I hate when our chickens molt. Why nature insists on this cockamamie ritual once
a year is beyond me. It’s a real killjoy around the water cooler when members
of other One-Block teams compare the bounty of their projects and we on Team
Chicken stand empty-handed. You see, I possess an unreasonable tendency to
competitiveness, and to hear how productive the other teams are makes me
Team Bee? Oh yeah?! Well… flying bugs don’t have an ‘off-season’, they just keep making
more bees when the old ones retire or get lost searching for nectar—that’s kind
of cheating. Team Cheese? Spotlights are on them as they begin testing batches
of all kinds of cheeses. They’re out in the test kitchen now practicing with
all their fancy-schmancy equipment. Show-offs. Team Mushroom? The new kids on
the block who got lucky with their first crop. Besides, you’re growing fungus!
Hel-looo! My shower wall does the same thing without me having to do anything
at all. And as far as Team Escargot is concerned, all I can say is things are
moving pretty slow over in their camp.
Fall used to be my favorite time of year. The harvest is in full swing and here in
the West our weather is distinctly better than anywhere else in the country:
warm and dry. Dinner can be a hot bowl of soup or chili. I can watch football and
baseball at the same time. But ever since we got our chickens it’s now the
season of my discontent. The chickens molt. They stop producing eggs. They
become antisocial. Basically the Oakland Raiders of our One-Block Diet league.
At any other time of the year, our birds are exquisite looking. But during the
molting season, they’re just freakish. Carmelita, who’s feathers normally are a
dazzling display of burnt red tinged with metallic greens and blacks now looks
like someone had been preparing her for a stew, but stopped to answer the phone.
And Ruby—who has always been the avian equivalent of that Catholic schoolgirl
played by Molly Shannon—looks like she could use a tiny
parka. Her neck is full of empty feather pockets that make her look more like a
lizard than a hen; not something I want to take questions on at the office
The worst is poor Ophelia. She’s our Ameraucana with the inflated crop. I went out
to visit with them the other day and caught a peculiar sight: Ophelia’s molted
crop. It looks like the bird has a boob. I’m not kidding. One right in the
middle of her chest. And it’s not small either. It’s still covered in feathers
but the sides around it aren’t—or at least there are less of them—so it looks
This causes me great stress. The way to treat an impacted crop is you have to
massage it. I don’t think I’m comfortable with that right now. Imagine an
impressionable coworker stumbling in on that scene. It would be even worse if they
didn’t stick around for an explanation, slowly backing away as if they didn’t
want to interrupt a bit of bird debauchery. The damage it could cause our
inner-office relationship would be irreconcilable.
And to make matters worse, the coop looks like the scene of a recent pillow fight.
The floor is covered with feathers. It seems I’m out there every other day
picking up enough plumage to Frankenstein together a completely new chicken.
All of this and not an egg to speak of for weeks. In the office, we employ an egg
sign-up sheet as a way to gift fellow coworkers half a dozen eggs whenever we
fill a carton. Right now tacked over the sheet is a sign that reads “No eggs.
Lazy chickens. Stay tuned…”
Oh the humility of it all.
By Jim McCann, Sunset Art Director