Chickens Health Issues Stories from Our Nest

Love Hurts

 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 My usual snuggling chicken has been replaced by a girl who is torn between receiving love and enduring pain.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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