Home » chickens » fragile feathers

fragile feathers

It’s working! Frances’s dress is doing it’s job to protect her back and her feathers are growing back in!


I did my homework, and learned that young chickens are in a constant state of molt until they reach adulthood, so their feathers will start growing back immediately when they get pulled out, and should be fully grown in a few weeks (if they don’t keep getting pulled!) Adult chickens whose feathers are completely pulled out will also start growing in immediately, but if they are merely broken off, they won’t grow back until their next molt.


But I’ve learned that I can’t leave the chicks together unattended and confined when Frances’s dress is off (even for a few minutes!), or Alberta will start pulling at them again. Here she is enjoying a bit of freedom from it… during our daily free-ranging time:


I’ve also found some tricks to keep them occupied during the day they have to spend in their cage in the laundry room. I pick fresh grass and put it in clumps on the top of their cage, as well as scattering it in the straw, and I also throw in some meal worms for them to find. But the very best trick is a hanging bird feeder with a bell on it. I put in 1/4 fresh corn on the cob, and they go nuts pecking at it. With the swinging challenge, it can take them a couple of hours to peck it clean. And… I’ve been playing music for them. I noticed that they love it when we sing or hum to them, and they are very interested in all the sounds outside, so I thought I would try music during the day in the laundry room. I know, I know… I am such a softy. But they love it! I can tell which they prefer, because they calm down and start purring. I started with Mozart, and they like the serenades, but the more active movements make them a little crazy. They also like instrumental piano music, boys choirs, and mellow female vocals like the Wailing Jennies. So crazy that I’m talking about this! But my son reminded me that chickens are very smart, even smarter than dogs, so it’s no wonder they get bored so easily. I can especially tell they are smart because Frances now knows her blue-kote medicine bottle by sight. She is not a fan of it, I imagine it stings since it is an antiseptic. As soon as I dip a Q-tip in it to apply some, she grabs the Q-tip out of my hand and tosses it across the room. So naughty! And messy! But very clever.

Gloria seems to be liking Frances and Alberta more and more, and they are getting braver running around the yard with her, but they are definitely not peers yet, and Gloria chases them quite a bit still (no pecking, she just scatters them or herds them).


They don’t like this game, and will quickly seek shelter behind me, or jump in my lap if I’m sitting down… help us Mama!


And we’ve started clearing an area for our new coop. The kids had a great time digging up an old brick border, and then creating a sort of ruins out of it.


They also found some old chalk and drew a made up language on the fence, so our yard now looks like an an alternate civilization.


We still need to figure out what to do with that bush. It’s kind of pretty, actually, but I don’t know what kind it is, or if it can be transplanted. Anyone know? Here’s a close up of the leaves:


I started digging around it to see how deep the roots were, and I found all of these little bulbs. (At least I think they are bulbs) The chicks really wanted to eat them, but I don’t know if they are poisonous. (see what a terrible gardener I am!)


I think they may actually be from these little white flowers that come up in the spring and smell like onions. If so, I want to keep them, so I’ll need to move these somewhere else as well. Next up… staking out and starting a foundation for the coop! These girls can’t wait!



4 thoughts on “fragile feathers

    • Thanks! I agree that no violence is is quite acceptable, and Gloria does seem less lonely. She gets excited when I bring the babies out, and squawks sadly (I think) when they leave again. I have hope that they’ll become good friends when they are closer to the same size. 🙂

  1. Do you still need to apply blue-kote? Poor Frances 😦

    I don’t know what research convinced you adult chickens grow back lost feathers immediately but I can confirm that at least one chicken is the exception that proves that rule. Look at the first photo in this post http://laurarittenhouse.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/all-dressed-up-and-nowhere-to-go/ Henny looked like that for months – literally. 4 or 5 months she had no feathers and not even little beginnings of feathers. They weren’t broken, just gone. (Are you going to tell me there were bits of feather under the skin? I’m sceptical.) Then in autumn she (May) she got a few that would vanish over night. Whether she or Penny were pulling them out is anyone’s guess but it was a worry. Then, in a mad rush, in late May, feathers came in faster than the girls could pull them out and now I have one beautiful, fluffy chicken again.

    If those bulbs are onion grass/weed, they’ll smell like onions (and I’ve read are edible like shallots, never tried them, not sure if all varieties are). Whatever they are, they probably have flowers so might be worth replanting anyway.

    No idea about the bush but it is lovely. Why can’t it stay in the girls run? It will give them something nice to scratch and hid under. Or do I misunderstand?

    Love the otherworldly civilisation. It’s great to see kids being creative without using a computer (I’m sure there’s a program to develop ruins and lost languages if you look 🙂

    • I only apply a little blu-kote if she gets a fresh plucked feather that shows some blood, both to ward off infection, and to hide it from alberta.

      My source on feather growing could be wrong… but I’m glad Henny’s feathers grew back eventually regardless!

      That bush is right where we want the coop part to be, and it’s too tall to fit underneath (and would take up the whole space). Also, I want to dig down about a foot under the whole area to lay hardware cloth, then wrap it up around the paving stones I plan to use as a base, then layer dirt over the top to create a deep litter bed. I like the idea of using sand instead, but I’m afraid the neighborhood cats would use it for a litterbox, like my kids’ sand box.

      Amen on the kids being creative without computers! My son was just saying a few minutes before this endeavor that he was bored (already used his allotted screen time for the day) and I reminded him that being bored is a good thing… helps your brain generate creativity… and this was the result! Of course, he also plays Minecraft when he does get screen time… and I must admit builds some very creative stuff there too. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s