Molting… Being and Becoming
As most of my readers know, I have chickens… Let’s rephrase, I have chickens that have become pets...that I love...that sit in my lap while I drink coffee...that greet me when I arrive home...that perch in the door frame bawking at me to let them in… Yeah, so basically I have chickens… aka.. “my ladies”. Three little ladies that have brought a lot of joy into my life. It sounds absolutely absurd just writing that last sentence. I had no idea it was possible either. It has been a fun adventure that all started when my husband and I returned home from our 2 month honeymoon in Southeast Asia. When we returned, I said, “That’s it! I am ready for the venture.” (Please note: When my heart settles on something... good luck asking it to negotiate with a more logical approach.) I lured Josh into the car by telling him I was buying him a really awesome present (this gets him every time). He wanted chickens as well, but he is the more grounded one of our relationship--like, maybe we should have a coop, or a place to keep them, or research on how to raise chickens--not me. We pulled up to the Longrider Feed Supply in Florence, Alabama… The look on his face… “oh no, Ashley? Chickens?” “Yes, sir!” That was that… we have literally been on a steep learning curve since… everyday learning something new about these amazing, intelligent, yet simple creatures. I am not the only one that holds a special place for these creatures in my heart, it's just the other members of my family are not as verbal 😉
Why did we get chickens in the first place?
- - Eggs are one of the cheapest and most nutrient dense foods you can purchase easily
- - Pastured chickens in their natural environment are happy—(happy chickens=healthier eggs)
- - It such an amazing feeling to walk out to the coop and get fresh eggs everyday
- - Pastured eggs have higher amounts of Vitamin A and E, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and Beta Carotene
- - A bonus, they fertilize the yard—this was the first year we had a completely green yard!
- - Just look up images of factory farmed chickens-you may consider supporting local farmers, too.
- Check out Blue Water Creek Farms and Jack-o-lanterns Farms
|Nutrient Content – Factory Farmed Eggs||Nutrient Content - Free Range Eggs|
|Vitamin A - 0.97mg||Vitamin A - 7.37mg|
|Vitamin E - 487IU||Vitamin E - 763IU|
|Beta Carotene - 10mg||Beta Carotene - 76.2mg|
|Folate - 47mcg||Folate - 0.71g|
|Omega 3 - 0.033mg||Omega 3 - 292mg|
|Cholesterol - 423mg||Cholesterol - 231mg|
|Saturated Fat - 3.1||Saturated Fat - 2.31|
But yes, back to that steep learning curve—
Things we learned quickly:
- - The ladies roll around and bathe in dirt--- they are not dying.
- - The ladies lie down on one side, spread their wings out and sun bathe—they are not dying.
- - The ladies cackle and bawk when they lay an egg—again, they are not dying.
- - The ladies molt—Ashley, once again your lady is NOT dying, nor is she egg bound, or suffering from EYP (yeah, I learned so much in the last couple of months)
So that’s what I would like to take a moment to talk about—MOLTING---beware it can happen to you too--not just chickens.
How to handle the awkward and painful transition…
Something was a little “off” with one of my girls. She stopped laying, was becoming somewhat distant, standoffish, and sitting a lot in one place. I called Steve Carpenter of Jack-o-lantern Farms, and he said, “Are you sure she is not molting?” “No, Steve, definitely not. She is not losing feathers, she can’t be molting." The information I came across online made it clear that molting is obvious. The articles I were relying on said there would be feathers everywhere in the coop—as if she had been attacked by a wild animal (and I knew what that looked like--one was taken by a hawk about a year ago..RIP). After reading further (bad idea) I decided she was egg bound. Yep, I concluded an egg was stuck inside her and I needed to be the “hen hero” and help her pass the lodged egg. I followed the instructions precisely (twice):
- - Submerge the lower half of her body in a tub with warm water for 20 minutes
- - Dry her off with a towel
- - Massage her "bottom" to help relax her
- - And then to top it off—massage her “vent” with coconut oil. (Go ahead and laugh!!)
