Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Polar Vortex Chickens

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. A polar vortex descended on our region, plunging us into negative temperatures at night, and barely letting us get into the positives during the day. The weather website I check tried to tell me we hit double-digits, but my thermometer in the coop begged to differ. The few times I had to go outside made it clear that a couple of degrees didn’t make a difference anyway. It was just plain cold.

I have my own rating system.

I have my own rating system.

This weather trend caused some concerns around the home and coop. Mostly the coop, which is around our home, but I decided to include them both. It was far too cold for Boss Chicken to be out there alone. It hit -11 the night before, and that was cold enough for me to worry about the others, who could clump for heat. When I got up to take care of everyone’s food, it was still in the negatives. Based on that, I made the decision to keep The Boss in for the day. This then caused me to have to figure out how to get her fed and watered while in her newfangled storage tub. The food part was easy. I just used the container that I usually use to bring her food out to her hutch as a dish, dumped some mealworms on top as an act of contrition, and put it inside. She made some very excited clucks, so the mealworms worked. Now I had to deal with the water set up. As with many crisis situations, my first instinct was to just use duct tape. I tried taping a small water bottle to the side of the tub, but the combination of it being cold, the tub being too smooth, and my duct tape being kind of not great made for a very unstable system. When duct tape fails, look to bungee cord. I took a couple of coolers we had in the storage space, bungeed the water bottle to a milk crate, and put the milk crate on top of the coolers. She now had easy access to water, and all was well. At least inside.

Glug glug glug.

Glug glug glug.

Outside, I was quite concerned about Henny Penny’s butt. Her butt feathers still haven’t grown in. She gets feather nubs, then they seem to disappear, then reappear, and I’m never quite sure what’s happening. But she was out there in the cold with a bare butt, and I was worried. I briefly thought about trying to put vaseline on the skin to protect it, but my experience with trying to put vaseline on their combs proved to me that greasing up a live chicken was a fool’s errand. When I said goodnight, she had her tail down, covering the exposed area, and I figured the combination of that and being out of the wind should be enough. She got through the entirety of last winter with a bare butt, and there were worse temperatures than this, and for extended periods. I figured she could hack one night. When she came out in the morning, I looked for signs of frostbite, but she seemed o.k. I’ll keep an eye on it, but with luck we’ll all make it through.

The news has really gone downhill these days.

The news has really gone downhill these days.

Of course, this being New England, it was 54 two days after a Polar Vortex, so if we hunker down a little, we get relief. This is much better than last year where the entire winter was one prolonged hunkering. This winter needs less hunkering, but more questioning just what is going on. -11 to 54 is a big range of temperatures. I think this is why everyone in New England is a little nuts. You would be too if your weather kept pulling this kind of nonsense.

Meanwhile, don't ask me how a bird that can't walk or fly managed to do this on her own.

Meanwhile, don’t ask me how a bird that can’t walk or fly managed to do this on her own.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Oh! By Jingo! by All-Star Trio)

Get Eating, Ya Ingrates!

Friday, February 12th, 2016

One of the best things about doing this podcast is that I have a pretty good record of all the chicken problems I’ve run into over the years, and how I dealt with them. Sometimes, my memory isn’t that great (or most times, if I remember correctly), so I may forget that I had a certain issue come up, and then I actually find my own post when searching for a solution. It would be embarrassing if I thought anyone saw. Right now, we’re in the middle of winter, and my chickens don’t seem to want to eat very much. The problem with that is that they need to eat in order to generate energy to stay warm, and for those of them that are still molting, to regrow feathers. I go and check the feeder regularly, and think, “Hmm, they’re not eating much.” Then I go to mix the latest podcast, and for some reason, whenever I try to save a new file, it always wants to save in the folder called “Not Eating In The Winter,” which is the third episode I did post-Garden Guys. So this “dieting” has been going on for a while, and I should know they eat less in the winter because I am reminded of it weekly, but every few days, there I am looking into the feeder and thinking, “Hmm, they’re not eating much.” THANKS, BRAIN.

Wise guy.

Wise guy.

