Eep! A Very Scary Story!

A very scary story.
by karen

 

One day Karen walked out to the chicken coop.

She (Karen, I mean) gasped in horror.

There before her lay evidence of what was probably a massacre.  Feathers everywhere.

1, 2, 3, 4.

4 chickens.  All accounted for.  She saw that as a good sign.

Karen (that’s me) put her best brave face on and entered the coop area.  All the chickens seemed fine, everyone was dancing around like every other morning.

But it didn’t explain the blanket of feathers.  Could the hens have had a chicken friend over for a visit last night?  A hen party?

It was definitely possible, Karen thought.  They’re very social, my chickens.

Another quick look around revealed no empty wine glasses and not a single dirty chip and dip bowl.  Since Karen knew the chickens to be horrible at cleaning up after themselves she decided there had been no party.

Plus, Norma wasn’t throwing up in the corner.

There was only one way to get to the bottom of this mystery.  Ask Cuddles.

At first Cuddles agreed to talk but only if her voice was altered and she was taped in silhouette.

Moulting 1

 

She seemed embarrassed.  She could barely even look at me.
 

Moulting 2

 

A tiny bit of coaxing and that little chicken opened right up.
 

Moulting 3

 

Cuddles and all her friends were experiencing something no man or woman wants to experience.
 

Moulting 4

 

Premature balding.
 

Moulting 5

 

Chickens you see … moult.  They lose their feathers.  Each and every one of them.  They do this once a year, usually just before winter.  So, really I don’t know what Cuddles was so upset about.  It really wasn’t premature at all.   It was right on time.

 

As soon as a feather falls out a new one starts to grow.  It can be uncomfortable for the gals.  I mean, imagine if things like sharpened sticks started sprouting out of your skin.

You’d be embarrassed too.

And probably pissed.

The hard shaft of the feather first looks like a tiny black spot on the chicken’s skin.  Then as it grows out more it looks kind of like a black stick or pin.

A day or so later, the actual feather starts to plume out from the hollow shaft.  These new stick-like feathers are called pin feathers.  It’ll take a few weeks for the moult to finish.
 

DSC 0930

 

You may not even notice them unless you ruffle their feathers.
 

Moulting 6

 

Once you do that you’ll see them right away.
 

Moulting 8

 

Brand new soft, downy feathers to keep them warm through the winter.  Last year I just brought them hot oatmeal with raisins, but this’ll probably work too.
 

DSC 0954

 

Back to the story …

All 4 of Karen’s chickens were losing their feathers and showing tiny bald spots.

Karen cried.

She knew that growing feathers took all the energy her chickens had so they wouldn’t have any energy to produce eggs for a while.

Karen cried some more.  A big, gulping for air cry.

She cried for her poor chickens, she cried ’cause she wouldn’t have any eggs, and she cried for this next chicken she found a picture of on Backyard Chickens.
 

Karen walked outside and showed the picture to Cuddles.  See Cuddles?  Things could always be worse.  THIS is something to be embarrassed about.
 

Scary Moult

 

I mean, seriously.  Fauxhawks are so, 1997.  So embarrassingly out of date it’s scary.
 

 

74 Comments

  1. Cindy G. says:

    Okay… now I’m definitely re-thinking an earlier expressed desire for chickens… I’ll just get my eggs from the local farm stand instead!

  2. Jody says:

    I know when my budgie moults he can be sad and quiet–not his usual happy talkative self. Now I know why. Your close up photos of the magic of moulting is gross. I’m an OR nurse. I have seen the inside of people. Not gross. Those pin feathers are weird and gross looking.

  3. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Oh your poor girls..Their feathers are so pretty Karen..I also think you should make something with them..I’m thinking feather wreath with maybe some Indian corn or little pumpkins on it..please show us if you make something with them..

  4. maribeth says:

    Wow, so glad you posted this! I never imagined they lost them all like that! For some reason, I just expected a feather here and a feather there. Thanks for preparing me.

  5. Alex says:

    Again, if I have more nightmares I am blaming this post too. First the Halloween doll head, now poking feathers. OMG I just clenched my legs.

  6. Marian says:

    My peeps are doing the same and have not layed for the last 10 days, except for Lucy. Lucy is our smallest girl, a white easter egger who lays lovely turquoise eggs, and although she is the smallest, she is the alpha chicken and through her moulting she continues to lay almost every single day. Guess who gets those eggs? 😉 Last year we used the feathers to make tails for our paper mache turkeys for place setting holders on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately this grossed out some of our family members who thought it would be better to use store bought feathers (!?), those would be the same family members who say you can’t taste the difference between organic home raised chicken eggs and store bought… we lovingly refer to them as idiots.

  7. Shauna says:

    Oh that poor chicken in the last picture! I would be so horrified if one of my poor ladies looked like that. I have seen a lot more feathers as of late though, so I know it’s starting for my girls too. I just wonder how bad it gets for Southern California chickens – I mean, since the weather is so mild, does it matter? The egg production has most definitely been down though. I’ve had to slow down on sharing eggs lately. Doesn’t stop ’em from causing all sorts of havoc though. Came home yesterday to find them all trapped in our garden. No problem for them to find the tiny whole to get in, but try as they might, they couldn’t seem to figure out how to get out. Thank goodness eggplants are hardy.