- - Separate her from the others
While all of this is going down at the homestead... Josh keeps interrupting… “Are you sure?” “I don’t know about this?” In the back of mind... I am questioning everything I was doing, but too stubborn or too concerned not to go through with it... I felt like I was prepping her for dinner--and I think she thought the same!
The internet said if she is truly egg bound, she will pass the egg in 24 hours. Well folks… 24 hours later… and no egg... so I did what any normal person would do (YEAH RIGHT!!) I had to go for the other diagnosis… she must have EYP… it’s when the yolks start depositing in her stomach and instead of the reproductive track. Basically, there is nothing you can do for them—antibiotics will band-aid the issue, but most ladies don’t come back from this. I had prepared myself for her getting really sick and dying, but was ok with it all. She had given us so much life and had served her purpose on this earth - it was fine to let her go when she needed to go.
A week goes by and nothing is changing in her behavior. She keeps up with the other ladies, eating fine, dirt bathing and sun bathing… and the next day, I open the coop---and BAM—Feathers everywhere!!!!! She is molting!
Over the next few weeks this is how she looked: After: Her today!
So what is molting? According to Webster:
Molt mōlt/ verb gerund or present participle: molting
(of an animal) shed old feathers, hair, or skin, or an old shell, to make way for a new growth.
Instructions on how to facilitate the process:
- - Reduce stress as much as possible (FAIL)
- - Avoid handling them, it is VERY painful and causes more stress (FAIL)
- - Let them be alone as much as needed (FAIL)
- - Supplement their feed with nutrient dense foods (SUCCESS)
During this very normal molting process, I had this amazing, yet simple realization...
I, too, was in the midst of molting. I, too, was feeling the pain of shedding layers so that new growth could happen. I, too, wanted to be alone, not touched, not seen, not bothered because I knew the molting process can look very very ugly... Being unaware, I found my habitual behavior to be something like this: "MAKE IT STOP. ASHLEY STOP THE MADNESS. THIS IS PAINFUL. WHY ARE YOU ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN? HURRY, GET A BAND-AID. NUMB. DON'T FEEL. DISCONNECT. GET DISTRACTED. TAKE FLIGHT. HIDE. LIE. PRETEND. PUT THE MASKS ON. DRINK--just one, oh, and one more... You know what I am getting at, right? We as humans.. Molt.
Have you ever been aware of it? Have you notice when it is happening in your life? When old parts of you are dying, transforming, letting go so that new birth and new growth can effortlessly happen? The constant cycle of life, death and rebirth. This beautiful cycle is literally found in each breath, if you stop, pause, feel and explore.
The more aware we are, the more compassion we can show ourselves and each other during the process. The more we can soften to what is happening, allowing it to happen without grasping and fear- the more ease we will feel. We all molt... maybe it's a different story from me to you... but we have very similar roots. You are not alone. When we disconnect from our breath, our bodies, our feelings and our senses, we slowly disconnect from each other. We find it hard to connect with empathy and compassion because we forget that we are one, that we are Love...
How many times have we seen a loved one "molt"? Let me simplify---Maybe someone going through a divorce, a life change, a job transition, health issues, pregnancy, depression, unforeseen circumstances? Someone changing paths? Stepping from light to dark or vice versa? Very rarely do we provoke and ask for the molt consciously... but subconsciously we know it is needed. Maybe the one's closest to us go through a life situation and it catapults us into our molt? Take a moment and close your eyes. Do you remember a time when you or a loved one "molted"? Maybe you are going through a major molt as you read this. Place your hands on your belly, take a deep breath in... pause at the top of your breath, and though the mouth--SIGH IT OUT. Repeat as many times as needed.
How many times has our reaction been judgement?
"I can't believe they got divorced". "I can't believe she is not excited about being pregnant." "I can't believe she is at that bar drinking-again.", "I can't believe she stopped drinking--she must think she is better than me." "I can't believe she is pregnant--oh, and did you know the dad is not her same race?" "Dear God, can you believe he looks like that?" "Why, can't he just get his shit together and show up on time or show up at all?" "Did you see how much weight she has gained?" "Have you noticed how skinny she is?" "She must be on drugs..." "He has really become a loner.." This list goes on... Touchy. Yes.
