Spring Mini-Molt

Good thing Easter is over, because Abigail is molting:

All chickens shed their feathers to make room for new ones at some point. According to just about everyone everywhere, most chickens don't molt until their second autumn, as the daylight dwindles. Abigail, however, didn't get the memo, and has started dropping feathers in the spring instead.

There are a few possible reasons behind this. First, since the equinox we have weaned the chickens off of their supplementary coop lighting, so it's possible that Abigail's body is reading this as autumn instead of spring, and her body has shifted into molting season. Usually molting happens in the fall to give the chickens nice warm feathers, but also as their hormones change from sun-splashed-summery-egg-laying time to long-cold-not-gonna-do-anything-during-the-winter time. It could also be a hold-over reaction to her injury, as stress can also lead to molting. I think this is unlikely, though, given the weeks in between potential cause and its effect. She could just be an early molter, as it looks like a decent share of chickens have a small molt in the spring and/or as early as nine months or age. 

Regardless of the trigger, the molt coincides with decreased egg production because both take a lot of protein to carry out. So while a chicken is making new feathers, odds are that they are not making any eggs.  

Abigail isn't laying right now, that's for sure. The other three are laying as usual, though, so it's not a hardship (for us — she could well be tired and uncomfortable throughout the process). Otherwise, she doesn't seem much worse for wear. You can see in the photo above that she's a little peaked: her comb is more pink than red, which is a sign of her expending a lot of energy on feather production. The top of her head and neck a little scruffy, but hardly bald (although you'll have to take my word for it since she wasn't cooperative about standing still for her close-up). She's lost a couple tailfeathers as well, and the area around her wings is a little thin: 

Again, it's hard to see in the pictures. But mostly, she's not looking bad at all, considering that it could be much, much worse. That's why I'm calling this a mini-molt. It could also be that she's just a slow molter, and she'll be gradually replacing feathers over the next two months (as opposed to a quick feather drop that's over in few weeks). 

I guess we'll find out. This is new chicken territory for us, as we come up on our birdies' first birthdays.


Abigail's mini-molt seems to be winding down. We returned to a far less scruffy bird after our vacation, and as of Tuesday, April 23, it looks like she's starting to lay again. Tiegan caught her in the nesting box, and found a nice warm, green egg when she got home from school. (This brings up a whole other issue about why our silly birds are laying in the afternoon this spring instead of the morning, but whatever.) I'd estimate that this mini-molt took about five or six weeks — at least, that's how long she stopped laying for. Not a big deal with three other birds to shoulder the weight, but when they all molt in the fall, that's a long time to be without eggs. I think this spring and summer we'll be freezing our extras to stock up against that inevitability.


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