The last few mornings, I have smelled fall in the air. I know it is coming. The amount of drones in the beehives are decreasing. The leaves on the trees are looking tired and the lawn is worn out from summer. September and school are only a month away. Yet, one of my biggest clues that fall is in the air is when the girls begin to molt. Every hen molts to a different degree. Some hens do it gracefully- you would have no idea that they had even lost a feather. Yet some hens are less graceful. Oyster Cracker, one of our Buff Orpingtons, always tips me off. As fall and cooler temperatures near, I wake up to find the coop looking as though a chicken had exploded in the night! Molting season has begun.
Molting typically starts at the head with the tiniest of feathers and progresses systematically down the neck, the body, wings, then working its way to the tail. It can take weeks and during this time hens will decrease the amount of eggs they lay or stop laying eggs entirely. You see, eggs and feathers are made up of almost completely protein. Molting can be stressful. It can also be painful as the new feathers grow in. This year molting seems a bit earlier than usual here, but all hens over 1 year of age typically will molt annually in the fall.
Oyster Cracker is always the first one to begin molting and the rest of the flock follows suit over the next couple of months. I’m switching up their snacks to ones with a bit more protein- like dried meal worms and black sunflower seeds during their molting. For me the worst part about Oyster Cracker molting is that I will miss not being able to hold her so often. Yes, I admit it. I will miss hugging this sweet lovable girl.