I read once in a chicken care book written by some unreconstructed male that hens, like all the ladies, make a point of getting a new coat for the winter - and that's certainly what my six have been doing over the last month or more. The two old girls got theirs sorted early on, but the teenagers have left it to the last minute, and must be finding the nights pretty nippy with all that bare skin. On the other hand, at least they shouldn't be bothered by the mozzies now.
I don't think I've ever had hens that have done the job so thoroughly as these ones - they look oven-ready, they've lost so many feathers, and the new ones are poking through in a very uncomfortable-looking manner. They're rather bothered by the loss of their flight feathers, too, and swear like troopers when they find they have to run the long way around when I appear at the top gate, instead of flapping up the short-cut over the compost bin.
One of them, the cool, organised one, has got her new outfit finished already, and looks absolutely splendid when the low sun catches her feathers and brings out the beautiful coloration. The Barnevelders may not match up to the Brown Shavers when it comes to egg production, but for looks they knock them into a cocked hat.
Mind you, when they're moulting, none of them lay any eggs at all, so I had to buy some the other day at the supermarket. I should have waited to get them at Matakana, where I'm sure 'free range' means exactly that - not like the huge flocks of birds I saw from the train in Cambridgeshire which were, granted, ranging freely, but in big barren fields with not a skerrick of green to be seen, poor things. There's nothing a chicken likes better than a variety of fresh greenery to peck at - except for meat, in which case it's velociraptors all over again.