We are living in the icebox nation right now. A few nights ago it was 17 below zero with a wind chill that brought it down to, oh, I don’t know, 25 below? I have four hens I worry about. I keep hoping the information I have is correct, that the heavier breeds can take down to 16 below. They are all heavy – Eudora the Barred Rock, Flannery the Black-laced Wyandotte, and Annie and Jane the Red Star Hybrids.
Their pen is not insulated, but it is covered in plastic which helps keep the wind out. And inside their pen is a little coop with nesting boxes and perches where they roost at night. They cuddle together to give themselves a little extra warmth. When it is really cold I go out after dark and shut the door on their wee house and fantasize it helps them stay warm. (Chickens volunteer to go to bed when the sun goes down.) The other night when I stumbled through the drifts with the wind blowing hard, I hurried to shut them in but noticed their door was already shut. I don’t know how that happened. Wind? Whatever – there was a dark form at my feet and lucky thing I saw her because two of them did not make it inside. Of course, I’d forgotten the flashlight, so when I returned, sure enough, Annie was huddled beneath the door. I picked her up placed her inside and reached for Flannery. Meantime Annie hopped back out and I asked her what the heck she thought she was doing. Finally got them all settled with the door closed and bid them goodnight.
Honestly they give me great happiness and I respect them for continuing to lay at least three lovely brown eggs on even the coldest days. I think Flannery is the shirker but I favor her anyway. She is molting. Bad timing! And she seems a little anorexic to me. Chickens are not that smart and, oh, by the way, they can’t see in the dark.
To keep their water from freezing, I turned a flower pot upside down on top of a light bulb. This works pretty well until it gets down around 12 degrees, then I need to change their water a couple times a day and in the morning I bring them fresh warm water. Chickens need access to water at all times.
A week or so ago it was sunny and mild. Mild as in 30 degrees rather than the frigid temps we’ve been having. So I thought, what a good day to let the hens out for a little field trip. Give them some exercise. Let them wander about the snowy garden. As you can tell from the video below they were excited to follow me until they grew alarmed by the grill sitting beside the walk. Chickens are very clumsy fliers and don’t manage much lift, but when they do they get a look on their face of shock and awe. But then the snow seemed a little daunting, so back they went into their pen.
One of these days spring will return and summer adventures will begin. Already hopeful – tomorrow will be a balmy 26 degrees and it will be a good time to clean house for these messy greedy little creatures.