Poor Hens

I thought we had escaped the bad weather   for too long and today it has caught up with us – well and truly.

Jay and I walked to the bakers this morning and really enjoyed crunching over the (almost) virgin white snow but the cats and chickens are not so happy.

The cats usually queue up to dash out of the window as soon as it’s light but this morning only two braved the ice cold draught but went put of the window and then straight to the door to come in. They are all curled up happily in the warm now.

Not so the hens.  They have two shelters – with the open side facing in opposite directions but they are decidedly miserable.

The snow is getting deeper and they don’t like walking over it. Even at bedtime I have to lift some of them into their house for the night.  Hilda, the Sussex hen, is the only one who puts herself to bed before I get there and sometimes Susie joins her but the others are usually making sad little  noises from underneath the tarpaulin and scratching fruitlessly at the bare earth before having a last drink of water as a ‘nightcap’.

They are all still laying an egg a day despite seeming less interested in food. Apart from their grain, which they peck at eagerly, they show little interest in many of the other treats I take them such as cabbage or lettuce,  and bread soaked in warm water. However, they greedily gobble chips, bacon or fish if I can offer them any such leftovers.

Their water needs checking regularly as, even under cover,  it can freeze.

If any experienced poultry keepers can give me some hints on keeping them happy over Winter I’d be very grateful. Thanks.

One thing about this weather is that it puts me in the mood for Christmas and we took advantage of the local Garden Centre having a 15% discount day to buy our tree.

CC decorated it yesterday and we got the season off to a good start with mince pies and mulled wine while playing Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas album: all a bit earlier than usual but, never mind, eh!

14 Responses to “Poor Hens”

  1. Z Says:

    Our hardy girls are still out and about, though keeping together and not going far. They do like fatty food in very cold weather, and we give them bread soaked in warm water too. You could try getting some fat from the butcher, rendering it down and adding some melted fat to the bread?

    • sablonneuse Says:

      Thanks z, it’s a relief to know that I’m not being unkind to the hens by leaving them to roam in the garden – if they want to! As you say, they seem to like fatty food so I’ll try the ‘fried bread’.

  2. Patricia D Mackay Says:

    The tree looks lovely.
    Would the hens enjoy a game of scrabble? I’m getting hooked again

  3. guyana gyal Says:

    I hope Z’s suggestions work, I was beginning to feel sorry for them.

    In Guyana, people put a light bulb to keep the baby chickens warm, probably during the rainy season when there’s a slight chill in the air. That might work for your girls.

    • sablonneuse Says:

      I think they’re warm and cosy in their house as it’s quite small and they have to snuggle together but during the day they seem ‘programmed’ to stay outside unless they go indoors to lay an egg. The shelters we have made are snow and rainproof but I’m not sure how much protection they would offer from a biting wind. It’s a bit too far to run electricity up to them I’m afraid.

  4. Little old me Says:

    Poor little hens and cats come to that. The cat that just visits has moved into our house because of the bad weather, we know we are being used, but I couldn’t turn her out in this.

    • sablonneuse Says:

      Oh I’m pleased to hear that, Helen. Our cats seem fairly used to the idea that it’s too cold to play outside but Parsley ventured out this afternoon and found herself leg deep in snow. She was not a happy bunny!

  5. tillylil Says:

    Happy Christmas Sandy – glad you have still got eggs.

  6. bretonne Says:

    I had to scrape 10cm of snow off the run and hen-house “lid”, and felt very sorry for them, and worried about how they would manage in the snow. I did think of moving the whole caboodle into the barn, but that has a dirt floor and chickens do love their grass. We asked around and were advised to put a “bache” over the run, a windbreak for when the wind is really biting, keep the grass in the run free of snow, and keep checking on the water. Extra food and straw too. They seemed to enjoy the warm water drinks! And yes, they are still laying.

    • sablonneuse Says:

      Glad your hens are still laying – bless them! It’s atrange how my girls now prefer their grain mix and they are getting extra rations. However, they enjoyed left over tartiflette and cheese filled crepes recently even if they refuse apple peelings and greens.

  7. bretonne Says:

    A friend made a disastrous sponge cake, even I can’t imagine how she achieved it, so it went to the hens – but I hung around a bit watching them eat it in case they choked!!!
    Funny, my girls prefer their grain-mix too, I keep finding left-over pondeuses pellets in their trough, though they don’t look the most exciting, do they?

    • sablonneuse Says:

      No, you’re right. Fortunately there aren’t too many pellets in the mix I buy but when I tried them on pellets alone (which I was told I should give them) they weren’t at all keen. Their favourite treat is lardons at the moment and they also appreciate a pot of natural yoghurt.

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