The state of the molt.

(There is a graphic photo in this post of Buffy’s injury. Just so you know.)

It’s been six weeks since we kicked off molting season here at Heedley’s Hens (our first ever), and Haley led the charge. It’s been a fascinating process for me, and not at all what I had anticipated/feared. Yes there have been some pretty extreme sights:

(I’m looking at you, Tallulah. No, really. Look at you!!)

But, on the whole, molting here has been a pretty discrete process, not nearly so drastic as I had feared. (Now that I’ve said that, you understand, I’ve just jinxed the whole thing.) I thought it time to check in with 1.0 and see how they are coming along.

I have noticed that there are similarities of experience within a breed. For example, Haley and Hermione molted at roughly the same time, and in similar ways. But, there have also been some marked differences within breeds. These girls will be individuals. Pffft.

So…roll call:

Buffy (BO) and Abby (PBR): If these girls are molting, I can’t tell. They are the only two 1.0s who are laying regularly at this point, and they show no discernible nakedness. Abby’s may be yet to come, I suppose. Is she such a wonder chicken that she’ll miss the whole thing and just keep laying through?!

I have to wonder if Buffy mightn’t get a pass this fall because of the severe trauma she has undergone this year. She already regrew close to a new set of feathers, but her tail feathers never did grow back. I was warned by Chicken Debbie that the scar tissue at the site of her injury might never grow feathers again. The wound was so deep that the feather follicles may have been damaged, or completely extracted:

(That’s after two weeks of healing.) And, it’s true, under her lovely blond down there has been a smooth, bald, pink skin. Will she regrow feathers there, or will she always carry the marks of the attack? I’ll have to give that a closer look soon.

Maisie (PBR): Maisie has been a bit of a puzzle. She began laying very sporadically in the summer, then she laid a few eggs two weeks ago, and now, nothing. I see no signs of molt, but I haven’t given her a good looking over. Girls who aren’t laying are disinclined to let me near them. Unless I’m prepared to disturb them at then at roost time, I’m SOL.

Coraline (PBR): Oh, CORALINE. She is the latest of our girls to compeltely fall apart, feather-wise. I looked over at her a few days ago and couldn’t believe how en deshabille she looked, and her appearance has only become steadily worse. I simply must get you a pic, because this proud girl (who I’m reasonably sure is head hen) is having a very bad month.

Alexia (LB): Little Alexia seemed immune to molt for quite a while there. While her sister Tallulah went buck naked, Alexia not only held it together, she kept laying. When the laying stopped (and not for lack of trying!) I knew her time had come. Sure enough, she has lost her tail feathers now, and leaves a trail of white down wherever she goes. She now looks like some kind of rare rumpless Brahma:

I swear she’s embarrassed. Always at the bottom of the 1.0 pecking order, she doesn’t even try to get to the treat dish anymore.

Trixie (BO): This is the moment I’ve been waiting for for eight months. I’m not even kidding. Trixie has not laid a proper egg since March. MARCH, people. This is supposed to be her most productive year, and nothing, nada, niente, nulla. Zip, zero, zilch. She is a big freeloader, and a pain in the ass, to boot. But the one sweet hope I have kept tucked away all those months has been this: maybe, when Trixie molts in the fall, her system will reboot, somehow, and she’ll be a proper layer again. Maybe. So, when I saw her showing some bald spots and some new pin feathers yesterday, I held my breath. Come on, Trixie…

Tallulah (LB): Poor Tallulah! I embarrassed her in front of the entire internet! Well, pity Tallulah no more, because she is back to her former white majesty. The new feathers have come in and they are gorgeous. She is strutting her stuff once again. That said, I have never seen such a pale comb in a mature hen, so I think we’re still a long way off from her return to The Baby Box, but she warmer, at least.

Hermione and Haley (PR): Haley led the molt brigade, and she fell apart pretty badly, so it’s been educational for me to observe her progress. Hermione followed her closely, but never fell apart to the same degree. Even Hermione is now reclothed in shiny new auburn feathers.

Not only is Haley gorgeous and coppery and glossy now, but the other day I caught her wandering around the interior of the showroom, pacing under The Hideaway, occupied by Buffy. I checked out her comb, and it seemed unusually red. I bent down to touch her, and…

She squatted.

Can brown eggs be far behind??!!

BO = Buff Orpington
PBR = Plymouth Barred Rock
LB = Light Brahma
PR = Production Red


11 thoughts on “The state of the molt.

  1. I’m sure not looking forward to the day my chickens molt. Do you live in the southern hemisphere? I ask because I didn’t know chickens molt in fall or winter. That doesn’t seem evolutionarily sound, does it?

    • To the best of my understanding, chickens molt every fall after they reach one year of age. I live in the Northern Hemisphere, so I can’t answer if it flips down under. It doesn’t seem evolutionarily sound at all!! But then I’ve always been horrified that ewes lamb in February.

  2. My early spring chicks are molting with the older girls.. How weird is that? I have 4/7 girls molting that were born March 4th. Full on molt..

    I was wondering where all my eggs have been going.. :/

      • They are not happy campers! Really cranky :P I know Easter Eggers are terrible layers in the winter.. I can deal with that. The only ones laying at all now are my April and May girls. None of my older girls are laying, save one barred rock and one silkie. Did I mention I have 15 old girls? Yeah.. They are much bigger slackers than your old girls :P

      • Ah, but none of my girls are “old”! They’re still supposed to be at their prime. And, now, I think Buffy’s out of eggs, but not for lack of trying, sweet thing…

      • Interesting enough is to know that any hen over 1 year of age is considered old. Anything under 1 year is young. Crazy I know. All of my “old” hens are the same age as your “old hens” :P

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