Moulting or Molting, To-mat-oe or To-ma-toe

Moulting Manuella

Hi keepers, it’s that time of year again in New Zealand, the days are getting shorter and the air is growing cooler.  This is the trigger for the girls to start their moulting, the shedding of their feathers.  It looks worse than it is, to the unfamiliar, the hens will just start to drop feathers everywhere, the run can resemble the scene of a large pillow fight, they just get everywhere, the chickens themselves do look as if they have been in a fight,  or gone to a really bad hairdresser.

There’s not alot to done for them during this time, some say to add some nutrients to their water.  The down side to all of this is, they stop laying, all of their energy goes into growing new feathers, on the positve side, I have collected alot of the bigger tail feathers over the years and I am attempting some kind of feather art project.

So if you’re experiencing this for the first time, don’t worry,  it’s normal chicken behaviour.

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Moulting or Molting

Moulting or Molting, english or american spelling, it still results in the same, feathers everywhere. For those who are unaware of the process, moulting occurs normally once a year, can happen twice depending on the climate. The bird will  gradually shed a considerable amount of it’s feathers, I have noticed it generally starts with the tail feathers, then spreads to the rest of the body. Now the bird doesn’t become bald all of a sudden,  the process happens over a period of weeks, can last for months, depending on the condition of the bird at the start of the process.

In my observations of our hens, it started with one bird, and then a few days later, others joined  the shedding process, interestingly the top hens Nancy and Manuella were the last to start. During this time of renewing their feathers, the laying stops, as the bird is putting all of its energy into the growth of the new feathers, they can become very subdued, spending alot of time sleeping during the day. One other thing I have just noticed, is that their combs seem to shrink down and lose some of their colour, side effect of directing all that energy to the feathers I suspect.

Moulting Manuella

The moulting or molting process, is to renew their weakened and damaged feathers to prepare themselves for winter and better their chance of escape from any predators, perhaps this is why they stagger  the moulting in the flock, so they can maintain some overall strength and protection. Make they have grit (calcium = crushed seashells) in their feed.

They do look a bit of a mess while this is all going on, however when they have finished, they look splendid in their new plumage, like a group of ladies who have just returned from a fancy hair salon.

The Cost Effectiveness of Chicken Keeping

Hi chicken keepers, or prospective chicken keepers, I recently read a report from an american publication, about a dispute between neighbours in the city of Salem, where the city by-law says the keeping of farm animals is prohibited, domestic pets only.

 The owner of the hens is disputing that they are penned the whole time, and are no bother to anyone other than herself, the case is pending in court, it appeared that the journalist was pro chicken keeping, until a quote from a professor from some obscure university said ” the cost of purchasing the hens, plus buying a coop, which can run into hundreds of dollars, then the feed and time involved, made it totally inaffective as a cost cutting self sufficient exercise”. Poppycock!!

 I imagine this comment was made through ignorance, that may be the case for the yuppies of chicken keeping, but I suspect most of the coops have been made by the keeper, as most of the increase in chicken keeping is from the undeveloped third world countries, where live chickens are sold to eat, there are no Safeways, Tesco or Foodtown to supply prepared birds in shiny plastic bags, therefore the cost would be smaller than buying from breeders as we do in the western world. As for feed, again with no suppliers of feed in remote areas of the world they rely on there surroundings and scraps from human consumption.

So here’s our financial figures, cost of purchasing hens $96.00 , cost of coop $0.00 (totally recycled materials), cost of feed $2o per month. The biggest cost is TIME, one could argue that one til the cows come home, but lets not bring other animals into it, that will just confuse matters.

The price of half a dozen free range eggs at the supermarket $4.00 (organic $6.00), normally we would have purchased half a dozen in our weekly shopping,  we use more eggs now we have more, in baking cakes and other such delights, we also barter with spare eggs, for home grown vegetables from the neighbours, and sometimes we swap the eggs for gold coins, which you can then use later at shops to buy stuff, like chicken feed. ( all dollars figures mentioned are in NZ dollars).

At the end of the day, our seven hens are less expensive to keep than a domestic cat or dog, however the hens provide food in return, they also add to our wellbeing, they provide secondary products like fertiliser, feathers and meat if you so wish, healthy eggs with maximum omega levels, they are really alot of fun to have around, each with their own character.

So it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to start keeping chickens in your back garden, especially if you’re handy with a hammer. The returns are wide and varied, it’s given me the contents of this blog.  As pointed out to me by Karmyn from Oregan, they are also good bug eaters, organic pesticide.

dust bath

dust bath

Feathers Everywhere!!

Hi keepers, well this is a first for us, one of girls , Nellie, is moulting, we have’nt had experience of this until now, at first I thought one of them had been attacked by some beastly creature, then we started to notice that Nellie was looking a bit different. She has started to grow the new feathers, so she is looking a bit messy at the moment, a bit like when you pop in to see the other half at the hairdressers and she’s in the middle of the hairdressing process.

The new feathers are so soft, and have more colour to them, that’s color to our American friends, the result of which has made her more ginger, real copper coloured, unfortunately one of the side effects of this is that she is off laying at the moment, however I have tracked down the remaining layers now, so should be back to 3 eggs a day, Daisy must of been having her day off when we returned, and maybe she just stopped while we were away as someone suggested.

Dorothy the Light Sussex

Dorothy the Light Sussex

Where have all the Eggs Gone!!!

Hi there keepers, it appears are girls are drying up, I feel for our chicken sitter who has only had the pleasure of two eggs all week, not much of return for 5 days caring for the girls, we knew Nellie had stopped before we left, due we now realise to moulting, big pile of Nellie feathers under the deck.

As we have been away for 5 days , I have no idea if they have moved nest again, or just gone on strike due to the re-introduction of the budget pellets? We just didn’t have the time to drive out to the rural farm shop for the tastier ones. I shall have to observe them in the morning to see what’s going on, other than that nothing to report really, I have a nice tan after 5 days in the sun in the north of the north island, a beautiful spot called Mangawhai Heads, but you don’t want to hear about me, so I shall report on the girls as soon as i know what ‘s going on.