Ella started molting a few days ago: she started losing her tail feathers (she actually has none right now, which looks very strange), then some around her neck, and now many off her wings. According to one random website (ahh, the miracle of google…), “decreased daylight times and temperatures will induce molting.”
She looks terrible–scrappy, pathetic, skinny. Part of it is that hens’ tails are very expressive and ella’s especially so. In addition, patchy feathers just aren’t very attractive. Her crown is also a bit floppy and droopy. After all, it takes a bunch of calories to make new feathers so they have to come from somewhere. Overall, ella looks a bit lethargic and lame right now–almost embarrassed by her scrappiness, but I am undoubtedly anthropomorphizing.
Ella is the first chicken to go through molting. Will Daisy and Caroline soon follow as they are in the same cohort? Time will tell.
I suppose it would be a lot easier if we got super-duper-industrially-bred chickens to grow fast and produce either a lot of eggs or a lot of meat very quickly. And then kill them before they start going broody or molting or doing other biological things that chickens and living entities are wont to do. But that doesn’t seem right either.
I have to say that egg production has been more irregular and the first three have spent way more time being broody–or now molting–than we expected. Perhaps it’s their breed or rather, their mixed breed. In that sense, Nony and Pippi, the dominiques, have been a lot more cooperative biologically speaking: no broodiness and no molting yet–although they have had some patchy spots on their backs, which I had assumed was someone picking on them, but maybe it’s molting, too.
For now we are putting up with their livingness. After all, a major reason why we got chickens in the first place was rejecting the chicken-industrial complex that is modern egg and poultry production. Chickens aren’t just machines.