  8. Carey says:

    It’s all so sad, and believe me, you, I feel your pain! My girls have been going through the slow molt for a couple of months now. My kids want me to buy store bought eggs. Can you imagine?! Sad times, indeed!

  9. Scouty says:

    Oh, some of those feathers may make a nice fly for fly fishing…. just saying.
    I have used the downie duck feathers and the longer chicken tail feathers for tying flies.
    (They breed chickens just for the use of their feathers for fly tying)
    An opportunity to learn a new craft – fly tying The best would be to catch a fish using a fly you tied from a feather you have grown! Pike on a fly rod.

  10. Jeannie B. says:

    Thank you Karen, for these marvelous pictures and information. I knew that birds moult but had never seen photos of the pin feathers coming through their skin. It does look painful. It must be a quick process because I know that wild birds moult, get their new feathers, then migrate. I hope your hens don’t feel cold because the temperature is dropping. I wonder if you give them vitamins. So very interesting…….

  11. ruth says:

    Like Bonnie, dying to know what you’ll make with the feathers!

  12. Katie King says:

    Mine are doing this right now, too–but I have 4, each different kinds, and only one is doing SERIOUS moulting…she takes a step and clouds of feathers shoot out everywhere, just like a cartoon. She’s been hiding from us and the others, too, because she knows she looks ridiculous…
    She’s usually the ‘pretty’ chicken, so is it bad that I feel a little satisfaction about it??

  13. Aimee says:

    Oh that poor bald chicken! Glad to see yours are fairing better. Our bird is going through the moulting stage too, but luckily she likes to play with her fallen feathers. No trauma here.

  14. Janet says:

    Never a post goes by that I don’t learn something from you. That was truly interesting! Karen, you could be a biology teacher…or a zoo keeper…they are sometimes pretty close to the same thing. Someone said you should write childrens books. Awesome idea…just don’t give up the blog…

  15. Melissa L. says:

    Seems to me it’s right on time for you to get crafty and make them some Halloween costumes to cover up the bare spots… just nothing with a cape – we wouldn’t want them thinking they could actually fly!

  16. Patti says:

    Aww. Poor chickies! My parakeet, Pickle, is molting right now and it`s horrible! He`s been molting for 2 months (it`s his first big molt – replacing his baby feathers). It`s made him very moody. Do you find that with the girlsÉ

  17. Marti says:

    “Eep!” ….Is this a Canadian word? Here in the states, we’d probably use “Eek!”

    That last photo was truly frightening. If you’d put it first, I might not have read the whole thing. As it was, my goodness, Karen, you taught me something today???

  18. Kate says:

    You’re lucky, Karen! My ladies are going through the same thing and kinda look like the grocery poultry department; all they’re missing is the plastic wrap. Sylvia, our Ameraucana, seems to be either molting or broody ALL THE TIME and therefore denies us her groovy blue eggs. Selfish.

  19. Rebecca k says:

    I’m kind grossed out by this…

  20. Karol says:

    This is more than any respectable city girl wants to know. I, on the other hand, being a not-so-respectable city girl, find it fascinating. Makes me tilt my head and say “wait, what?”

  21. Mary says:

    Hubby won’t allow me to have chickens, but my parrot is moulting right now too. At first I thought he had been fighting with our pug again, there were so many feathers on the floor, bit no, it’s just his time of the year. Funny story,one time him and the dog had a battle and I walked in the entryway to LONG feathers everywhere. The bird had a bare butt and I thought the dog had chewed off his arse end. Turns out, it’s a defense mechanism. They can drop all their tail feathers at will. For a while we called him baby chick as he had no rear end. We also had to be careful he did not fall off the perch as they use their tail feathers for balancing.

  22. Lori says:

    I usually learn something new each and every time I read one of your posts! This one takes the cake!! It certainly looks like it would hurt.

  23. Mary says:

    Just curious, did they pull all of the feathers out? The one looks like she had some help with those back feathers.

  24. Ann says:

    I have been out of town for a week and just got home. DH didn’t want to tell me but another one of my oldest girls came up missing whilst I was gone. My rooster has completely moulted his neck feathers, just like last year. Other than that, my chickens barely change appearance at all during moulting season. And really don’t stop laying eggs either. Win on all fronts other than the predation problem that I now need to solve.

  25. Kris says:

    Karen, you (as usual) are too funny. You really should turn that little blog into a childrens book, just leave out the throwing up and cursing. It would be educational and funny for kids. It was for me!

  26. Melissa says:

    So sorry for the girls. No hen party. No chips and dip. That just plain sucks…pin feathers, chin hair, whatever plus no eggs???

  27. Shirley says:

    Personally, I suspected Cuddles right from the start. Notice how she couldn’t make eye contact in that first picture?

    If she had only had a black bar across her eyes, we would never have known it was she who squealed (or squawked, as the case may be) …

  28. FLP says:

    Here is another scary story. The Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue has a $100,000 Heritage Hen Mini Farm.

