Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Poultry Snow Palace

Clover standing on her tiptoes trying to see past the snow.
After weeks of unseasonably warm, dry weather, we woke to about a foot of snow on Friday morning. The night before, I'd given the ladies fresh water, topped off their feed, and left them a bowl of yogurt and some applesauce. I knew they'd be in no hurry to come out the next morning with snow on the ground, and figured I'd buy a little time on a snowy morning before forging a path to the coop and run.

As it turned out, it was a snow day for M&L. After it warmed up a little bit, they went outside to let the hens out and had plans to build a snow fort. But somehow that plan evolved with the influence of the chickens.

At first, none of the hens really wanted to come out. But then I saw Mabel take a flying leap from the run, apparently thinking she'd get over that white stuff and into the garden. She didn't anticipate that the snow was everywhere. It was an impressive flight for a heavy chicken, and she landed in the foot deep snow like a rock. This seemed to shock, then puzzle her. She sat there, immobilized. I watched as she looked around trying to figure her way out of the mess, then M rescued her and put her back in the run.

In the meantime, Clover had waddled out the run door and was walking back and forth along the shoveled path. This was definitely a case of a chicken wanting to get to the other side. She stood as tall as her bowling ball-shaped self could get, trying to see a way through or over the snow. The Australorps stood tentatively inside the run, looking out with concern. Pearl was happily eating the grain and kale I'd tossed out, and Oreo and Violet, having seen as much snow as they cared to see, were roosting on the high perches in the coop where it was warm and dry.

I gathered a couple of eggs, and headed back in. A little while later I looked out to see that the girls had shoveled out the snow then piled a bunch of pine shavings on one area. A network of shoveled paths led to and from the opening, and the hens were strolling in various places along the path. When one of them had the urge to run and flap wings, they did so by following the path in its curves around the bird bath and through the garden. They did not stray from the maze of paths. The two Australorps wandered in circles in the center of the shavings as if they were gossiping ladies out for a walk in the park.

M&L were busily building up walls. I saw L place Pearl on top of the berm. Pearl, having a strong sense of decorum and self preservation, hopped back to the safety of the path. L busily  appeared to be creating steps for the chickens to climb up and down. Eventually, they had created a number of "rooms", corridors, and stairsteps in the heavy white snow.

I looked over at our neighbor's snow. Her yard was covered with a pristine glistening white blanket that looked like icing on a cake--not the slightest footprint marred its surface. I wondered if she looked over at our yard and pondered the expansive Poultry Palace that had appeared.

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