I always wonder how much of their eating behavior is a vicious circle. I give them high-protein snacks when it gets cold, to help with staying warm, and with feather re-growth. But checking the archives, I see that they originally stopped eating their normal feed before I started adding extra goodies. The goodies came in because I was worried about them not eating, and had to tempt them with exciting food. But then if you can eat cake all the time, why would you eat oatmeal instead? Once the cake is out there, you can’t go back. Sure, the cake is actually scratch and sunflower seeds, but you can buy that in cake form if you want. It’s great if you celebrate chicken birthdays, but your kid will never forgive you if you try to be funny at theirs.

Children don't like gag gifts, or seed cakes.

Children don’t like gag gifts, or seed cakes.

The first winter they stopped eating I was so concerned that I mixed their yogurt with regular food, apple cider vinegar, and scratch. I asked a guy at the feed store if he knew what was up, and when I described this concoction to him, other people in the store began to make fun of me for spoiling my chickens. Maybe so, but they’re still alive, right? They’re not starving to death on my watch.

Not that not starving.

Not that not starving.

I’ve begun to wonder if the fact that they only eat the high-protein stuff instead of the layer feed could have something to do with why we haven’t had any eggs for almost a month now. Sure, some of them are getting old, and some are molting, but this is an unprecedented dry spell. We had to buy eggs recently, and that fills me with shame. Shame is the mother of invention, at least for me, and so I’ve arrived at a compromise. I still give them scratch and black oil sunflower seeds, but I mix it in with layer feed. In their excitement to get the treats, they end up eating the regular food too, so I know they’re now getting at least a small dose of the full nutrition they need. I’m pleased it’s worked, and I’ll see if any eggs come about as a result.

The things I get excited about.

The things I get excited about.

I’ve heard of people who try similar tricks with their kids, and somehow this feels wrong to me. It’s o.k. to trick chickens, but tricking children feels like a violation of trust. Plus, my son only eats pizza or macaroni and cheese, both of which are difficult to hide things in. Perhaps if he ate food that lent itself to deceit better, I’d change my tune. I suspect this may be where his distrust of smoothies comes from. Good thing he’s not a chicken. I’d never get him fed.

Somebody say pizza?

Somebody say pizza?


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Placeholder by Jahzzar)

Too Cold For Chickens?

Friday, January 29th, 2016

We managed to dodge a terrible snowstorm last weekend, but I know the winter is far from over. Our nightmare last year only began at the end of January, and then was just relentless in pummeling us every week with at least another foot of snow. So on the one hand, I do genuinely feel for the people I see on Facebook posting pictures of how hard it is to dig out their cars and driveways, however, I’m also doing a little dance that it’s not me again. Note that the dance is little. I’m trying to avoid moving into hubris territory, and I think a large dance would do it. Just a hop and a skip, and then back to business. Right now business means keeping the chickens warm. We didn’t get the snow, but it’s been awfully cold for the past week, at least by this winter’s standards. (Once again, last winter was a whole different ballgame.) Normally if I walk past the coop, all the chickens gather at the door, wanting to be let into the yard. In this kind of cold, I walk by and maybe one of them sticks her head out to see what I’m doing, and that’s about it. One of them gets confirmation that I’m not there to let them all out, and they go back to huddling in the relative warmth of the coop. Of course, first thing in the morning they run out for the pile of scratch I leave out, but once they’re done with that, they have indoor recess, chicken-style.

The eyes are always watching.

The eyes are always watching.

The cold also officially crossed over into Boss Chicken-must-come-inside level temperatures. We even hit single digits overnight once or twice, so in she came, and then back out during the day so she can get sunlight, and balmy temps in the 20s. My idea to put her in a storage tub has been a mixed success. On the one hand, it holds a chicken and some wood chips. One the other hand, it’s only marginally better at keeping those wood chips contained than the dog crate I normally put her in. I couldn’t figure that one out, until I realized that if she flaps her wings in a small, contained space, it will create enough wind to blow chips over the edge. My investigation of the storage tub area would lead me to conclude that there has been some wing flapping. But I suppose that’s what vacuum cleaners are for. Or so I’ve heard.

Post-chicken destruction.

Post-chicken destruction.

