Flying Feathers

September 24, 2008

Roxanne is in the full throes of her first molt and everywhere she walks there’s a cloud of golden feathers floating around her like the dust around Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen. It’s fall, we expect to rake leaves but not feathers!

Unfortunately the molting seems to be making her crabby. I wonder if it’s hormones? Chickens have natural hormones, just like people, that control their bodies. Roxanne is acting like she has PMS. She pecks the other two on their heads if they get anywhere near her food. She won’t let me near her to touch her or hold her. She walks around jabbering with an annoyed tone. Poor thing, I’m sure she’s wondering what’s happening to her.

On a side note, don’t be fooled by factory raised packaged chicken in your market that proudly announces “No added hormones.” It’s illegal to add hormones to chickens so not adding hormones doesn’t make a chicken more “natural.” Look at the USDA requirements if you’re interested: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Meat_&_Poultry_Labeling_Terms/index.asp

Chickens molt once a year starting in their second year. They shed their old worn out feathers and grow new feathers. It can start anywhere from mid to late summer but usually it happens in the fall. Some chicks molt quickly in a couple of weeks then bounce back to normal. Others go slowly and take several months. They usually don’t lay any eggs during this time. Sometimes it’s so gradual that you don’t know it’s happening, other times they walk around looking very ragged. Poor Roxanne is looking rather mangy, like she ended up on the wrong end of a fight.

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