  29. Lynn says:

    Did you know that birds loose their feathers in “pairs”? Meaning if one is lost from one wing, it’s match on the other wing will also be lost. Keeps them balanced, if you will. Useless bird trivia!
    Ours just molted too and egg production did slow down. But what to do with all of those feathers?! Too bad there’s no market for them – we’d be rich!

  30. Lori says:

    Poor little babies!!

  31. Mary Kay says:

    I learned something new once again!! Hope the girls get over their embarrasement soon! Maybe you should craft little disguises for them LOL

  32. Alicia Herron says:

    Cutie little chickens! Fascinating stuff too! I love the picture where the feather is emerging out of the pin! That poor poor fauxhawk chicken! I wonder if that was done to her?

  33. deb says:

    Karen,

    I’ll leave the door open for you too….and DO feel free to clean up (no poop I promise!).

  34. Karen says:

    I did not know they quit laying when they moult. I guess because we had so many, perhaps when one quit laying the other was finished moulting and started laying. I do remember egg production decreasing at times! Thank you. You are fountain of knowledge!

  35. Sally says:

    OMG, that’s the funniest looking thing I’ve ever seen! Poor chicken! I’d say that Cuddles and the girls are getting off easy so far, except that the entire process looks amazingly uncomfortable. Talk about a bad hair day(s). Sorry about temporary lack of eggs. We know you were really crying about that.

  36. Bonnie says:

    OK, I will be the first to ask the exceptionally stupid question of the day, “Are you able to do anything with the discarded feathers?”

    And of course, my empathy for the girls.

  37. Mary Werner says:

    Mother Nature is so harsh! That poor chicken is pathetic and when I look in the mirror in the morning with my hair sticking up everywhere, I will remember this picture and be thankful for the face that looks back at me. Thanks for these harsh pictures of encouragement!

  38. Denise says:

    Fascinating info. I have heard of moulting, but didn’t realize it was annual and ALL their feathers. I guess it is normal for them, but kind of yucky when considered in the human context.

  39. marilyn says:

    hahaha take a kitten on our way out…lmao..oh karen what to do..poor chickens

  40. Has Cuddles been watching Stuart Little? The 2nd pic sure did look like she was saying “Talk to the butt!”

  41. ouch! worse than watching a baby’s molar poke through the gums. Oh, the visions.. I can’t get that vision out of my head. Does it hurt? ouch.

  42. sarah says:

    A couple of weeks ago i had a dream that i was growing these on my legs (they need waxing badly) i didn’t even know chickens moulted. I remember kind’ve liked puling out the feather shafts but it looked hideous.
    Maybe there’s some chicken genes in me, a throwback.
    My enzymes are ready as of yesterday, haven’t yet used them but will do later today.

  43. Sue T. says:

    Love the way you tell a story !

    I’ve never had chickens and had no idea that they did this each year. I would have thought the poor babies were badly ill. Before you ever got the chicks were you aware of this yearly molting or did you find out the hard way ?

  44. We would say in Scotland that they are ‘in the pouk’.

  45. Sarah says:

    I love learning all about chickens from you! I never knew I wanted to know about chickens, and now I look forward to these posts…

    Oh what a sad life I live!

  46. Kristina says:

    Aww!! I feel cheated somehow. I was expecting a scary Halloween story. Something to the effect of the “fella” and and electric carving knife and a missing digit, followed by the requisite trip to the urgent care center. Ah, my loss and the “fella’s” gain. And I love my chickens and my roo would love to meet your girls.

  47. I gots extra farm eggs whenever you need ’em. The house is open, resist your urge to clean up, take a kitten on your way out.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! Funny. What colour kitten? NO! NO NONONONO! I do not need another thing to feed or clean the poop of. No. ~ karen

      • Dana says:

        kind of on the subject of kittens and chickens:

        my boyfriend and i have started a new Karen-inspired game with our kitty Gracie called…
        WILL SHE EAT IT?!

        whenever her cute, furry face tries to get all up in our food, i yell “WILL SHE EAT IT?!” and give her a little piece..

        so far she will eat: bananas, lettuce, ritz crackers, cookies, sushi rice.
        she will not eat: chicken or cheese.

    • Lynne says:

      I WANT eggs and I WANT kittens. Both of those sound better than the suck butt weather we are having today. Is it raining cats and dogs for you today too Karen? Or chickens and feathers?
      Lynne 🙂

  48. SK Farm Girl says:

    “As soon as a feather falls out a new one starts to grow. It can be uncomfortable for the gals. I mean, imagine if things like sharpened sticks started sprouting out of your skin.

    You’d be embarrassed too.

    And probably pissed.”

    Sounds suspiciously like the loathed, cursed-at, ever-sprounting CHIN HAIR!!!

  49. Diane says:

    oh my god. i had no idea. that’s hideous. i feel kinda sick – why have i never known this before? is it something to do with global warming?

  50. Nicole says:

    My chickens are going through this as well, they look like small brown vultures, its not a pretty sight.

    • Karen says:

      Nicole – You’re lucky! The uglier they are, the faster they’re moulting, the more quickly they’ll get back to egg laying. ~ k!

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