The best news so far is that it hasn’t been so cold that I’ve felt I need to keep her inside all day. Last winter, we went months without coming out of the teens. This winter has been more “mild” than that, so she can go out during the day. It’s only really an issue because I can’t figure out how to hook a water bottle to the storage tub. When I was a kid, you used to be able to get water bottles to go over the side of an aquarium, so your hamster or gerbil could live in an aquarium and drink water from a bottle. I’ve been to all the pet stores in the area and I can’t find this sort of bottle anywhere. Perhaps there’s been a shift in rodent husbandry, and this sort of aquarium arrangement is now frowned upon. I don’t know. But if it gets real cold, I may either have to really MacGyver something, or put her in the dog crate, which works fine with the commonly available water bottles. However, hamsters can easily escape from them, so don’t put your hamster in a dog crate. That piece of advice is free.

Escape From Hamcatraz.

Escape From Hamcatraz.

Winter is always full of ongoing challenges. Keeping water from freezing is always a big one, making sure they eat enough to stay warm is another. And that’s with the regular chickens. Boss Chicken has problems all her own, and I’m doing the best I can with what I have available. I hope she appreciates it.

Where's the water bottle?

Where’s the water bottle?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: 12th Street Rag by Imperial Marimba Band)

Steve And John’s Employee Review

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Winter seems to have finally arrived. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but it’s also not like I can do anything about it. I guess I’ll just sit here and put up with it like I did last year, but hopefully with less to put up with. The winter solstice came and went, and so the days have begun to get slightly longer. That’s always a cruel trick, if you ask me. The days are longer, but still can be terribly cold. I would like them to get warmer as they lengthen, but I suppose that would mean it would have to get colder sooner too, so let’s leave the current system in place. Even during the week of the solstice I got an egg or two, so the long darkness couldn’t hold the ladies down. And then the eggs just stopped coming around the 6th. I figured maybe the cold blast had something to do with it, but it warmed up, and nothing happened. Then I noticed that there were suddenly more feathers in the coop, and that Steve (or John’s) neck was looking awful sparse. It turns out the two chickens I got because Wyandottes were good winter layers have gone and molted in the middle of winter. Nice going, guys.

He did it.

Now she did it.

Suzy Creamcheese Junior only just came out of her molt. She got it really bad this year, but it was her first time, so maybe just a rookie mistake. That took her out of the egg laying arena for a while, though. Someone was holding up their end of things, since I’d find one just about every other day, or every two days. For winter, with a few aging birds, that didn’t seem so bad. But to suddenly just have none for such a long stretch seemed surprising, until I saw the feather explosion that was distinctly Steve and John-colored. The fact that this happened right when it got cold put me in a position I think I’ve found myself in every winter since starting with chickens. If they have bald patches of skin, they shouldn’t be out in the cold, right? But a chicken that is molting is much more sensitive to touch, so picking them up to bring them inside will be painful, right? So which is worse? Since they are in the coop with 4 other chickens, I vote to leave them outside. They do snuggle in with the rest to stay warm, so that’s good, but I worry. I worry about everything though. It’s kind of my resting state. There’s a long cold spell in the forecast, and more feathers seem to fall off every day. How long will I be able to resist bringing them inside? This ignores the question of how hard would they be to catch, which I think is a question best not put to the test.

Those suckers are fast.

Those suckers are fast.

Anyway, I would like to take this moment to address Steve and John directly. Look, you two, I know you’re new at this, but you’ve got colleagues who molted at a perfectly good time in terms of cold. They had their feathers back before it got really bad, and so are more comfortable than you right now. Yes, I know you can’t control it, but I just wanted to throw this out there. This is not a great system. I’ve got two chickens I’m concerned are going to get frostbite, and that aren’t producing any winter eggs, which was the exact reason I got them. I’m sitting here eggless, like an idiot, and worrying about you two the whole time. Do you know how much I have to do? Grow those feathers back this instant, and get eggin’. Given that this is your first evaluation, I can let some things slide, but next year, please get it together, o.k.?

Great. Now just sign this form that says we had this discussion, and I’ll forward it to H.R.

This is my "lecturing a chicken" face.

This is my “lecturing a chicken” face.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Maple Leaf Rag by The US Marine Band)

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 20th, 2015
egg nog

Please get your nog on responsibly.

Odds And Ends And Leftovers

Friday, December 4th, 2015

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can be hard to focus. People also tend to take their Thanksgiving leftovers and throw them all together and see what they can make (Mike Dukakis is a prime example). You have a bunch of things that don’t exactly make a whole meal on their own, but when combined with other loose ends, now at least you’re full, if not satisfied. I think that might be my new slogan for Too Many Chickens!, or at least the theme of this episode.

full, but not satisfied.

