My Christmas Present

This morning there was a light brown egg in the nesting box in the Big Barn.



Amber, the Buff Orpington, began her molt late in the summer. It took her weeks to shed her old feathers and grow new ones, and then a few more weeks to replenish her nutrients. Although the optimal light for laying is a 14-hour day, we’ve just passed the darkest stretch of the year, the coop has big windows, the hens are outside early each morning, and so there is enough sun to reach their pineal glands, which tell the hens to lay. It’s also been a remarkably mild winter (so far.)

Buff Orpington


That all adds up to this.

egg basket


Twiggy, that astounding hen, has yet to stop laying. This is my first White Leghorn, so I’ve no idea when she’ll stop and molt. Twiggy is on track to lay 300+ eggs this year. Which only gives her two months of down time. When will they be? In February when the other hens resume laying? We’ll have to wait and see.


In the meanwhile, thank you, Amber, for that lovely Christmas present.


  1. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Terry!
    My 4.5 year old Silkie hen laid a Christmas present for us first thing this morning too. :-) In spite of the short days and miserable weather.
    We may get another egg from my 4 year old Harco (AKA Black Star) as well, or from our Barnevlder_Wyandotte pullet, but they both laid an egg yesterday already, so we’re not expecting more.

  2. We also got a Christmas egg yesterday. It was a wonderful surprise. I also have a chicken who is 3 years old and has never molted. She’s a red sex link and rarely misses a day of laying. Unfortunately her shells are weak and there’s a big mess in the nesting box instead of a usable egg. Perhaps if she had a good molt and some down time her shells would improve. Poor thing – all the other girls have pretty new feathers and she looks all scruffy!

  3. No eggs for us so far this week. The two orpingtons shut down in October to molt, started up again in early December, and quit for the rainy weather in spite of our slightly longer days. the barred rocks are still dropping feathers but not eggs!
    Does when they hatch have any influence on when they molt?

    • Good question, Jane. Anecdotally, I think that the answer is yes. A hen is preprogrammed to lay at about 16 months, which should, if she hatched in the spring, coincide with her second fall. But now that chicks are hatched year round, the 16 month mark doesn’t also coincide with the beginning of winter and the change in daylight. I’ve heard of some difficult molts at other times of the year.

  4. My chicks were hatched in May of 2011. I wondered if getting my next ones in a different month would allow some of them to keep laying in late fall and winter.
    On another note, my little Reba, the barred rock who grew more slowly than the others, seeming to have been quite stunted as a chick, is now having her first real molt. She is fine otherwise, although small, and does lay, although not since October this year. Wn the others molted in the past she just lost a very few feathers and was beginning to look pretty dirty in comparison. Now she is growing shiny new bright feathers – finally!

    • In the early 1900s, chicken farmers did hatch out fall chicks in order to get more winter eggs. The downside was the increased feed cost, and the chicks needed so stay inside longer for warmth. In Hawaii, maybe there’s no downside?

      • No downside that I can think of, other than the perils of winter travel. Many of our chicks still come from places with real winter temperatures.

  5. Regarding Twiggy (my favorite to watch) I thought I had noticed she had replaced some of her tail feathers possibly? They don’t look as ragged on the edges as they use to be. But its hard to catch her up close on cam to really see. Maybe she will just have a very light molt her first year? Then followed by a serious molt next fall. My uncle who had nothing but leghorns, when they molted some of them just looked awful and with some wasn’t too bad. Leghorns really are a fascinating breed.

  6. Wow. I can’t believe Twiggy is still going. Tell that girl to take a breather lol. I also had my first egg yesterday. I am going into my third season so curious how production will be . Will it be notably slower than last year? Off topic do you have any experience with the Herb wintergreen around chickens. It has berries. I have a rather large herb garden that was here before the chickens. I keep adding new things each year, researching them first. I can’t find anything listed about this herb and any indication if it’s harmful to them. Thanks Terry.

    • The first year the hens don’t molt, so that’s always the best year. Every year thereafter most hens will lay about 20% less than the previous year. As far as poisonous plants – if there’s a wide variety they tend to avoid the worst stuff, I’ve never heard of chickens being poisoned by wintergreen, I think they’d have to eat a lot, but I’m sure the red berries will be interesting to them. They’ll be fine if they don’t gorge.

      • Thanks Terry. In my seed catalog it says berries edible for humans but I thought I better check. And yes very large variety in my herb garden. I had a few things I pulled the year I got them. Better safe than sorry.

      • They do love my blueberries lol. I have to net them. But I leave 1 bush open for them lol

  7. Hi Terry, I have a Barred Rock hen 18 months old that recently started losing feathers just around her facial area, under her beak (chin) and over her eyes (eyebrows). These areas are bald right now. It looks funny. The rest of her body is fully feathered and she lays daily. I noticed that your Twiggy is missing feathers over her eyes (eyebrows) as well. Can they molt around the facial area only?

    • That’s not where the molt usually starts – which is the back. The feather loss can be due to pecking by other hens. But, there’s always exceptions!

  8. I have a white silkie who when she molts, it starts at her face and moves down from there… the first time I saw this I thought the other larger hens were pulling feathers,

  9. Her back and body are beautifully feathered but I was thinking the same thing, perhaps the others were pecking at her face but she is the top hen in the flock. Then I thought maybe a parasite or something caused it being only around the facial area but I don’t see anything. Probably just a weird molt. I can see sparse pin feathers coming in but I guess time will tell. She looks like a buzzard…lol! Thanks!

  10. I have a hen that started at her head and she thinks she is the boss so no one pulled hers out. She got rather rough looking but now her head feathers are coming in and her tail feathers are getting better. Its funny her new head feathers are coming in darker.