Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Hard Working Hens

Saturday, August 04, 2012

I know I've mentioned in an earlier post that my hens are molting right now and that's resulted in a pretty big decrease in egg production.  Of course, even half naked, the 100+ degree weather doesn't help their laying either.  Poor girls!  We're on our way back up, though:  normal is 8 to 9 eggs a day and, while we were down to 2 to 3, we're now getting 5 or 6.

Just in case someone is reading that isn't familiar with what molting is:  it's the process by which birds shed their feathers and grow in new ones.  This helps them repair feathers that might be broken or otherwise worn out.  The problem is that it takes alot of energy and alot of protein and calcium to grow those feathers.

Turn that light out!

(Sorry for the blurry picture.  I took this late and the girls weren't happy that I interrupted their getting ready for bed.  They weren't exactly thrilled about sitting still for a picture.  Kermit, the Austrolorp on the left, was making sure I knew she wasn't happy about the late night photo session.)

I've been supplementing my hens with ground up egg shell and trying to make sure they have lots of protein to help with the process. The protein is usually in the form of scrambled eggs, dried mealworm treats or sunflower seeds. 

This is their first molt and it's been fascinating to watch them go through it.  The feather loss started on their bottoms, then spread to their backs.  Pretty much all my hens have bare backs right now but they're starting to grow their feathers back in.

If you're not going to be polite enough to leave, then I'm turning my back on you!

Looks odd, doesn't it?  The quills start poking through the skin, then you start to see little tufts of feathers.  At this stage, she almost looks like a porcupine, doesn't she?

The one problem I continue to have is with feather picking and, for some of the more hen-pecked hens, it's resulting in a permanent molt.  As soon as they start to grow feathers, someone plucks them and eats them. I've tried all the gimmicks and nothing has worked.  The Barred Rocks are very bad about it, and Cruella is the worst.   She's the lead hen, so I'm sure that has something to do with it.  Even putting her in chicken jail didn't phase her in the least. 

So my next step is to explore using pinless peepers on the worst offenders to see if that fixes the problem.  These are plastic blinders with tabs that clip into the bird's nostrils - they're painless, but they block the hen from seeing in front of her (and seeing where to pluck the feathers!)  None of the local farm and feed stores have them, but I found someone selling a package of 5 for just $2.00 on Ebay and they're on their way to me.  That probably means some funny chicken pics are coming your way soon.

If you have any experience with pinless peepers, I'd love to talk to you about it.  Leave me a comment!

I'm linked up to this weeks's Country Garden Showcase, Tuesday Garden PartyMorrisTribe Homesteading Blog Carnival and Rural Thursday..


  1. I should record video of you clipping them into the hens' nostrils. I'm sure that would be an absolutely priceless addition to the blog...

  2. I've never had a problem with my chickens plucking each other. They argue a bit over choice roosting spots or produce tossed into their pasture...but no feather picking. I'll be very interested in seeing your photos and hearing about how this works!

    A couple of my hens are starting to molt, but from the neck down. As soon as I get a cool enough day, they will be culled from the flock to make room for the new chicks I just got. With the cost of feed going up, I decided not to feed them through the molt. But this is not the right solution for everyone. When you only have a few hens and you've named them, it's a lot harder to butcher them.

    Good luck with the molt and the feather picking!

  3. Cranky Puppy our girls aren't laying at optimal levels even with the cooling temps. I had one moult over the summer but just a partial moult......great posting! I was so excited to feature your blog at "The Ole' Saturday Homesteading Trading Post" this week and thanks for linking up!

  4. One of our chickens is always half naked! Maybe those little fabric jackets that they make for chickens that is really supposed to protect her feathers from the rooster. They wrap around somehow and just cover the back feathers. Hen saddles.http://backtobasicliving.com/blog/make-a-chicken-saddle/

  5. Oh, they do look so pathetic when they molt.

  6. Great post and awesome pics ~ am so intriqued with farm life and you post great info ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  7. I've always found that pecking feathers either has to do with boredom or hierarchy. Letting them free range seems to control the problem. Good luck with the peepers! :)

  8. I agree with Nancy. I just got 5 new hens from a farm that had them locked up all day and had to access to anything green so they did not have a complete diet. 3 of the 5 don't even have tails from picking on each other. So I would definitely try free-range. All of my current chickens have always been free-range and have never had this problem.
    Good luck!

  9. Oh I always hated seeing the moult and I agree with Nancy and Yolanda I never had a problem when they had something else ot occupy their thoughts. B

  10. I don't blame them for hiding from the camera!

  11. A couple of my hens had trouble growing back new feathers so I isolated them, sprayed them with Blue Kote, and they finally came back in. My rooster wasn't helping either, so that's the reason for the isolation.

  12. My hens have some molting. And I did have three roosters for my 27 hens, now down to 2 roosters. They pull and wear out the feathers on the lowest back and wings of their favorite girls. I am thinking of making some chicken saddles for them. I also had purchased a product that is goopy and taste bad that you brush over the bare areas for where the new feathers are coming in. It did help. Sorry, I can't remember what it is called, but I got it at Big R , which is our local Farms supply. It is in stock and intended for the picking feathers purpose. Never heard of the blinders?


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