Chickens in the Snow

Winter Storm Jonas has completely cooped my ordinarily adventurous girls! They have refused to come out of their coop for two days now. First I believed it was the freezing rain which was distasteful, but today there is just a bit of snow coming down and an occasional gust of wind, yet they stay coop-bound. Here in North Carolina’s Piedmont we had a pretty good storm — with no mail in two days and Church cancelled tomorrow.

Chickens need extra protein during times of stress, so I have been feeding them high protein meals of finely chopped hard-boiled egg (shell and all), chopped brussel sprout greens, dried meal worms, chopped spinach and cauliflower, chopped whole cranberries, raisins, oats, chia seeds, chopped pepitas, in addition to their layer feed and scratch. An Ulu Board (a wooden chopping board with center depression) and Knife (curved blade to fit the board) make this an easy “chore.” It is also extremely important to make sure their water is always available and not frozen (which requires several visits a day). There is no easy way for me to add a heater to this. The coop is limited in size. I purchased one of those basic made-in-China coops online last year, added my dear departed bunny’s hutch and an extra run to it and it is still cramped for my four large and beautiful Buff Orpington ladies.

Hoping for the best after warmer temps return this coming week. The first picture shows them framed by my blueberry bushes, which are budding beautifully due to the extended warm spell we had up until a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea what impact this weather will have on them and whether I can look forward to berries come summer. One of the pleasures of my day last year was sitting with my girls in their compound and feeding them blueberries from the bushes.

The chickens, I am happy to report, have weathered the cold well. I insulated their coop by covering with some NASA space blankets, tacked with a staple gun, and then surrounding it with straw bales put in contractor bags to keep the elements out. The garden is sleeping now under a thick coat of snow and ice and the snow provides additional insulation for the coop.

Walking is an effort, and I had to dig out the gates to the coop this morning with a spade, chopping the icy crust to free it. My body feels its 66 years after just a short time trudging through this, as it requires more effort (and muscle mass) than I am used to this time of year. Can’t wait for warmer weather so I can begin (finish) my garden cleanup. I used to clean up fanatically in the fall, but now I leave much of my garden to the birds, literally, and the helpful insects. The chickens take care of many of the unwelcome bugs in warmer weather. My back yard and garden are certified as wildlife habitat, so I am always mindful of leaving enough underbrush and seeds to help the creatures that visit and live there.

Birds thrive in such an environment, and I enjoy watching the many visitors that come to feast on my winter garden. I do not put out bird feeders because this past Fall all backyard chicken owners were asked to register with the State of North Carolina because of the threat of Avian Flu Virus, often carried by migratory birds. Recently we received the “all-clear”, but it was quickly followed by another alert for a different version of the virus. I am always concerned because of the number of wild birds that visit around the chicken coop. But I have decided that there is only so much in Nature that you can attempt to control, and believe that all creatures need habitats in order to stay healthy and viable. I have participated in the past in the Cornell Backyard Bird Watch and I recommend it to all those who are concerned with our diminishing bird populations.


The wind is picking up now, so I must go check on my girls and retrieve any eggs. When Fall set in, and the number of hours reduced, so did their egg production, down to 1 a day. I often wonder how that happens — do they elect among themselves who will produce that egg each day? Is there just one gal who is laying? It makes me chuckle to think of a confab in the coop on whose turn it is to give their Mama Hen (me) the egg today. Recently, as the sun is starting to set later and later each night, I have gotten an occasional second egg a day. I will be so happy when we are back on our 4 a day schedule.

Well . . . they’re out! And looks like they had the same case of cabin fever as did I!


6 thoughts on “Chickens in the Snow

  1. Just started reading your blogs. I really like hearing about the NC happenings at your place. The weather is much more variable than here in GA. Your chickens look very healthy! They must be happy, too. Sounds like y’all have a wonderful relationship!!

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