Snow Birds

The first accumulating snow in our area arrived yesterday morning.  As the sun crept up, the brightness of the snow in the early morning’s light must have intrigued the chickens as they waited to be let out of the coop.  I was anxious to see their reaction to their first real snow interaction.


The forecast called for one to three inches of snow so I made sure to fill their feeder the day before, tidy their coop and provide extra calories to keep them warm and busy as they’d surely spend more time inside, particularly since a cold blast of air was scheduled to arrive along with the snow.  I find that the only thing that has really driven them inside their coop for any duration during the day is wind.  They tend to brave the cold and the rain, particularly when they can be under the roofed portion of their run.   When they do go inside, the deep litter of straw and pine bedding keeps them warm.


A small suet cake filled with hulled sunflower seeds and mealworms, a pecking bar of oregano, mint, turmeric and garlic and greens still available in the garden- parsley, kale, lettuce and spinach



This treat caused quite a frenzy the day before the snow was scheduled to arrive.


When I opened the run door to let them out just as the sun came up, they ran down the ramp as usual, a cluster of pushy, squawking hens, eager to greet the day.  Once assembled at the bottom of the ramp in their run, you could see the recognition that something was different.  It was just barely light as they peered out at the white snow on the ground, seemingly questioning it’s appearance and merit.


Just barely light, but the brightness of the snow alerted them to a different scenario altogether.


It was but a few inches of snow, the kind that causes little impact to our daily routine but makes me eager for more.  I was pleased to note that the waterer was working fine while noting the frozen dish of water they use when they free range as I walked out.


Frozen water dish on the patio.



Heated waterer works great!


I offered scratch and mealworms to keep them interested, even tossing some over to the part of the run that doesn’t have a covered roof, thereby presenting a quandary:  step on that cold white stuff or forego treats?  Two girls were game while the others stayed under the dry, snowless area under the roof.  Two warm eggs awaited me and I happily collected them.


Two eggs, still warm.


Later in the day, I let them out and that was fun.  There was hesitation, then commitment as one, then two and finally five girls ventured out into the snow.  The other three?  They looked on, lost interest and went inside.

The five hens that were out were clearly not thrilled with the cold snow on their feet as they jumped onto the ledge by the patio, first one, then two, until all five were there, looking around at the vast white expanse and deeming it undesirable (at least that was my interpretation as they stood next to me looking at me and then each other).   So I called them for scratch, intending to put them in for the night.

Four of the girls flew over to me, one leery of landing on the snow and almost crashing into the coop, bumping into me instead as she hesitated to land and lifted up a bit then realized she needed to land else she’d wreck.  I scattered mealworms, dried oats and hulled sunflower seeds but realized I was short one bird.  I turned around and found Sophia, the Barred Plymouth Rock, poised on the edge of the ledge they were on moments ago, looking at me then down to the snow covered ground, tail up as if to jump but just not committing to the action.  And so, like any good chicken mama, I walked over and picked her up, carrying the chicken princess to the run where she gobbled up treats for the night.


Our Rhode Island Red follows me everywhere and was the first to hop up onto the ledge and then bawk at me for some explanation as to the meaning of the cold white stuff.



The Buff Orpington followed and I laughed out loud as they exchanged looks, not sure what to make of the situation.



And then there was a flurry of feathered activity as the others flew up onto the ledge just to find that the snow was still under their feet.


This morning, we woke to another blast of snow.  It was beautiful to enjoy with the family on this lazy winter Saturday.  The girls were less anxious to run down the ramp this morning as the snow fell outside, blowing into the run and ushering in temperatures in the low teens.  In fact, I left the run door open to the yard as I opened the coop door to see where everyone else was and there was little interest to venture out into the snow as their deep bedding in the coop kept them warm.  Once they did exit the warm coop for the run, they looked at one another and me as if to say, “Really?  More of this?”



Deep bedding of straw and pine shavings to warm the coop.


“Listen up, girls.  There’s more snow!”



“I’m not sure about this, Lucy.”



“This is as far as I’m going today!”


I rewarded them with some warm oatmeal and raisins and a big, fat suet cake chocked full of mealworms, the big one this time since temperatures were not forecast to leave the upper teens today.  I’ve watched them working away at the suet cake all morning, pleasing me again that we have a covered roof on part of the run so they can enjoy outside time regardless of the weather.


A giant suet cake and some warm oatmeal with raisins to warm the girls and keep them busy.



Just 17 snowy degrees late morning.


My view outside has been delightful as I gaze at the snow covered bushes and trees, watch birds visit various feeders, and admire the stillness of the freshly fallen snow.  I’ve spotted bright red cardinals on snow covered trees void of leaves that readily reveal their burst of color against the white and brown wooded landscape.  I saw the same red splash of color in snow covered pine trees, the greens of their branches made more vibrant from the clumps of white snow.

Birds have filled feeders and waited their turns on nearby plants and perches left behind by stalks of plants of a season now past, bumping each other off to get to the seeds when patience has run out.  Downy woodpeckers, big blue jays and doves have landed on my platform feeder to enjoy suet cakes of their own.  My garden, void of much growth in winter, still inspires me as I admire the blank canvas before me and dream of how to fill it in spring.  I know that lettuce  is still edible beneath the snow covered window boxes just as life lives inside the snow covered beehives.


The heat loving orchid juxtaposed with the cold snow outside my kitchen window where bird feeders abound and uncut hosta stalks and rhododendron and holly bushes provide perches for waiting birds.



Lettuce still grows inside the cold frames, now insulated with snow on this cold winter’s day.


The snow has also been revealing in other ways too.  I make no secret of my frustrations with bunnies that ravage many of my plantings, forcing me to cage and wrap bushes and plants.  I see the damage still but this morning, seeing their tracks in the snow as they entered through the fence into the backyard, a reoccurring act I was aware of, irked me.  Following those prints over to the deck and noting the brazenness to actually go up onto our deck, nibble potted plant remains and still harvestable cilantro and then hop down the bigger set of stairs, actually surprised me.


Bunny tracks and snow covered chives and sedum.


I had to shake it off though as I admired my plants in the snow, snow that was just right for today, painting a serene and beautiful picture of my garden, branches filled just so, not weighted down, risking damage to plants, painted in a palette altogether different from the vibrant colors of a summer garden.  I watched the myriad of birds twittering to one feeder and then another, laughed at my dog as he ran around the yard, slipping a bit and needing to regain footing, and breathed in the cold, crisp air the day offered, finding it restorative despite the bitter cold.  Finally, I wandered back inside, content that all the birds were taken care of and that these snow birds, were here to stay.  I was ready for hot coffee, fresh eggs and the peace of a day like this.



These are the types of tracks I like to see in the snow.  Birds filled feeders and hung from suet today, pops of color and life against a snowy backdrop.



My honey bees flew just last week with warmer temperatures, lifting my spirits and renewing my hope for their resilience, but are now clustered together inside their hives, conserving heat and food, waiting on warmer days.


That first snow each winter exhilarates me and leaves me ready for more.  The snow of the last two days was just a tease of a few inches.  More will come soon enough.  Come March, I know I’ll feel less eager to see it, but for now, in this moment, it’s bliss.

Our footprints always follow us on days when it’s been snowing.  They always show us where we’ve been, but never where we’re going.           

– Winnie the Pooh



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