What about your own self talk when you go through this process?
"I am ugly." "I am fat." "I am not good enough." "I can't believe this is happening to me." "I will just sweep it all under the rug so my friends and family think everything is ok." "I'm fine." "I don't need help. "I am better than that." "Don't tell the truth." "Don't let your life unravel." "No one will understand"... Again, the list goes on. And by the end of the cycle, the ego once again makes us feel separate, alone and broken.
Why do we tend towards judgement and not compassion for each other? Where did that story begin?
When we don't have awareness, we tend to lean towards judgement and accusations (We are all guilty-don't let your ego fool you!) Where does this judgement come from? Maybe it's because we truly don't understand. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we see a part of ourselves in the person molting but haven't accepted that part of us (It's scary to see the darkness and shadows within our own being). Maybe we have never received the gift of someone showing us unconditional love and compassion--so it is a foreign reaction to be able to show love in return. *Please note, this not intended to bring feelings of guilt--only awareness.
Maybe your reaction is to be the rescuer. A need to solve the problem or bare someone's pain so they don't have to feel it. That is very kind of you, even coming from a place of compassion and heart... BUT for the love of all: PLEASE do not rob someone of their molt. The only way out of it, is through it-- and to engage it with all of your senses--with all of your awareness in complete presence. Is the present moment always painless? Absolutely not... it is the way for complete healing without carrying around undigested emotion, a wounded heart, and 100lbs of baggage on top of your shoulders for the rest of your life.
As I learned with my little lady:
Sometimes all we can do is hold space for one another and comfort them from afar. To be there for them fully, supporting them--this can come in so many forms. For ourselves--may we remember to soften around the places within us that have become rigid, hard, raw during the process... and allowing ourselves to feel. Maybe we loosen the grip and don't hold them or ourselves so tight so that there is no space for the molt to take place (like I did with my lady). How many times have we been scared of someone changing too much? Maybe we don't add more stress (like I did with my lady).
May we remember that letting go means allowing yourself to be completely as you are—sometimes that means you have to feel completely out of control. Just as leaves fall to the ground, they decay and merge with the earth once again—we too are in the process of letting things wither and fall away to gather only what it essential to move forward.
May we find our way back home in our bodies. Remembering our bodies thrive on love. So why not feed it some love?
A few ideas on how to Feed the HEART & SOUL:
- - Write a love letter to yourself-cheesy, but just wait to see how your heart responds!
- - Put positive, uplifting notes in places you look everyday-mirror, fridge, etc.
- - Have a daily ritual with nourishing practices- yoga, abhyanga self massage, journaling, working out
- - Create space and time for you
- - Get a professional massage, pedicure, haircut
- - Take a personal day
- - Give yourself permission to be nurtured and nourished
- - Hire a babysitter, and go on a date with a loved one or completely by yourself. (I bet there are plenty of moms/dads that would be into trading out babysitting if you don't have it in the budget)
- - Lie in the grass with a warm cup of coffee/tea (that you did not make-Check out Rivertown Coffee)
- - Go on a hike
- - Just sit and do nothing... absolutely nothing
- - Take a nap
- - Plan a trip, even if you don't take it--it does something to the soul!
- - Do something creative-write a poem, share a story, paint, dance, sing
Mentally repeat or read aloud: "May I have peace and happiness. May you have peace and happiness. May all beings have peace and happiness. Free from suffering, danger, judgement, fear and anxiety. May our thoughts, our words and our actions contribute to the well being of all beings. Looking through the eyes of love, compassion and grace for ourselves and for others."
Who knew these hens would bring such deep wisdom of life, death, and rebirth! The practice of being and becoming.
We are all beautiful and whole--before, during and after a molt. But there is a light that shines from a being when they truly let themselves molt--a shining light that can not be contained, that allows others to step into their own light. I am thankful.
Thank you all for allowing me to molt, over and over again... without judgement, without fear. But with love, compassion and grace. May I do the same for each of you.
Please share your experiences, insight and wisdom with us if you feel led.
And until the next molt...
With love and gratitude,