“The Girls” In Winter

Probably due to the mountains surrounding our little community, summer nights sometimes remain quite warm. According to Linda’s online research, hens don’t have sweat glands. Not wanting “the girls” to suffer from the Hedley heat, in spring I removed the insulation from their little home. We appreciate their golden brown eggs and I do whatever I can to accommodate their needs and desires.

The girls are terrific troopers and this summer, when people were moaning about being hot, they took it in stride. They didn’t complain even when the mercury rose to 40 degrees C above.

Now that the mercury has reversed itself and plummeted

"The Girls" fluffed up in the hen house
“The Girls” fluffed up in the hen house

downward, I have needed to again respond to the seasonal change. Just before the current cold weather (-15 some nights), I put the insulation back into their home. I’ve heard of chickens losing their feet in very cold temperatures.

I had laid up a stock of fresh grass for this season. A few weeks ago I began spreading some on the floor of an apple box. The box was in their house all last winter and they laid in it faithfully. In spring though, they simultaneously began boycotting the box.

When they deviate from an established pattern, they invariably catch me off guard. I attribute such changes to boredom and an understandable need for stimulation. Not having anyone willing to share Frequent Flyer points, they can’t go to Mexico or Spain. Laying in a different location seems to alleviate the boredom. I think they derive great pleasure from watching as I search for eggs. Sometimes I need a few days to find them.

With the onset of cold weather I hoped they would exercise some common hen sense and resume laying in the box. Fortunately they did. Of course their incessant scratching quickly sends the grass flying and I need to replenish it almost daily. I keep in mind that scratching is in their DNA and try to exercise patience.

When frigid air from the north invaded our valley, the girls decided

Ice forming on 20 Mile Creek
Ice forming on 20 Mile Creek

to take a sabbatical from laying. At least I assumed that was behind the sudden dearth of eggs.

Until now they had never all agreed on a “work to rule” campaign at the same time, so I was a tad suspicious. One day I searched their domain with the thoroughness of a prison guard looking for drugs. I checked the outdoor laying box they used in good weather. I looked behind the ever bearing raspberry shoots and the lilac bushes against the neighbor’s 6 foot high fence.

Concealed in a secret place under the lilacs, they had laid up a store of 11 eggs, tightly bunched together. It has been colder outside than in our fridge, so the eggs were in perfect condition. Unfortunately, the girls now seem disgruntled at losing their impressive stash. Maybe they were planning a lavish breakfast for themselves. Anyway, whatever their reasoning, it’s back to one egg a day.

I give the girls full credit for being hardy. Much like children, even on the coldest days, they prefer to be outdoors. One thing has changed though and I doubt that they understand. In warmer weather, just about every time we looked out the rear windows, we saw the girls scratching the earth as determinedly as diamond miners drilling into rock. Now the ground in their compound is frozen solid. I can’t push a shovel into it and the girls can’t scratch beneath the surface. This has cut them off from one of their favourite culinary delights. For the insects it’s a blessing.

Yesterday I observed Miss Lonely Hearts for a long minute, unmoving as a statue. It’s just the beginning of at least 3 months of uselessly standing around, wondering why this circumstance is being inflicted on them.

For the sake of their mental equilibrium, I may have to invest in a 60 inch smart tv. I’ll set it up in the house though, and they can enjoy their favorite programs through the window.

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