There are more feathers on our back plot than there are in a dorm at St Trinian’s after the ‘gels’ have had a pillow fight (probably followed by a midnight feast of contraband tuck).
Bless my jolly hockey sticks, yes, I did read too many Enid Blyton books as a child.
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that a fox broke in, went on the rampage, and left behind a thick carpet of assorted feathers. Except that there are no bodies.
What there are is a whole lot of very puffed up, balding chooks with bare bits showing and very grumpy looks on their faces (if chickens could look grumpy, my flock has the monopoly right now). Hunched, shuffling birds leaving trails of feathers.
My usually sleek, mean, egg-laying machines have the look of wee burst sofas about them. My lovely chooks are gradually getting naked, and it is not a pretty sight.
Yes, lay-dees and gennulmen, it’s time for the annual moult. When temperatures cool and days get shorter – as they are doing now – chickens discard their feathers and grow new ones. And stop laying for a few weeks.
Which, you will know by now if you are a regular reader, is extremely bad news for me as it has a direct effect on farm gate sales (ie. No eggs to sell). Bad enough, but on top of a period when half of the flock have been going broody to Olympic standard (remember the double broodies? Two to a nest box, ramming themselves in: “I’m sitting on these eggs!” “No, I am!”), this is Terminally Bad News for eggs sales. When chooks go broody, they don’t lay, and now all my broodies are starting to moult.
What do they think this is? The 1970s? Is this some kind of avian strike?
If you Google ‘moulting’ and ‘chickens’ you get lots of cheery, comforting advice about how they will get over this in a couple of weeks.
This has never, ever happened to me. Or should I say, this has never happened to my chooks (as I have never moulted, as far as I am aware, although my husband would probably have a different opinion on this, based on the amount of hair he regularly finds swirling about the shower plughole).
When my chooks moult, they take their time, slowly turning from glossy-feathered to naked, oven-ready look. Eek.
They have been known to come back on line a few weeks before Christmas, presumably like 1970s strikers used to, just in time to still collect their Christmas bonuses.
However, should they continue to withhold their labour, with a quick wring of the neck they can become an essential part of the Christmas festivities, which I am sure is not a fate which ever befell a 1970s striker.
And, being practical, if they are still moulting at the time, well, I’ll be looking on the bright side – they’ll be easier for Gamford to pluck.