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Birds of a Feather Molt Together October 14, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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I’ve always thought it was interesting that as the weather begins to turn cooler, chickens are triggered to shed their feathers. That would seem to defy logic. While the goats, donkeys, cats, and dogs start getting thicker coats, the chickens are pulling out their protection from the elements. There is a reason for this apparent madness, though.

In the spring, chickens generally begin laying like gangbusters, putting the majority of their energy into egg production at the cost of feather replacement. As summer wears on, they don’t much miss the feathers they have lost as the temperatures soar. Chickens don’t care for heat above 85 degrees since they walk around in little feather coats. By late July, we often see the flock taking long siestas in the shade and walking slowly around with wings held out from their bodies, panting.

Come October, the season change revives them while the diminishing hours of sunlight tell them that winter is coming. They will need full suits of good feathers to endure the cold winter winds. At this point, their bodies switch their energies over to feather production, leaving little left for egg laying.

The yard and pastures are generously littered with feathers that have been plucked out by preening beaks or pushed out by newly made ones. The intermediate time makes for some pretty strange looking birds.

percymolts10-07-07.JPG

(Somehow, seeing that Percy actually has a scrawny little neck under all that [usually] impressive mane is disconcerting- almost like realizing that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes).

moltinghen10-07-07.JPG

(The pattern of missing feathers tells me two things: she is a popular with the cockerels and she is probably a good layer. A hen with a constant nice set of feathers probably isn’t laying often).

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