Bare bottoms and ruffled feathers

It is, as Winnie the Pooh would say, a very blustery day. In years gone by, this would not have been too much of an issue for me – I would have settled down with my editing, putting not so much as my nose out of the door. But not so now – keeping livestock means that you have to consider their needs before your own and you must venture outdoors whatever the weather. In my case, it’s only ensuring the welfare of four chickens, which doesn’t take long, but it does make me appreciate the dedication of all those farmers who care for their animals in all conditions 365 days of the year.

So, out I went in my pjs, wellies and raincoat first thing this morning to let the hens out, check their water and feed and give them a handful or two of corn. Out they pop, whatever the weather, and start to scratch around. They seem to prefer to drink from a puddle rather than their water bowl when it’s wet – I guess the mud gives it flavour!

The wind ruffles their feathers and they get soggy in the rain, but most chickens are waterproof and well-insulated and they have a dry house with perches and nest boxes, so they don’t have to be exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, however, naked chickens are not so protected from the elements and so we need to keep an eye on poor Tiffany.

A week ago she looked like this:

Bye-bye feathers

Bye-bye feathers

Just a couple of days ago, she looked like this:

A bad-hair day, chicken-style

A bad-hair day, chicken-style

And now, she’s getting lots of feathers on her back, but her rear-end is rather exposed:

I think she might need some big pants if those feathers don't grown back soon

I think she might need some big pants if those feathers don’t grown back soon

Hopefully, it won’t be too long before she returns to her warm and feathery glory like Anna in the background here:

Back: Anna, post-moult; Front: a very tatty Tiffanny

Back: Anna, post-moult; Front: a very tatty Tiffany

Chickens with full plumage, like Esme below, may get ruffled, but are simply not bothered by a day like today:

A fully-feathered bottom weathering a very blustery day

A fully-feathered bottom weathering a very blustery day

So, here’s to all those dedicated people who are out in the fields and on the hills caring for their cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry whatever the weather.

Esme lays an egg

Two small eggs from Esme and two large ones from Aliss

Two small eggs from Esme and two large ones from Aliss

If you have been reading this blog for more than a couple of months, you may remember me describing Esme’s big moult back in the autumn and the effort that she was putting into growing new feathers. That was back near the beginning of November and since then she has not laid a single egg – rare for Esme as she has been one of our most reliable layers. However, I’m pleased to say that egg production has resumed – she laid her first on Saturday and another this morning. Perhaps spring is in the air!

Clockwise from top left: Lorna, Aliss, Esme, Perdy

Clockwise from top left: Lorna, Aliss, Esme, Perdy

Esme is four years old and we did wonder whether she would lay again, but over the past month she has plumped up and is looking very healthy, so it’s good to know that she is making a contribution again. Sadly, Perdy (only two years old) is not bothering, but is looking very healthy now, so hopefully we’ll have some eggs from her soon too. Lorna, on the other hand is our slug-hunter extraordinaire, but hasn’t laid an egg since last June (and then there was only one in the whole month).

So, if your hens stop laying, don’t despair, it’s not necessarily the end of production.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: