Sunday, December 23, 2007

On the Moult

So a few weeks ago when it was just starting to get cold, Gertie started to lose her feathers. At first I was really worried about her but she seemed to be eating okay so I figured we would just give her time and see how it went.

Then Meg started to loser her feathers too. It looked like there was a chicken fight (ha!) going on in the coop with all of the feathers all over the place. Since both of the girls went through it and they also stopped laying eggs, both of which coincided with the winter coming on, I figured they were just getting their warmer "coats" like other animals.

Well, I guess I was right. It also goes to show how clueless I am as this process has a name - moulting.

I should have just gone online to look it up, but I don't think I would have even know what to look for. But there are several good sources.

This process takes a lot of energy and that is why they take a break from laying eggs. We thought they were just shutting down for the winter. But luckily they have started back up with the egg production. To the point that they are actually laying more than before.

We've started to add crushed oyster shells to their egg mash, so maybe that is helping too. And we did end up putting in a heat lamp on a timer for the coop. It's been pretty cold, so they really needed it, in spite of all of the hay and the shutters on the windows.

If you ever doubted that birds are descended from dinosaurs, a moulting, almost feather-less chicken will quickly change your mind!

Yesterday we got 3 eggs and today we got 3. We're back up to a half dozen in stock. It was crummy weather today but finally got sunny later in the afternoon so I let the gang out to get out into the yard and out of the mud, eat some fresh greens and play in the leaf pile.

We're back on track!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Chicks dig Beauty

So, according to Oddee.com (which has compiled the 10 Most Bizarre Scientific Papers - a dubious list, I'm sure), chickens prefer beautiful humans.

The paper, by S. Ghirlanda, L. Jansson, M. Enquist; Stockholm University; 2002, says, "The animals showed preferences for faces consistent with human sexual preferences"

The way the authors at the Stockholm University explain it: "We trained chickens to react to an average human female face but not to an average male face (or vice-versa). In a subsequent test, the animals showed preferences for faces consistent with human sexual preferences (obtained from university students). This suggests that human preferences arise from general properties of nervous systems, rather than from face-specific adaptations. We discuss this result in the light of current debate on the meaning of sexual signals, and suggest further tests of existing hypotheses about the origin of sexual preferences."

I knew my Napoleon had good taste!

Maybe I'm not such a "chicken whisperer", maybe he's in luuuuuuvvvvvvv!