Who’s Laying, Who’s Not

It’s molting season. Feathers are falling out and piling up in corners – the activity inside the barn mirrors what’s going on outside as multi-hued leaves are blowing off of the trees. Stepping into the Big Barn is like walking in on the scene of a pillow fight. Replenishing feathers takes energy and resources and so the hens stop producing eggs while they go through the molt. This break from laying will take up to three months. All hens that are over a year old molt, and they do it every year as the seasons turns towards winter. And yet, some of the Gems have not yet joined the party. Opal, the Delaware, looks as stolid as ever. She continues to lay a big brown egg every other day, which is surprising as Delawares were developed as a meat breed not so long ago in the 1940s. Amber, my perfect Buff Orpington, who never, ever goes broody, continues to be the golden girl, and lays her eggs almost daily. If you look at them, you’d never know that winter is on its way.




Most remarkable is Edwina, the ancient hen, who shows no sign of molting. Even her comb is upright and red like a young hen’s. I wish I knew her anti-aging secret.




Other hens in the flock are molting. Some, like Jasper, more dramatically than others.



Meanwhile, the LIterary Ladies are not yet a year old. Pullets are too young to molt. Despite the chilly nights and the earlier sunset, they continue to lay. Veronica, the Cuckoo Marans, who matured weeks later than her sisters, is now leaving an egg in the nesting box!




Her egg is not (yet) the dark chocolate color that this breed is known for, but it is darker than Nancy Drew’s light brown egg.



I’m getting four eggs a day from the six Ladies, which is a good number from the breeds that I have. They should keep laying through the winter, not at maximum production, but enough to keep my kitchen stocked. Meanwhile, in a few weeks, when all of the old hens have shed their tens of thousands of feathers (each hen has about 8,000 to lose and regrow), I’ll shovel out all of the bedding and detritus, sweep up the dust, and put down a new layer of pine shavings. But that’s for another day. There’s still lush clover on the lawn. The goats have been eying the grass that is greener on the other side of the fence. I’m going to take them for an outing.


  1. This is the first year that I experience a true molt. My white rock hen ( I have two but only one is molting ) looks so silly. I have been giving them some extra protein with BOSS every other morning. Do you do anything else to help them through the molt? She seems perfectly happy. We don’t talk about how funny she looks in front of her ;) Hehe.
    I, like you, am waiting until all the feathers drop before I bother replacing the bedding for the winter months.

    • A little extra protein helps, but too much is harmful. So, sunflower seeds in moderation are fine. Not handfuls! And toss them where the hens have to work to find them, not in a pile. The hens are fine – even mostly naked! A secure shelter where they can get out of wind will make them comfortable.

  2. I love Fall..my favorite season, but I absolutely hate “The Molt”!!!! I am trying to stay on top of the massive feather piles. I have been raking out the bigger, fluffier piles so at least the coops look halfway decent. It is a losing battle for sure!

  3. Terry, Edwina’s anti-aging secret is your wonderful, expert care!

  4. I’m trying to figure out where Phoebe sleeps at night. Did you remove her hutch or is that it on the left side of the screen? Or maybe she’s taken to sleeping inside with the chickens?

    • Early on Phoebe made it very clear that she had no interest in sleeping in her own hutch. She made a cozy home under the nesting boxes and that’s where she sleeps. There’s a pile of hay and the purple dirt bath in front of her bed, so it’s not easy to see her on the cam.

  5. It’s my girls first proper moult too and I amazed at how many feathers there are. It’s lovely to see new ones coming in thought and apart from looking a bit tatty there are no bare patches (apart from small patches on the bottom). Can’t wait to have them fully feathered again.