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a story about chickens and snow

I'm not sure, but it feels like in past winters the hens pretty much never went out at all. With the dark mornings I never felt like I had to let them out early, like I do in the summer; failing that prompt I pretty much kept them shut up all the time. With nine of them sharing the space now, though, I feel like I want them to get as much time in the open as they can, at least when there's grass showing—as there was this morning. With snow in the afternoon's forecast I was extra motivated to get them their pecking time before all the good pecking was buried. Only, the snow came a little early, and it fell fast.

four chickens making their way through the snow

snowy trek

I was distracted by moving around all the furniture in the house—a perfect snow day activity!—so I didn't think of the hens at all until nap time (2:30 these days, at our house). When I went out to check on them I found four inches of snow on the ground, two hens in their run, and seven cuddled up under the shed. It's dry and cozy under there, with just a chicken's-height of head-room, so it's their favorite place to hang out in inclement weather. Except, as I knew and they did not, the weather was going to get worse before it got better and I was worried they'd get stuck for the rest of the winter! So I had to get them out.

It wasn't easy; there's no way I can drive them out from under, even with a long stick (I did try), and they showed absolutely no inclination to put even a single claw out into the snow. So I trampled down a pretty good area out in front of the shed—the snow was so light I could get right down to grass pretty easily, and tossed out some scratch. Slowly, slowly a couple of the braver young hens poked their heads out. I threw a little more scratch a little farther away and waited. It took maybe five minutes, but eventually they were all out from under and far enough away from the shed that I could dart in behind them. Then I mercilessly drove them through the snow back to their coop.

Actually, I didn't need to drive them far: once they were actually in the snow they knew that home, where their food and water and nesting boxes are, was a better bet then back under the shed. But it was slow going. They ignored the path I'd tried to make for them and picked their way along the fence, as pictured above; with each step they hesitated, clearly reluctant to put a foot back down into the cold and wet. The older hens, who lived through the terrible winter a couple years ago, were the most indignant about it.

Oh well, sorry girls: the rest of the inhabitants of this household love snow, so we'll be wishing for lots more of it this winter!

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