One morning I went to the coop to let them out and there was a puddle of yellow feathers beneath Curry. She's in a hard molt, which means that her body is replacing all of her feathers. It's weird how her feathers seem to all fall out at once.
This pic was taken a few days into her molt. You can see how scruffy she looks. Since the pic below was taken she has lost all of her tail feathers.
The normally friendly bird doesn't want to be touched or picked up. A friend of mine suggested that maybe their skin feels like our fingers do when we've cut a nail too close to the quick.
A few days later, I opened the coop to find a puddle of grey feathers: Animal now looks like a wrung-out grey rag. She's lost quite a bit of her roundness and seems unhappy, too. Poor thing.
Just this morning there was a new feather puddle in the coop, this time a black one. Scooter, our silly little Polish, is molting. And her Polish sister, Beaker, is broody again.
Molting and broody hens don't lay eggs. Gwen, the head hen who suffered a broken, then infected, toe last spring doesn't lay anymore either. Well, that's not quite true. Her "eggs" lack shells. I keep hoping that she'll molt because I've read that a molt will reset the egg shell production in a bird with this problem. But if it doesn't, Gwen will continue to have a home with us as a pet. We won't kill or eat her.
That effectively takes 5 of our 9 hens out of the laying rotation. We're getting just 1 or 2 eggs/day, though I've had an occasional 3-egg day.
Miss Piggy looks terrible and I haven't seen one of her eggs in a while. I've noticed that the molting hens stop laying about a week before starting to lose feathers so it's pretty likely that her glossy coat of feathers will start falling off pretty soon, too.
- Miss Piggy...?
For now I'm hoarding eggs. We've got about 5 dozen in the fridge but I'm not selling any more until I'm confident we'll have a regular supply again. We've only have 1 other bird go through a hard molt and we didn't get eggs from her for about 3 months.
Weather forecasters are predicting a La Niña winter for the Pacific Northwest, which means cold and wet. "In the rainy Pacific Northwest, La Niña winters seem to bring even more rain and snow than usual." If the girls' hard molts are any indication of the winter we're going to have, I'm awfully glad for the food I've been preserving and for my 3-mile commute!