“Mom, I think one of the chickens was killed,” said Addy when I had asked her to let the chickens out of the coop.
It certainly was a possibility. We let our chickens free range which means we trust them to go back into the coop at night. Often we don’t lock the door on them until it’s dark. Early on, we had a young bird not make it to the coop in time, she was locked out and we found her remains the next day. (I still miss that little ball of fluff.)
Since then we’ve tried to be careful, but still it was entirely possible.
I went out to the coop to take a look and yes, it certainly did look like a chicken massacre had occurred. There were white feathers everywhere, and I mean *everywhere*! We don’t have many birds with pure white feathers and so I started looking around trying to figure out who was missing.
There was Jerry, Ruud, and Buttercup. They were all there. What I did notice however was that when Jerry, our Light Brahma ran by me a few feathers flew out from her bottom.
We don’t have a massacre, we have an early molt.
It’s been an odd (but thoroughly enjoyable) summer this year in New Hampshire. The temps have been moderate and here we are, in the first weeks of August having to use blankets at night and sweaters in the mornings.
Unofficial reports have been coming in from across the nation. “We’re seeing this on the West Coast.” “Got it up North in New Hampshire” and “Same from the backwoods in southern Georgia.”
Old time farmers will tell you that an early molt is a harbinger of a difficult winter to come. We’ve already had some very tough NH winters for the past few years (we regularly saw zero and below on our thermometers.) If we’re heading for a winter that’s more difficult than those, I think we all need to immediately think about dusting off our polar fleece, winter coats, and making sure our casserole and crockpots are all in working order.
As an adjunct to this post, when I went out this morning to take a photo of the feathers, I found that almost every single one had been removed. I would have liked to think that my kids (on their own) decided to spontaneously clean up our yard, but I think a more realistic explanation is that our resident wildlife population is getting ready for a harsh winter by making sure everyone in the nest has a down insulated comforter.
Hmm, maybe we are in for a wild ride this winter, after all.
How about you? Anyone else seeing early molts in their flock?