Baby, it’s cold outside!

Winter has arrived in Maryland and we are all transitioning now to cold days and colder nights.  The chickens are handling it well, likely better than the humans I hear complaining about the cold only a few days into the true start of the season.

Temperatures didn’t climb above freezing most of the week.  The driving winds made it feel even more frigid to those of us just below the Mason Dixon line where frozen precipitation still sends us into a tizzy.  Last night brought the first winter storm.  We woke to the sound of ice pellets hitting windows and a sheet of ice covering all surfaces this morning.

Ice covered every surface this morning.  The chickens were warm and dry in their coop with an added layer of straw and bedding that I added earlier in the week.



Frozen blueberry bush that was still clinging onto it’s leaves.



My lavender looks like it’s covered in crystals, even more so when the sun shined down on the sparkling ice later in the day.


I carefully maneuvered down the backyard slope to the chicken coop at sunrise to open the door and let the girls see for themselves what was causing the rat-tat-tatting.  They raced out eagerly as always and then determined that half of their run had an icy surface that would be difficult to navigate.  They stayed outside though, enjoying the covered area of their run, once again making me appreciate the decision to cover a portion it.

The covered section of the run provides plenty of refuge from the elements and allows my chickens to enjoy outdoor time as much as possible.  They have been working on a large pumpkin this week that is now filled with ice and snow. 


A heated waterer keeps ice from forming and holds three gallons of water.
The girls have plenty of perching options and utilize them but if I approach the coop, they’re interest is in me and what I’m offering.

Surprisingly, even on the day when we experienced 40 mph winds and temps in the low teens, the girls were outside.  They were wise enough to seek refuge in the coop every so often, but their preference is clearly to be outside, even if it’s raining or sleeting since they have some protection from the roof.


Icy and cold, but the girls are outside enjoying the winter weather Mother Nature provided.


I’ve spoiled them with warm oatmeal, extra mealworms, hulled sunflower seeds, even cooked cabbage this week to help keep them warm.  I like to give them scratch in the late afternoons after I let them out to free range a bit because it fills them for a cold night ahead.  I mix millet, cracked corn and lots of hulled sunflower seeds and keep it in a large covered container, the location of which is well known by the girls and any movement in that direction solicits their utmost attention.

Cold weather breakfast for champions- backyard chickens, that is.  A big pot of oatmeal enhanced with some super seeds that I like in my oatmeal on a morning this week when the temperature at sunrise was a scant nine degrees and the wind made for a blustery day for us all.
I ate my breakfast standing by the kitchen window, watching my small flock enjoy their morning porridge, grateful for their contributions as well.
Chopped, slightly boiled cabbage to warm my girls.  Really?  No bacon?

With the added layer of ice this morning, I decided that an extra special treat was in order.  I gave them a suet cake made of hulled sunflower seeds and mealworms.  They raced over to see the offering as soon as I hung it this morning and it was immediately deemed worthy of their attention.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching them pecking away at the block each time I looked outside from the warmth and comfort of my kitchen.

A chicken suet cake filled with mealworms and hulled sunflower seeds provides extra protein and fat.
Whoa!  What is it?!  Treats!
Did you notice there were only seven hens accounted for in the previous picture?  When treats are given, everyone is front and center, unless duty calls.  Bumble, the Buff Orpington, was busy laying an egg. 

I haven’t overlooked my other feathered friends in the backyard.  My bird feeders were filled yesterday in preparation of the storm and were quite busy with visitors this morning- cardinals, titmice, sparrows, wrens, chickadees and even woodpeckers visiting the suet I left on the platform feeder.

By mid afternoon, the mercury danced around the freezing mark and the dripping sounds of ice beginning to melt greeted me as I went out to check on the girls.  I decided to scoop their litter trays which caused quite a stir.  One hen after another came inside to see what I was up to and Honey, the Rhode Island Red, my curious girl, hopped up onto the roosting bar for a better look.  She came right over to where I worked, beak to face, head tilted to the side and let out a small “bawk.”  I told her what I was doing and explained the weather situation.

Wish I could have captured her quicker as she came over to me and looked right in my face, as if to say, “What’s the deal here?”
Lucy and Ethel enjoying some feed after inspecting the open crack in the door.

The coop door was slightly ajar and the girls peeked out through the opening.  I told them they were better off inside, but they didn’t believe me so a while later I did let them out.  Five of them raced out, slipping a bit but mostly able to navigate through some slush.  Three of the girls were more hesitant, gingerly stepping onto the white surface, looking up at me and then following along, two of them opting to fly but finding landing a little more challenging than they were expecting.  I didn’t leave them out but a few minutes, only wanting them to understand what this weather meant to them- cold feet!  They were easily lured back to the run with a shake of the mealworm bag which I gladly offered in return for their obedience.

Once the temperature rose above freezing and thawing began, I let them out to see what the white stuff was all about, preparing them for future, more substantial snow falls.
You’ve heard the saying, “getting your feathers ruffled.”  Rybeccah, the Welsummer, was the last to venture out and decided to fly but landing was slippery and cold.  She was not pleased.
Finding some traction.
Exploring, looking for perches, and general uncertainty.

It’s been a lovely Saturday here, tucked warmly inside with my family, no real option to travel given the icy roads, forcing us to slow down and enjoy the present, something that can be hard to do at this busy time of year.  We savored a delicious pancake, eggs and bacon breakfast, the process of which entailed cracking eggs that came from my flock out back and continues to delight me and quite frankly, astound me a bit.  Afterwards, I poured the bacon grease into an old container I filled with birdseed and added a bit of coconut oil.  Once it cooled and formed, which took no time at all given how cold it is outside, I popped it out of the form and onto the platform birdfeeder.  It is being enjoyed by many feathered diners as I write this.

Using the grease from the morning bacon along with some coconut oil and birdseed made a useful treat to the birds on a frigid day.



My daughter removed this ice from a large magnolia leaf, finding wonder in its perfectly formed mold to share with us all, reminding me that when we go out and experience nature we find treasures all around us.


Nature has provided yet again, not just in the beauty of an icy landscape, but in reminding us to slow down and appreciate what’s before us.  It is this about winter that I really relish.

My daughter’s fairy garden captures a magic that she sees and I have overlooked, until the calm brought on by the winter weather, allowing us to slow down and savor our time together, reacquainting my eyes and other senses to the joys of the season.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.  You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?   

– J.B. Priestley



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