So, a couple months back I thought Sassy went “broody”, and I still think she may have initially been, because there were a few days where we’d go to collect eggs and I’d find a whole clutch in her nest box in just 24 hours after having last collected eggs from it. When chickens are being broody they will lay more in a shorter amount of time.
Because we didn’t end up sticking her in a crate for a few days to try to snap her out of the brooding cycle, nature would take its course in 3-5 weeks and she should be done with it.
Well, that time came and went and she was still hiding in the next box all the time, hardly coming out, being picked on more by the other girls for being so weird and putting herself on the bottom of the pecking order.
We thought maybe she had mites, but we kept inspecting her and not seeing obvious signs of them and no other chicken seemed affected.
Then it became obvious that they were molting, over a period of a week or two each chicken took turns looking a bit more disheveled. But Sassy, she had it the worst. Apparently when Chickens molt it can be a very itchy and uncomfortable process as the old feathers pop out and new ones slowly fill in. They go through their first major molting as adults after their first full year of laying, which this happened to be. So now we think Sassy’s drawn out weird and isolated behavior had a lot to do with being itchy and uncomfortable and possibly even confused about what was going on with her body.
It also zaps a lot of protein and nutrients from them to regenerate all of those feathers. And Sassy was the only one who didn’t do a gradual molt, more like *poof* and all the sudden a bunch of feathers popped out at once. She was so skinny looking a few days due to lack of feather coverage. For a few days she also looked really silly because she had 0 sign of a tail and just a little rounded bum, resembling a partridge by looks.
Interestingly, as her feathers have come back in she is now more snowy white than she was before.
Good news is, now that all of her feathers are fully back in, and the temps outside have dropped enough to surely snap her out of any possible remaining broodiness, she is back to her old Sassy self again.
She is the rebel chicken, she doesn’t care about pecking order, which confuses the other chickens it seems. She just does her own thing when and how she wants. Pushes her way around to get food and treats, blazes her own trail when out free ranging. It’s good to see her back to normal.
In other news, when we let them out the other evening to briefly free range, one of the Reds, Henrietta, caught a shrew! Not a pretty site to see a chicken kill a rodent, considering the only method they have to do so is to smack it around until it stops moving. I’m very thankful none of the other hens were around her when she got it or it would not have been a pretty sight with them all fighting over the trophy. James and I both made attempts to get closer to her to inspect the situation and possibly get it away from her, but she would just pick it up and walk away with it, always staying out of arms reach. She carried it into the woods up the hill toward the coop as it was getting dark out. I’m still not sure if she ever managed to finally pierce through the skin and eat the thing or if she gave up and went to roost for the night. James went up an hour later to close them in for the night and all hens were accounted for in the coop and there’s was no shrew to be seen.