Friday, August 31, 2012

Molting Falls in Autumn

September is knocking on the door as the feathers start dropping all over the coop. It's time for cooler air, crispy leaves, and half-naked chickens who are falling down on their laying duties. I know what you're thinking: It's the last day of August. Chill out with the fall talk. Tell that to my chickens that have decided it's time to take a break from laying.

One of our girls is starting in hard on her molting. Her feathers are everywhere. I suppose I shouldn't get into a tizzy because she does deserve the break. She's a champion egg layer any other time of year. But one or two of the other girls are trying to follow her lead. I haven't seen huge piles of anyone else's feathers, but I am seeing only one egg a day when we have three girls who should be laying (#4 is still playing Mama to her babies). Sigh.

The other reason I shouldn't be freaking out is the fact that they need to molt. All chickens molt and either stop laying or slow down to a near stop. They need a break. And if I had to regrow an entire body full of feathers, I'd probably stop laying eggs too. The shorter days of fall usually trigger the molting response. I'm sure there's also some internal clock thing going on too. It's like birds migrating for winter or salmon swimming upstream to lay eggs. They just know what to do and when to do it. Since we're not a crazy factory farm or anything, we don't keep the lights blazing on them all year long, which is the only way to force chickens to keep on keepin' on instead of molting and being (in money making terms) "useless" for any number of weeks. Hey. They look mangy for a month or so; they take an egg hiatus; and, they take advantage of the fact that my five-year-old son doesn't completely like pizza or sandwich crusts yet. I owe them that much for making delicious, practically free food the rest of the year.

Truth be told, I went out to the coop the other day and told them I knew what they were up to and they'd better get to laying. But, that was before I thought about what time of year it was. Maybe I should be glad that our chickens just like to get their molting done nice and early. All except one that is. Last year we were entering into literally freezing temperatures while Ocho was halfway into her molt and still sporting a bald backside. More power to her. I just hope they hurry up and get back to laying. I've got some quiche to make.

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