad-looking little girl. The first week we had freezing cold weather was when she decided she'd molt. I called it too. That's how she rolls. She does what she wants, when she wants regardless of what everyone else is doing. She's the only one who is not back in production mode.
The post molting egg laying has been a surprise. Our girls were so young last year that they didn't go through the winter molt. They'd too recently gone through their molt from baby feathers to big girl feathers and they weren'tlaying yet, so we didn't have any experience with this part of chickens. Since they started laying again, their eggs shave been crazy! Bossy's eggs are still jumbo, but they're often so long that you can't close the egg carton. Erickson's eggs have always been oval-shaped, but they are now dimpled or crooked or strangely pointy. What is up with the mutant eggs now? Maybe they'll go back to normal when the weather warms up. Maybe they're just laying them more slowly in the cold weather and that's why they're coming out all wonky. We'll see.
At least we live in a pretty mild climate here in North Carolina. Last year when we got snow they were quite concerned. I can't imagine what they'd do if we got a nor'easter! We have had some interesting autumn weather, so we'll see what winter brings. I've got plenty of scratch and vegetable greens. As long as they're happy enough to continue laying, I'm good.