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Mystery of the Missing Feathers

australorp chicken in winter This is our chic Australorp hen, creatively named Austra. I like to call her the queen of the chickens and generally regard her as a bit more intelligent than the rest of the flock. She is the definitely the most responsive to our family's actions, coming and clucking gently when we call her.

chicken with missing tail feathersbackyard chicken with missing feathers

I was naturally concerned when I noticed the tips of feathers missing on her right wing a few weeks ago. They were not removed down to the skin. It looked almost as though something took a bite out of the feathers.

Yesterday I saw that a whole half of her tail feathers were gone. Ack! I panicked a bit until I considered the shape - vaguely circular. A little like the shape of the ceramic heat bulb we turn on in their coop at night when it is very cold.

heat lamp in chicken coop feather stuck to heat bulb

Inspecting the bulb revealed feathers burnt and stuck to it. Mystery solved. Apparently our 'smartest' chicken cuddled so close to the heat source that it singed off her feather tips. Thankfully she seems to be surviving the cold without them. We are moving the lamp so the bird-brained chickens can't de-feather themselves anymore.

PS. Notice the shadows in the picture? Today is our one alloted day of sunshine per fortnight in the Ohio winter! I'm soaking it in; I don't even care that my pictures look goofy because of the direct light!