Testing out some postcards with the new slogan.

Suzy Creamcheese Junior has some feathers on her butt now. I’m not going to get my hopes up that this is the road to a non-bald butt for her, as this happened once before and then they fell out, but I’m going to at least get hopes. I’ll just keep them down. While her butt looks decent, the rest of her still looks really awful. Her right wing looks totally skeletal at the base. I realize it’s actually feather and not bone, but that doesn’t stop my immediate reaction of “Oh no!” every time I see it. Some little tufts seem to be sprouting in there, which probably means the new feathers are on their way, but they sure are taking their time. Her chest looks rattier than ever. Since that started getting fuzzy during the mite conquest, I’m not sure if it’s molting or mites. I make sure to get it when I give everyone a diatomaceous earth shakedown once a week. Only time will tell. Time seems to be pretty tight-lipped these days.


Why do I keep buying these awful clocks? This one won’t even tell me what time it is.

Boss Chicken has been toughing it out in the cold, though we haven’t had a ton of cold nights so far. We’ll get one or two in the 20s, and then it’s back into the 40s for a few weeks. I decided to figure out a plan for what constituted too cold for her to be out there alone. The night I found her under the coop (which was the night her legs gave way) it had been 18 degrees out. She survived that being exposed in the run, so I figure that at the very least is a baseline to go off of. However, given my overdeveloped sense of worry, I think if it dips below 20, that’s when she comes in. Even though she’s more protected in her hutch than she would be outside, I’m still not willing to take too many chances with her. So hopefully by the time it gets that cold at night, we’ll have figured out the Spooky situation.


America’s Favorite Weather Chicken

Spooky, at the time of this writing, is in a dog crate in our kitchen. We gated the whole kitchen off, and then put her in the crate for extra protection as a means of introducing her to the household. Our big tom cat, whose real name is Hamish, but we call him “The Bone,” came up, took a look at her, snorted (he has sinus woes) and walked away. He has never been the one we’ve been worried about fighting with Spooky, though. He’s pretty unflappable and easy-going. Jenny, our tortie, is the one who used to try to smash through the glass door to get Spooky when Spooky would come to peer longingly into the house. Jennie did go right up to the gate and stare Spooky down, but it remained pretty civil. That’s a good start. Spooky just came out of heat a day or two ago, so I hope that will make things easier. The day we decided to go the dog crate route was the day she went into heat, so there was more howling than I would have liked. She’s much quieter now, but still a little freaked. It is a lot to take in, and our house is a bit of a mess. I’d be freaked too. I’m kind of freaked right now. But soon I think we may have one big crazy cat family, though we’re only at 4, and I’m told 6 is when you’re a crazy cat person. Almost there!

cat chart

This time of year, it always feels like you’re running around a lot, but not necessarily getting anywhere. We are running around a lot, but I feel like I’ve at least figured out a plan for the things I have some control over. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s feather issues are out of my hands. Boss Chicken’s cold weather digs I totally have a say in. The Spooky introduction I can control, the behavior of the rest of the cats is, well, cat behavior. Good luck influencing those people at all. I’m doing the best I can. Hopefully Santa will notice.

He noticed!

He noticed!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Who’s Sorry Now? by Memphis Five)

Space Management

Friday, November 13th, 2015

It has been an absolutely gorgeous Fall this year. It’s already November, but it’s been so warm, and full of my favorite sort of Autumn days. A little breezy, a little gloomy, but warmer than usual, so you can be outside without a jacket, hanging out and smelling the fallen leaves. What makes it even nicer is that I read an article saying that there has never been a time when the first week of November was warmer than average that didn’t result in a mild winter. I’m really hoping this is the case.

snow heap

The view from our kitchen at the end of last winter. Now you know why I want it mild this year.

What’s been extra nice about it being unseasonably warm (aside from the fact that it makes up for June having been unseasonably cold this year) is that I don’t have to worry about bringing Boss Chicken inside yet. Since she is alone in her bunny hutch, when it gets really cold, I worry that without other chickens to clump with to stay warm, she might get too cold out there. When it dips below a certain temperature (and I don’t have a system for this, at some point I just decide, no, this is too cold) I bring her inside and put her in a dog crate in our storage room. It gets nice light during the day, and she’s close to all the chicken supplies. She kicks wood chips everywhere, but that’s what brooms are for. She’s also killed a number of mice that have gone into the dog crate to steal her food. Even with bum legs, she is not to be trifled with, and she’s helping keep the in-house rodent population down.

mouse killer

Striking fear into the hearts of mice everywhere.

