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!