Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Revolt of the Molt

Coachie, the Giant Partridge Cochin, has begun to molt                                 copyright Shobe Biz Communications
My young hen, Coachie, lost her boa. Her brown and amber necklace went missing.

When I first discovered Coachie's feathers were gone, I eyed the rest of the hens with suspicion. Which little aggressive bugger had pecked her feathers out?

Was it Diamond? No, Diamond would never do such a thing. She and Coachie have been best buds from the beginning.

Could it be the pullets?  Probably not. They're a bit young for alpha behavior.

As a chicken detective, I was running out of clues. I decided to take a step back to review the case.

Fact #1:  Coachie's egg production had been slowly diminishing. For seven of the eight months of her life, Coachie had laid an egg every day. During the last two weeks, she "popped" an egg every three days. Bottom line: Coachie's production is down.

Fact #2:  Molting is supposed to happen once a year, especially when daylight and temperature decreases. Well, that wasn't applicable. The days are longer and hotter than ever before. Bottom line: There must be some other clue.

Fact #3:  Molting happens due to hormonal fluctuations. Well, that makes sense. With all the new births around here, there's certainly been a surge of estrogen. And, with the placement of the new chicks in the coop, there's probably been a lot of stress. Bottom line: This could be the reason. . .

(FYI, if a molt begins, it is recommended the chickens be removed from any stress. Remember that guys--if your woman's going through hormonal fluctuations, you might want to remove her stress!)

Fact #4:  According to Molting 101, molting happens in this order: head, neck, body, wings and tail. (For some twisted reason, this order reminds me of the song Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes but that's probably because I've been singing nursery rhymes for a good part of the day.) Coachie's head still sports feathers. And, so does her body, wings, and tail, too. Hmmm...this is becoming a case for Inspector Clouseau not a neophyte chicken lover.

Fact #5:  Temporary feed and water shortages can cause a partial molt. The food is aplenty and the water is ever-flowing. Bottom line: Fact #5 is not a problem.

In the midst of investigating the cause for the molt, a friend called and asked if she could come see my chickens.

"Um," I said, a brilliant reply to a straightforward question. "I don't think so, at least not today."

"How about tomorrow?"

"No. . .," I sighed, "Not tomorrow either."

Silence clouded the phone.

"Can I come see the chickens, some time?" she asked.

"Well, I'm kind of busy. Let me email you when they're good."

Good? My last word lingered like a dragonfly in the air. How was I supposed to tell her that one of my beautiful chickens had turned into an ugly duckling? That Coachie simply wasn't ready for her debut? And, why did it matter to me, I wondered. They're only chickens. They don't need to be perfect.


a nasty word that keeps us going 100 miles per hour on a circular hamster wheel. Is there ever a true ending to perfection? Is there even a tangible definition for this word?

Why was I embarrassed by my chicken? So, what if her raw pink decolletage was showing through. Did it really matter?

Julia Cameron's quote about perfection says it best:
     "Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part   
      that tells us nothing we do will ever be good enough--that we should try again."

That was it. Coachie's early molt made me worried that I had done something wrong--that I hadn't been the perfect Chicken Woman; that my friend would notice my ugly chicken and look askance at me.

Perfectionism is fear-based. It's a negative belief that something better exists than what is.  It's a word of the head, not of the heart. Perfectionism is an ethereal flawlessness.

The Japanese word wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion. Japanese artists often make a small mistake in their work as a gentle reminder that nothing's perfect.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There's a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
             -Leonard Cohen

Nothing is perfect -- even the looks of my once-beautiful chicken.

Upon further research, I discovered that Cochins often go into a mini-molt around seven months. Afterwards, their feathers grow in thicker and their eggs are larger. Molting has its rewards--even though there's incredible ugliness in between.

Looks like I have a call to make. It's time to invite my friend over.

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