gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

New Spring Outfits

on March 3, 2013

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I have noticed that the Gillybirds have been looking a little tatty and untidy and realised that they are actually starting to moult, ie lose feathers, particularly around their necks. In fact, Colonel Saunders looks like some one has tried to strangle her. A careful gentle inspection had revealed that already there are little pin feathers growing back already.
Many household poultry keepers, particularly people keeping poultry for the first time, are puzzled because egg production markedly declines or ceases despite their laying birds appearing healthy. This seasonal decline in egg production occurs when birds go into a condition known as the ‘moult’. Moulting is the process of shedding and renewing feathers. During the moult, the reproductive physiology of the bird has a complete rest from laying and the bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients.The provision of new feathers or a coat (a feature inherent in most animals) is a natural process, designed by nature to maintain a bird’s ability to escape enemies by flight and better protect against cold winter conditions. Under usual conditions, adult birds moult once a year. Some may moult twice in one year and, rarely, once in two years.
Moulting takes place in a particular order. Feathers are confined to definite tracts or areas of the body surface, with bare patches of skin between. The first plumage is lost from the head and neck, then from the saddle, breast and body, then from the wings and finally from the tail.
When the first feathers drop from the neck and body, good layers often keep laying. However, when the wing feathers begin to drop, laying usually ceases. The presence of ‘pin’ feathers (new emerging feathers) usually indicates a short or partial moult. Some birds moult continuously and can be easily detected in the flock by the spotless condition of their new feathers. These birds are poor producers and should be culled. Thankfully our girls are still laying their quota of eggs. Time will tell if this is a partial or full moult, but I hope the girls will be back to their full glossy rusty plumage very soon. Still wearing many layers of clothing myself I long for warmer Spring weather so I can cast off a few woolly items and pack them away until next winter.
Natural moults can occur any time of the year if birds are subjected to stress. A bird becomes stressed when the environment or management presents a challenge to which the bird cannot respond without suffering a harmful effect. If a hen is subjected to a mild stress condition in late spring when in full production, she will suffer a drop in egg production; whereas, if a hen is subjected to the same stress condition in autumn, it will cease laying and moult. Common stress factors that can induce moulting include disease, temperature extremes, poor nutrition, predators and poor management. Or as experience has taught me – hot weather, cold weather, rain, change of food, days of the week ending in “day” (that’s a wee joke), will put a hen off her job of laying!
Interestingly, cockerels also moult and, while in this condition, are nearly always infertile because they have lost weight and their reproductive physiology is in a resting phase. Hopefully the same thing can’t be said about balding men 😉

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It’s been really dry here so the girls have been out and about the garden and have discovered my Spring bulbs which they enjoy eating. As the pots of bulbs are near to the house they have grown very brave and bold coming up to the back door, despite two frantic barking dogs going mad on the other side of the door.

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Poor Mr Buttons is having a moult of his own due to a skin condition on his back, it’s not very pretty at all. Where his waggy tail rubs across his back all his fur has rubbed off.
Finally, I discovered during my research for this blog topic, that scientists have bred a featherless chicken. I think this may be one of the cruellest things I have ever seen.

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