Never count your chickens before they are… Oh, wait. That saying speaks to something else. And yet, it’s a bit appropriate here. At the end of December, I was thinking to myself how fortunate we’ve been that our chickens have not had any trouble in the past year. Everyone is healthy and well.
But one day toward the end of December as I was feeding the girls, I thought: Gert (one of our Barred Rock chickens) looks off. And yet, it wasn’t enough to really register with me.
Then, I swear, I had a dream that very night. In it, I was standing in the coop run and Gert jumped up and bit my finger (she has actually done this before). The next morning, I took a better look at Gert.
I wasn’t sure what was going on at first. I called Mr. Gordon out to the run to look. Her comb was also very pale. Still, she was acting completely normal. Mr. Gordon jumped online and we checked out some reputable sites (mostly .edu sites). Yup, Gert was molting. No other chicken seemed to be losing a feather, but Gert was (is) going for it.
Molting. In winter. And it’s cold out. VERY cold. You’re killing me, Gert.
I was surprised. Gert (and the other chickens) are just over 10 months old. I assumed they would not be molting until fall 2021. Apparently Gert is “advanced” for her age.
Here are some photos.
All in all, I think this molt is not a “hard molt.” She has most of her feathers. When she really stretches out her neck, however, she looks like a turkey. It’s not a good look.
As you can see in some of the photos above, Gert’s pin feathers are coming in. These photos were taken about a week ago, and more pin feathers have appeared. We will keep an eye on her. We do not really want to bring her indoors for various good reasons (although we do have both a large cage and the oval galvanized tub we kept our chicks in when we brought them home).
Upping the Protein
When I was checking out advice for dealing with this issue, I learned that upping the protein level in their chicken feed was a recommendation. They already get Grubblies daily (a source of protein), but I also went out and bought a feed called “Feather Fixer” which is 18% protein versus the 16% protein found in layer feed. Unfortunately, the feather fixer feed is not organic, but I went with what I could get in the short-term from Tractor Supply. I also picked up a “flock block” that is supposed to offer additional protein. Funny, they are not too interested in it. I thought they’d all love that. (Although Gert WAS the first to peck at it.)
I made this video more than a week after noticing Gert’s molting issue. She’s actually always appeared to be one of our bigger chickens, but notice how small she appears with less feathers. Mimi, our tiniest chicken, has pecked at Gert more than once and one day I even saw Mimi grab a pin feather! That worried me because I’ve read that if pin feathers are pulled or pecked at, they can bleed. We don’t want to go there. Fortunately, Gert has been a more dominant chicken, so she’s pretty good at sticking up for herself.
But Wait, What’s Up with Zorro?
Zorro is our biggest Australorp. When she was younger, she looked a bit like a raven (her face), and we almost named her Nevermore. But, the name Zorro stuck.
She’s incredibly shy and we really can’t get near her. She scoots away. A couple of days after Gert’s molting issue was observed, we found Zorro standing under the coop ramp away from the other chickens, with her tail feathers drooping down. She was not moving from that area (she had been perfectly fine that morning). Again, I called Mr. Gordon over. I was worried about her being egg bound. I was able to reach in and lift her tailfeathers to see if I could… well, see anything. (She let me do this with no complaint.) Nothing.
We studied and watched her and then let her be. I checked on her every hour. Eventually, she moved out from under the ramp and I was able to pick her up from behind (again, with no complaint) and we eyeballed her, but couldn’t see anything. The decision was made to let her be for the night, then check on her in the morning.
In the morning, she was fine. I don’t know if we just got very lucky and if she was egg bound, things eventually just worked out, literally. We’ve had a few eggs laid overnight and in the wee morning hours, so we’re not always sure who is laying.
Hopefully whatever was ailing Zorro will not return or harm her. Poor girl. She’s so shy it’s hard to notice when she’s being herself and when she’s hanging back because she doesn’t feel well.
Chickens, always something!
So Counting Those Chickens…
As I sort of said at the beginning, don’t count on things always going smoothly. I’m not a fool and I know we might have issues that we’ll need to deal with over the years. Still, I’m an optimist. I also hope to get lucky. 😉
How is it going for your chickens?
Leave an update in a comment below!
January Blog Drop
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