Love Hurts

November 14, 2011
 Oyster Cracker has been molting for weeks now. My usual snuggling chicken has been replaced by a girl who is torn between receiving love and enduring pain. Her pain is caused by newly forming feather pins poking her as she is held, petted and loved. She has been so confused by this molt and I am not sure that she entirely understands what is going on. I know that this molt has been tough on her. She is not as spunky. Most of her feathers have fallen out and her comb seems pale.

Yesterday, she could not resist needing love. Before I knew it, she had jumped up into my lap and very carefully snuggled her face in between the crook of my shoulder and neck.  I delicately began to pet her.  I felt down by her breast bone.  She had lost a bunch of weight.  Despite her voracious appetite, the protein demands on her body from the molt must have caused her to become slimmer.  She felt smaller in my arms and did not stay for long.  Once she hopped off, I went to check for eggs.

Oyster Cracker came inside and popped her head out of the nesting boxes.  I was kneeling down and she kept putting her face near mine.  At first, I thought that she was after my earrings again.  Then, as I stuck my head in to the box, she tried to place her head and neck across the back of my neck.  I took my head out then bent it down outside of the nesting boxes within Oyster Cracker’s reach.  Then she placed her head and neck on the back of my neck, like a pillow.  She wriggled back and forth.  I could hear her smelling my hair.  Her wattles were warm against my skin.  I understood.  She wanted love so badly, this was the closest she could get to me without experiencing pain from her feathers.  I stayed in that position, with a chicken laying on the back of my neck for about 5 minutes.  I can only imagine what the neighbors thought, let alone my own family!

I realized that despite my best efforts, I was not keeping up with her protein needs.  She needed more.  So I will be making an effort to provide them with a high protein morning snack as well as an afternoon snack.  Of course, I had terrible chicken Mom guilt, but I have never had any chicken molt to this extent.  Most of her feathers are slowly filling in now.  Tiny blunt feathers are peeking out from amongst the older feathers.  I can even see the fluff on her butt beginning to return.

Molting is not easy on chickens.  Their protein needs increase.  They lose weight and they stop laying eggs.  However, if you ask Oyster Cracker, she would probably say the worst part of molting is missing my daily snuggles.  You know, I have missed hers too.

Oyster Cracker’s new feathers are “blooming” from the feather pins.

Photo Credit:  4Jphotography


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14 thoughts on “Love Hurts”

  1. Oh, poor OC… Chestnut is looking a little rough around the edges too… She's the only one molting and also looks a if she's lost weight. I've been treating all the girls to extra kitchen scraps and egg shells since learning from you that they could eat them! 🙂 I love my girls!!!
    Give OC a hug and take one for yourself too!


  2. I would love to hold my lil' chicks like that.

    But they are adopted…and so, they are set in their ways. But it does make my happy to see them coming to the door of the run to great me when I come out to them! {smile}

    Maybe I'll be closer to my chickies when I raise my own from little babies…in the mean time, I'll have to settle for what lovin' I get from these girls…And George.


  3. I LOVE reading about how lovey your chickens are. My chickens are about 4/5 months old and they are not overly lovey. I have raised them from chicks, but the week after we got them, we ended up experiencing some big life changes and holding my baby chicks all the time and cultivating that type of relationship with them ended up at the bottom of my priority list. Do you think it is too late? Do you have suggestions for how to encourage this type of relationship with them? I want them to love me, to let me hold them, etc, but right now, they do not seem interested. 🙁

  4. Hi Claire, it is never too late, in fact I am getting this questions so much, I am going to do a post entirely devoted to this subject. I hope you find it helpful. Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

  5. I had a dear hen who had health issues most of her life. Pitti-Sing had a distended crop and I didn't expect her to last as long as she did, but she was about 5 when she died. I had always given her a lot of attention and she grew to like and expect it. The last few months she would run to me on the retaining wall that put her at about chest level with me. She wanted her head cuddled and would burrow it under my arm. I spent far too much time holding that dear girl in my arms, her head tucked into my armpit. I really miss her.

    My other sweetie, Gold Digger, would peck my knee for attention. Most of my birds either stand still to receive attention or move on, preferring less contact. It's a treat when one actually asks for affection.

  6. I have 10 2 week old chicks. They are in the coop in a brooder. I go in there at least 3-4 times a day to talk to them and try to handle them. They all run and huddle in the corner. When i do catch them, they will let me hold them but i want them to come to me instead of trying to catch them. Do they need more time?? Help!


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.