I went out to the coop this afternoon to gather eggs and it looked like a pillow had burst in the shed. There were feathers all over the place, looking like the fox had at a chicken dinner and left nothing but feathers. There were dark feathers everywhere. I could not find any blood and no sign of a carcass.
My coop is carved out from a corner of my shed and on windy days my chickens are known to spend part of the day in the shed rather than go out and forage all day. When they do this they are more susceptible to predators as they are not able to see anything before it arrives in open barn style door. I feared that one or more of my chickens had finally met an unfortunate demise because of my desire to have them free range.
I called my chickens, and after just a few seconds I started seeing heads popping up in neighbor’s pasture. Now it is not unheard for the girls to go so far away, but this made me worry that Mr. Fox had sent the survivors heading for the hills. And for those of you who don’t have chickens, yes they are easily trained to come when called; you just always need to give them a little treat and the greedy girls are soon more reliable than your dog on recall.
I watched as the girls moved from the pasture to the road I started counting one, two, three, four……finally five and six. I sighed with relief. I watched them walk and then run down the hill looking for signs they were injured. So far so good. I wanted them all in the run so I could check them over close up.
“Chick! Chick!” I called and then started to run again, spreading their wings out as though they could run faster this way. No one every explained aerodynamics to a chicken, and that a sleek form with wings close created less resistance. In just a few minutes my birds were all home, fighting over the scratch grains I had spread in their run. That reward they came for.
None of them showed any sign of injury, but on close examination I could see that Shirley had little pin feathers in some spots. She was moulting! She still looked fully feathered, but I suspect in a day or two she will start to look shabby as more of her feathers fall out. Then she will start to want to stay in the shed rather than go out and forage. It seems my birds are almost embarrassed to be seen when they are moulting and tend to hang out in the corners of the coop or shed.
Of course with a moult it means that Shirley’s energy is now going to be spent on growing feathers instead of laying egg. Fuzzy is still moulting and still no eggs with her either. When a bird moults in the fall it is dicey, at best, they will start laying againbefore spring. They have to get all their feathers in first and then their body has to figure out how to start laying eggs again. Long days, lots of sunshine helps that.
So this means the littles, this year’s birds are my sole source of eggs, and they are being challenged by the shorter days. Now we will become a little more stingy with our eggs.