Last winter Lonely Hearts and the two Cleopatras insisted on going
outdoors even when the mercury dipped to -20. I don’t recall any days that frigid this winter, but we have been blessed with an abundance of snow. The snow has lingered, due to mostly sub-zero temperatures. With a 100 watt bulb in their little home, it’s quite cozy in there. Maybe it’s age related, or it could be wisdom, but they’ve been in a self imposed quarantine all of December and January.
In winter I close the “chicken door” for the night to keep out the cold air. After their first few days of not venturing out this past December, I ceased opening the door in the morning. One ramification of them confining themselves to their quarters is that I need to scrape up their droppings more frequently. It’s not an onerous task but they are curious about any activity and I need to take care not to trample on them in the constricted space.
The girls’ understanding of our agreement seems to be that in exchange for their eggs, it is my responsibility to provide meals and lodging and also do the house work. Lately I’ve chided them, somewhat good naturedly, for their growing complacency in regard to laying. “One egg per day from the three of you just doesn’t cut it,” I have told them several times. “Surely you can give up a little pecking time and lay at least one more.” They seem to listen respectfully at the time, heads turned up, then speedily forget. However, they are quick to remind me, with discontented clucking, if I am derelict in carrying out any of my responsibilities to them.
After the first two weeks in seclusion, I wondered if they were having second thoughts about their negative opinion of the snow and cold. I shovelled a walking path for them and then opened their door. They hesitantly stepped out onto their covered patio, an area sheltered by a glass storm door leaning against the outer wall. When they saw the foot deep snow, they ignored the path I had made and resolutely scurried back inside. Having ascertained their wishes, I closed the door and again secured it against the cold and predators.
The mercury has now crept up somewhat and I again shovelled a
walking area earlier this week and opened their door. Lonely Hearts stepped out hesitantly, as usual leading the way. The Cleopatras followed. After much testing and considerable consultation among themselves, the girls came to a collective decision to again spend the daytime hours outdoors. Their production of droppings will now decrease in the hen house but once the snow goes and the ground thaws, I’ll need to deal with that issue outside. Being a poultry rancher requires labour, patience and a sense of humour.