This system is breaking down this year with the addition of Spooky the cat to our menagerie. Spooky, being FIV positive, needs to be kept apart from our other cats in the main part of the house. (We’re looking into ways to peacefully integrate all the cats, but haven’t reached any that we feel confident in. There has to be no biting, and we suspect there will be biting.) Spooky will hopefully also help out with the mouse situation in that room, but my concern is that if you put a chicken in a room where there is also a cat who had been surviving on her own out in the woods, it may not go well. Spooky is a sweetheart, but I don’t know how she’ll behave around a chicken. Boss Chicken would be protected in her crate, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to get at each other (and Boss Chicken might just win that fight). On the other hand, both animals seem like they could use some company, so maybe this could actually work out. That seems a little too optimistic, though.

best buds

My new reality show. Coming this winter.

We have another, smaller storage room that I thought Boss Chicken could go in now, since she doesn’t get around much, and so doesn’t need much space. It gets less light though, which I think is kind of important. I could try putting her in there and seeing how it goes. I had also thought of switching out her dog crate for a big storage tub, in the interest of containing the wood chips some more, but that would leave her more open to attack from above, so she definitely could not be in the same room as Spooky. Spooky also knows how to open some doors, so she might even be able to get into the other storage room. So perhaps Boss Chicken needs more fortifications. There are a lot of ins and outs to this situation. Maybe if the winter is really mild I won’t even have to bring Boss Chicken inside at all, and I can put this decision off until next year. Who knew that collecting animals that have health problems was going to be so complicated?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Just Like A Rainbow by The Columbians)

Everyone’s Hungry!

Friday, April 17th, 2015

The other night the pizza guy remarked on how our house is the only one in town that still has big piles of snow in the yard. I was aware that we are always the last house on the street to still have snow every year, but it’s nice to have confirmation, however unscientific, that we also smoke the rest of the town in this regard. It’s nice to be number one in something, no matter how unpleasant that thing may be. I’m sure there are worse things to be number one in than lingering yard snow, so I’ll take it. Part of the issue is that our house has these 100 foot tall pine trees out back that block out the sun in the cooler months, and this inhibits our thawing. Unfortunately, these trees were part of what sold us on the house, so they’re not going anywhere. And hey, if they keep the yard covered in snow, that postpones mowing, which is perfectly fine with me.

pizza pie

It’s time for pie!

Now that the snow is on the wane (or possibly gone everywhere else but our yard), the chickens are getting plenty of yard time. They’ve gone from having a small strip of ground to pick at to having far too many choices. It’s like going from a restaurant with one item on the menu to the world’s biggest all-you-can eat buffet. How do you decide what to eat? If you’re a chicken, you would seem to wander around with a dazed look in your eye, scratching one spot for a minute or two, then sprinting across the yard to another spot, scratching for another minute, and then sprinting to a third location, and just repeating this over and over so many small spots get worked over, but there’s no real system. I’ve tried pulling them aside and explaining the importance of breaking jobs down into actionable items, but they hate the term “actionable item” almost as much as I do, and so they run off without listening. I’ll have to put it all in a Powerpoint presentation and then really bore them.


I can’t even think about Powerpoint without dozing off.

The chickens aren’t the only ones overwhelmed by all the sudden new food options. It was slim pickings for predators for a while. The bunnies in our yard had a tunnel system under the snow to rival the sewers of Manhattan. But with the snow gone, they, and many other animals, are now again out in the open. This has not escaped the notice of the local raptor population, among others. We’ve been seeing a lot of hawks all of a sudden, and if I had night vision, I’m sure the owls are out, as well the coyotes, fisher cats, weasels, possums, and pretty much everything short of the Chupacabra (and I’m not 100% certain we don’t have those around here too). It makes me, the owner of a small group of prey animals, slightly nervous. However, eternal vigilance is the price of chickens, and I’m ready.


We spoke to an actual Chupacabra about this.
(Chupacabra means “Goatsucker”.)

