My millefleur girls are very special to me. They're special because they were the ladies which introduced me to the realities of hen keeping. I spent many weeks researching chickens, and the best way in which to keep them. Once Mabel and Maude arrived, I had to put all of my theoretical knowledge to the test. Every time one of them sneezed, I panicked and thought: myco. Every time one or other of them snaffled a stray knicker feather, I thought: calcium deficiency. Now, experience has taught me that a hen that sneezes might be doing so because she stuck her beak in something unsavoury, and that feather snaffling is sometimes done just because they don't yet know the difference between each other and food. Me and my mille's have been on a journey together, that thankfully they have survived.
Both girls are currently going through their moult. Typically, they spend the first half of said moult feeling rather rubbish. As the old plumage falls out and the new quills push through their skin, they are obviously in some discomfort. I always ensure that the flock is given supplements during moulting season. It takes considerable energy to grow new feathers, and this is a prime time for illnesses. Luckily, my mighty mille's have survived this first stage with nary a sniffle. They are now in to the emerging pattern phase.
The picture at the top of my blog is of Mabel when she was in her first year. Post moult, she became a lot whiter and more matronly looking. So I am watching her with interest as the new feathers begin to emerge. She is much happier in herself, and has decided to randomly thunder up the garden towards the new chicks, causing them to scatter in amusing ways. Once satisfied with their terror, she boks happily to herself. I can already see that her markings are going to be even whiter than last year. Do hens lose feather pigment as they age, I wonder? Will Mabel eventually be as white as Hilda and demand a blue rinse?
Maude is spending oodles of time dustbathing. I wonder if the new feather growth is itchy, and this is her way of scratching. Maude emerged from her moult last year stunningly beautiful. I very much hope that we have a similair effect this year.
The other girls will moult in turn, but it's not nearly as exciting as seeing what the mille's will do. A single colour hen will moult and grow back single colour feathers. A patterned hen, though, could surprise you. Not with corporate advertising on their backside, granted, but still. There are possibilities.
They should be displaying their latest creations within a fortnight.