New Discovery: Chickens definitely do NOT like snow. In fact, the first day it snowed here (we already have had about a foot and half of November snow), they wouldn't leave the coop. They are new to the stuff, after all. We then discovered that if we shovel some paths for them, they will explore a bit, but they prefer not to tramp through the snow. (see photo at the right.... the chickens are very tentatively poking hteir heads outside of the door)
We also discovered that there is an inherent problem with the dog kennel sun shade we used to cover the fenced-in area of the chicken run, for both protection from predators and to provide some shade in the heat of summer. The sun shade is like a fine, sturdy, slightly stretchable screen, and it does not allow snow to fall through. So right now, it is piled high with a mound of snow, just about stretched to its limits. I think we will be getting up on a ladder today to try and relieve some of the pressure. We will then have to devise some sort of a solution. More on that later....
With the freezing weather we have been having, we now have a new problem to deal with: keeping the chickens' water from freezing. Chickens must have plenty of water every day, to regulate the salt content in their bodies, without which they can quickly die. So now that the water spicket is shut off and frozen, this means bringing a pitcher of fresh water out every day, sometimes twice a day, to keep the old water from freezing. Additionally, we have re-installed the heat lamp we used when the chickens were just little fluffy chicks. Not only does it provide a measure of warmth and keeps the water from totally freezing overnight, but the red color calms the chickens while they are more confined during these winter months. We've already noticed that poor Hawkie is getting picked on a lot, and she isn't laying anymore. This could be either because she is an heirloom breed (Aracauna), which often stop laying in the winter months, or because she is getting stressed....
So now that we allow the chickens to roam through the fenced-in garden area, after a few weeks, they have finally figured out how to fly over the fence to get to freedom. The thing is, they can't seem to figure out how to fly BACK over the fence, to get into their coop. Silly chickens! So this means that every afternoon, before dark (which is currently at about 5:30 pm), we have to do a check to make sure the chickens are not roaming out in the open.
We forgot to do this check the other night until nearly 8pm, and when I went to tuck the chickens in for the night, much to my dismay, there were only 4 hens in the coop, snoozing soundly on the roost. Speckles the rooster was nowhere to be found. Surrounded by a dark, looming forest, I panicked. The raccoons and other predators in the area, including coyotes, would be out and about now, and I wasn't sure I could locate Speckles in the darkness. And what if something had already happened to him??
I started fumbling around the bushes and brambles backing up to the coop. I didn't have to search long. I spotted the silhouette of some long tail feathers hanging from the protruding nest boxes around the back of the coop, through about a foot of snow. And there was Speckles, all huddled up against the outer wall of the coop, almost buried in snow.
Poor guy! He was so cold he let me just pick him right up (he would NEVER allow that normally- I don't usually even attempt to touch the guy!), and I deposited him inside the coop, where he immediately began to check out his ladies and eat a bit of food.
So all is well inside the coop, though winter is obviously going to throw us some curve balls.