Last weekend we had considerably more snow than we do now, and my son and I were out in the yard with the ladies, enjoying the weather. I was watching the chickens, and my son was making the most of what was left of the snowbanks by rolling down them and yelling a lot while he did so. I would glance up at the sky every so often, but I figured we were out in the part of the day that was not prime hawk hunting time, so all should be well. And of course, as soon as I had that thought, a large hawk cruised through the sky above the field across the street, and started to turn towards our yard. I assumed the chickens had been spotted. I sometimes have a hard time getting them back in the run under low-intensity conditions, and now I needed to do it quickly. “Buddy, buddy, buddy!” I yelled at my son, and he obviously could tell by the tone of my voice exactly what was wrong. He leapt off the snowbank. “Hawk?” he responded. I said yes, and asked him to herd the chickens towards me, and I’d direct them into the run’s door. He held out his arms just like I do at herding time (it at least gives the illusion that you’re directing them), and guided them back to the coop. I blocked the usual escape route, so they went right in no problem. The whole thing took about 10 seconds. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten them put away so fast. We high-fived, and then my son looked up at the sky. “Where’s the hawk?” he said. It was nowhere to be seen, but it had definitely been there a few moments before. Perhaps it was waiting, possibly in disguise, for me to make one small mistake, and then he would strike. Well, he may still be waiting, because that was Sunday, and there usually isn’t free-ranging during the week. Hopefully he’s moved on, but I’ll continue to watch the skies, just in case. In life, someone’s always trying to eat your chickens. Tread lightly, and keep your eyes open.

hawk in a wig

Keep a lookout for bad wigs.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Pick A Chicken by Jaudas’ Society Orchestra)

At Long Last!

Friday, April 10th, 2015

It felt like ages in the making. It kind of was ages in the making, in that this winter has aged us all beyond our years. (Or, at the very least, it has aged our backs from all the shoveling, even with the proper technique.) But two weeks ago it was warm enough, and I felt enough snow had melted, that it was time to release the chickens from their winter bondage out into the yard once more.

snow chicken

Earlier this year.

After all the build up and sense of urgency to let them free-range again, it felt a little anti-climactic. This is not to say that they weren’t excited, but it’s not like they all flipped out and just dug holes deep into what earth was exposed and rid the area of bugs and worms within minutes of their release. I suppose perhaps I needed to manage my expectations a little better. However, given all the time they had been kept in the run due to the snow, I thought that they might venture a little further on their first excursion out than just right along the edges of the coop, but I suppose sometimes you have to ease back into it. And who knows, there may have been things to eat just out of reach since December that had been sitting there taunting them all this time, and finally they could get them. You’d notice the stuff right outside the fence, whereas the pile of birdseed way up the path near the house is probably out of sight. (Though, even when they got near that, they didn’t pay much attention to it. I think it’s been so long since a nice stroll around the yard that they’re just off their game.)


Look alive, chickens!

Boss Chicken got in on the action too. I had to dig trenches around the perimeter of the foundation so that when things began to melt water wouldn’t just come directly into the house. This perimeter had melted enough to make a nice path for a chicken who needed to be protected from the others. I stood at the path entrance to keep watch, and she happily waddled around in there as best she could. Then, I heard her make a very excited noise, and turned to see that she had discovered the entrance to the rabbit hole that goes under our side steps. I had this image of a rabbit coming out and pummeling her, but I think I was just being overprotective. Nevertheless, I moved her back down the path away from it. She of course quickly headed right back to the hole, so I gave up. I had an eye on her, so I could fend off any killer rabbits, should they appear. (SPOILER ALERT: They didn’t.)

killer rabbit

He was very quiet, always kept to himself . . .

Meanwhile, my son, who has also been trapped inside all winter (though our house has less chicken poop in it than the coop, I hope) got some free-ranging time too. He was happy to be outside again, and hit the swingset for a while until he discovered the snowbanks around the house were perfect for rolling down, and even skiing without skis. When I needed him to, he would climb the banks to the far side of the chickens and herd them back to where I could see them. None of my earlier fears about them running out into the open tundra came to pass. They stuck to the path, and seemed to find plenty to pick at there. I suppose you work over the obvious stuff the first time back out. Now that it’s been even warmer for a week, there’s plenty more exposed areas to explore. They’ll be hitting that soon, if I have any say in it. Things are slowly returning to normal.


