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. 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???

  2. 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) …

  3. FLP says:

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

  4. 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!

  5. Lori says:

    Poor little babies!!

  6. 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

  7. 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?

  8. deb says:

    Karen,

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

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. marilyn says:

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

  15. Janie Farmer says:

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

  16. Amanda Pedro says:

    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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 ?

  19. Tricia Rose says:

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

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. Noelle Smith says:

    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 :)

  23. 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!!!

  24. 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?

  25. 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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