Some of you know our chickens had an Unfortunate Molt a few weeks ago. Someone asked whether that meant they lose all their feathers. Well, yes and no.
Moulting occurs about once a year for most hens, usually in the fall (which seems odd, since it can be chilly by then). How much feather loss occurs varies – more by breed than by individual in my observation (though I am prepared to be wrong about that), and progresses over weeks to months.
Baracka notably loses a chunk of feathers on the back of her neck. Greta is usually a shaggy mess of random loss. In others you notice the lack of the large primary tail or flight feathers.
This is the first year that Blanca is moulting (Calamity Jane as well). And she is the closest thing to naked chicken I have yet to see. Her back is a shaggy mess, she lost all the feathers down the midline of her chest, and everything from the belly down.
Her naked flesh, now regrowing pin feathers, helps me realize – as little else has – that this is the animal we buy from the grocer – dead, cold, plucked, and cleaned – for eating. Because we have not yet slaughtered any of our hens for eating, it can be easy to forget the connection.