Child + snowbank = good times.

It’s been such a rough winter, I didn’t think I’d ever be happy to be outside again, but that first day of free-ranging felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. The chickens were happy and well-behaved, as was my son, except for when he realized how much fun it is to put snow down the back of my jacket. But even that felt good, in its way. Every so often something happens and you realize while it’s happening that you’re experiencing something wonderful. As I watched my son roll down a snowbank for the 300th time as chickens poked around in the mud for anything they could find, I knew I had my moment. Winter may finally be over.

winter is over

I hope I’m right.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: The Butterfly by Eugene C. Rose and George Rubel)


Coop Fever

Friday, March 27th, 2015

As the snow begins to melt, the true effects of this past winter start to become obvious. Our window boxes were ripped right out of their brackets, and the brackets are so bent, they may not be salvageable. The fences around my garden beds have been warped into demented spiderwebs. Our newspaper box is completely flattened, and I fully expect the mailbox to tip over as soon as there’s no more snow left to prop it up. These are just the obvious examples of the damage we’ve experienced now that we’ve passed through to the other side. The psychological scars that linger aren’t always so easy to see. For a while, I felt like all the snow was physically crushing my soul, and not being able to get outside and do anything added to that feeling. I wasn’t the only one trapped inside. The chickens didn’t get much in the way of free-range time, either. I could have let them out, but they would have been restricted to the few paths I had dug, all leading to the front door of the house. There was the one to the coop, of course, then one branched off of that to the compost pile. In the other direction, you could go to the driveway, and then further to the other side of the house to the trash cans. I gave up on the trash cans about two storms in and just dug a hole in the snowbank outside the front door for them. There was so much shoveling to do I had to streamline things, and no one could even see our house anymore due to the snowbanks. No one was going to see that we kept the trash in front. The snow was just so plentiful, there were very few places for anyone to go. I could have let the chickens out into the paths, but this got problematic quickly, as I thought about it. If they went down a path, I was between them and the coop. In order to get them back in, they needed to be between me and the coop. I wasn’t sure of how I was going to get to the other side of them. I sure wasn’t going through the snow to do it. It was far too deep.

chicken sled

This doesn’t work.

The other way it could have played out would have involved them abandoning the paths for the open tundra that is the yard. For most of the winter, it had remained so cold that nothing melted. It had also been so cold that all the storms had dumped very light, fluffy snow on us. So I had an image of them all “going over the wall,” so to speak, and then just sinking. Then I would have had to rescue them somehow. There were too many logistical issues. Then, we finally got a few warm days, followed by freezing nights, so the snow now became a mixture of ice and snow, which meant that they might actually be able to walk on top of it. I, however, was far too heavy, so were I to have to wrangle them back into the coop, it would again involve me, up to my waist in icy snow, trying to chase a bunch of birds who were light enough to scuttle across the surface. None of this was in my favor, and none of it was anything I wanted anyone to witness.

stuck in snow

Pretty much how it would go down.

So, long story short, everyone’s been cooped up since late January. The chickens mostly didn’t act too broken up about it. It’s been so cold that they’ve tended to just hang out inside the coop anyway, out of the wind. But staying put has finally seemed to have begun to get to them. The last few nights when I’ve gone to check the eggs, all their bedding has been moved to one side of the coop or the other. It’s as though to entertain themselves they’re rearranging the living room. This actually works out in some ways, as it mixes all the poop into the bedding, and makes a compost that provides a small amount of heat. However, I think it’s a sure sign that they need to get out of the house. We’ve had a few warm days, and there’s been some melting, but I don’t think it’s quite time yet. There’s still about two feet of snow on the ground, so even ignoring my concerns about chasing the chickens, they can’t get at the ground either. What would happen would be I’d let them out, they’d come out, look around, realize they can’t scratch at anything, and then there’d be a lot of confused and angry chicken noises. We all need to get out and run around a little, but not right now. They’ll have to keep moving the chips in the coop around for hopefully just a few more weeks. And as I look around here, I get the sudden urge to move all the furniture from one side of the room to the other. Spring can’t come soon enough.

swearing chicken

There’d be a lot more swearing, actually.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Original Rags by Scott Joplin)

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