Araucanas Audrey (above) and Mabel haven’t been looking quite themselves recently. A few weeks ago, I came home on a Saturday afternoon to discover what appeared to be hundreds of their feathers lining the porch tiles. Naturally, my first thoughts were that they’d been attacked – the slim possibility of a neighbour’s dog getting into the garden and taking a shine to the chickens is the main reason I’m often in two minds about leaving these two and the hybrids to free-range. I quickly tracked down the poultry pair who were happily wandering in the garden and was relieved to see they were in tact. Well, more or less. On closer inspection, I discovered both were clearly going through the moult and looking decidedly scrawny. It’s their time of the year, I remembered – the same thing happened at this point last summer, their plumage dropped out rapidly and I couldn’t help wondering whether it was down to the fact I’d given them both a bath, but it was just an unfortunate piece of timing (which meant that washing them had been rendered rather pointless).
Audrey definitely wins first prize for the most dramatic moult. Not only has she out-done little Mabel by a fortnight or so, but she has such beautiful plumage, comprising largely white feathers with the occasional black polka dot, that when this magnificent covering is gone, she looks quite lost and very small indeed. No pantaloons, no luxuriously layered skirts, just a tiny bird. It’s been fascinating watching the feathers come through and I’m happy to report that she’s steadily returning to her former glory. And both she and Mabel have resumed egg production to the relief of us and our small band of customers. Angela from CL’s Finance department will be delighted to find one of Mabel’s pale-green offerings, alongside the various browns and whites laid by our trusty flock of hybrids, in her half-dozen today.