A blizzard came through over the weekend. It was our first snow with the chickens and Stephanie the Chicken's first winter (Sandy and Michelle are spring, 2009 chickens). I knew our chickens didn't like snow, based on what Henhouse Suzy (from whom we got all three of our girls) had said about her chickens' behavior around snow. But I was interested to see for myself how the eglu would fare in snow and how the girls would react, too.
The snow started around noon on Sunday and ended about a day later. The bulk of the snow fell Sunday, but strong winds gusted for over a day, blowing snow here, there and everywhere. This is a picture of the eglu on Sunday evening.
To the right of the eglu is a metal bench that we used to hold down the run during strong winds (more on that another time). The run is open, but we put a semi-opaque plastic tarp over it for occasions just like this, so as to avoid the run filling with snow.
This is a picture of the inside of the run on Sunday evening. I think it looks a little space age-ish, don't you? Like it could be from a 1970s sci-fi film? Can't you envision storm troopers racing down this "corridor"?
Kevin shovelled a path from the back porch, across a little bit of patio, over some driveway and finally over some grass to get to the eglu, whereat he then proceeded to shovel around the eglu for easy access. What a good egg!
The next day he removed as much snow as he could reach from the run. Here's Stephanie walking through her treat of cottage cheese, flaxseed and freeze dried mealworms to say hello. She usually comes hustling out when she hears people out and about. Don't know who that is in the background, peering out from the coop.
The waterer is indeed sitting on a Valentine's Day cookie tin, but it's not just a cookie tin. It's a tin that Kevin cleverly electrified to prevent the water from freezing. Yeah! No more running out several times a day to switch frozen water with warm water.
The homemade waterer heater idea came from a post on Backyard Chickens forum, although I never did find the post with the instructions. I took pictures of the steps for making the heater and that will be a future blog post. Basically, it's a cookie tin with a 40 watt candelabra bulb in it. We started using it shortly before the snow. It's plugged into an external outlet on the side of the garage; there is no on-off switch, we leave it plugged in all the time.
I wondered if enough snow would blow in so that Kevin would have to unearth the heater, but it actually melted any snow that came its way. Excellent! One less thing to fuss with. The girls have been in their run/coop since a few hours into the snowfall. I might let them out a bit today; I'll see what the snow looks like.
OTOH, when they're free ranging and they want shelter, they hide under the back porch and I don't want to end up having to crawl through a mess of snow to get them out from under there at night when it's time to go back in the coop. We did that Sunday afternoon when there were just a few inches of snow and it was a suboptimal experience.
OTOH, they don't care to walk through an inch of snow so maybe they won't venture too far from their eglu. Bco where we (I'm using the royal "we" here) needed to shovel for the driveway, they could find their way under the back porch by walking across the shovelled areas which are starting to melt and clear. I also don't want them hopping up onto the snowdrifts and then taking flight into the neighbors' yards, especially the neighbor with the dog. That's just like something Stephanie would do. She got out about a week ago, having somehow gotten over the baby gate that blocks the drive. Apparently, she was out visiting bc she was found on the next door neighbors' front step. Our young neighbor and her friend brought her back home.
Chickens are relatively easy care, however, I do find myself worrying at times about what if this happens or what if that happens? Can I microchip a chicken? If they got lost, would animal control think to scan them for microchips? Should I put leg bands with our address on them? I think that, once we get through a whole year -- all the seasons -- with the chickens I'll feel more confident about them and their safety.