Fall is coming.
I would be ecstatic about this if it were not for the thing that signaled it to us. Our chickens are molting.
This means we will be finding far fewer of those lovely eggs they leave for us. If you’ve never tasted an egg from your backyard, this will probably be an odd thing to process, but once you’ve had one, you never want to go back. Through spring and summer we eat A LOT of eggs, and so do our dogs. We hadn’t really understood, even with math, just how many eggs four chickens would produce. (Honestly, we’re kind of glad our fifth turned out to be rooster. We rehomed him, out of respect for our neighbors, and a bit for our own sanity.)
But one of the first signs of fall is a sudden explosion of loose feathers in the coop, and fewer eggs. Instead of consistent four egg days, we start seeing one, maybe two. The dogs feel this first. When we have to start husbanding the eggs, I get less lazy about giving the dogs their herbs. Instead of getting scrambled egg concoctions as part of their daily intake, they start getting infusions or dry herbs. They prefer this to (OH THE HORROR) just dog food, but…. I still get mournful looks during this season if I make eggs and it isn’t for them.
Granted, I can’t blame our chickens for falling off in egg production. The first stage of molting is feather loss. Envision sudden balding, in patches, and potential sunburn, among other things. Additionally, all of your flock sisters are suddenly in bad moods, and will try to ‘help’ your feathers come loose. I am certain that some of the interflock fighting that happens when molting begins is ‘helpful,’ but I am equally sure that some of it is just chicken surliness.
The second stage is worst. I am ever amazed that they manage to bother to lay at all. When a chicken’s feathers start to come back in, it is sort of like a porcupine quill coming out from the inside. It looks pretty obnoxious and painful, and given their reactions, I’m guessing that the way it looks is pretty accurate.
However, despite our small flock’s discomfort, this sign of fall makes me giddy. Even in New Mexico we get a brief spell of livable temperatures in between summer (Too Hot to Live) and winter (Could we get some snow to go with the cold, please?) – and it has always been my favorite time of year.
Fall is the Twilight of the seasons. A gloaming in between two extremes. It is the first breath of cocoa weather. Nights where you know that soon you will be able to curl up with a dog and a blanket and a book in front of a fire and drink your ever-so-happy-making cocoa (or tea) and relax.
We aren’t there yet, but the fact that it is coming gives me a breath of calm and happy anticipation.