How Snowball Keeps Warm

It’s been really cold, single-digit cold, at night. The girls can handle it, though, like the wild birds, they fluff up their feathers and hunker down so that their legs are covered. Buffy, who had been bullied at her first home, sleeps by herself, but she has a glorious amount of Orpington feathers to insulate her, so she is fine. It takes a bit more to keep little, elegant Snowball warm – Snowball figures that it takes Marge and Petunia. Take a look at night, right before hencam turns off for the evening, and you’ll see that Snowball manages to get the prime roosting spot – right between the two big brown hens. In fact, she’s squeezes herself just about under them. It’s rather like having an extra feather duvet on your bed at night.

More About the Barn

The new barn is coming along nicely, isn’t it? One of these days, I’ll get my act together and put photos up on my blog. But until then, visit Country Carpenters, where you’ll find a portfolio of their buildings. They’re the folks who sell the barn “kits” and send the crew (we have Mike and Rob) to construct the semi-custom structures.

My barn is 10 x 20 feet. Half of it will house some hens. The other side will be storage (oh, joy to hang my garden tools in a spacious place!) and I’ve also included a 6 x 6 stall with a Dutch door to the outside. I don’t know what’s going in there yet. I’d love an alpaca, or a couple of Jacob’s ewes, or a goat, or perhaps just keep it as a place to isolate new hens or a sick bird. What would you put in there?

As I’ve mentioned in my blog, the barn will be used for a photoshoot for a children’s book. Right now the New Hampshire White Pine looks raw and new. I’d like to give it a patina. I’m thinking of white wash or milk paint inside. Anyone have experience with either of those? Please email me and let me know. Thanks!

New Barn

As you can see, a new barn is taking shape. To let the cat out of the bag (the chicken out of the coop?) I’ve written a children’s book featuring Snowball. It is a silly piece of fiction and will be illustrated with photos. Some of the scenes take place in a barn, and so I decided that I needed a new one. I didn’t, really, but what a fine excuse to build a larger barn and to get more chickens. The book is due out in the Fall of 2008, and once the contract is finalized, I will post more details here.

Speaking about children’s books – I hope that you have perused my list of favorite kid’s books featuring chickens on the Chicken Keeping site. I’ve just added a new one, Why did the Chicken Cross the Road? which has double-page spreads, illustrated by well-known children’s book artists, that purport to answer that age-old question. Very funny.

What Do Rabbits Do In Cold Weather?

It was 25 degrees today, but the wind had died down and most of the chickens were standing around in the sun. I brought them cabbage leaves and stems (I’d made a “Chinese Chicken Salad” a la 1980 — a classic). The few girls in the henhouse came hurrying out for the treat. All 10 hens were at my feet. But where was Candy? Not in the yard, not in her hutch, and not, from what I could see peering through the little chicken door, in there on the henhouse floor. She loves cabbage and I was a tad concerned that she wasn’t hopping over. So, I went into the coop and there she was – settled in nice and comfy in the bottom right-hand nesting box! She had on the expression of a broody hen. No doubt Candy knows that the very nesting box she had claimed is the chickens’ favorite. Another rabbit joke played on the girls? Or simply Candy realizing that what the hens like, she might, too. We’ll have to watch and see what the girls do when they notice that their number-one box has been claimed by a bunny.

Treats and Toys

It’s 8 degrees this morning. Where are the chickens? Outside pecking at the scratch corn. Where is Candy? In the chicken house, drinking warm water and eating the laying hen pellets. But, the wind is supposed to pick up and it is going to be brutal out later, at which point the girls will go indoors and annoy each other. I’ll put a cabbage in the henhouse later today to keep them busy (and healthy – greens are very good for hens).

Cabbages are cheap, right? Not if you’re shopping at Wholefoods Market and the only options are organic green cabbage or savoy. I bought a head there anyway. I spend a huge amount on American beefhide rawhide flips for my dog, Lily (she goes through several a day – doggy prozac for my crazy puppy). I also buy Lily supposedly indestructible toys which she shreds, sometimes in minutes, or, with luck, a few days. I also make tug toys for her (not hard to do, just braid strips of polartec and sew in a squeaky toy). All of this is to say that I spend a heck of a lot keeping my dog happy. So why not buy an expensive cabbage for the girls? I won’t do it often – those big cheap cabbages satisfy just as well -but this once? They’ll need it today. I think of it as an expense like those rawhide flips for Lily. And if that’s elevated the hens to a status above “backyard chickens” well, that’s obvious already, isn’t it?

BTW, Marge is laying lovely brown eggs. That’s the nice thing about hens, for all the trouble and expense you get something tangible, and absolutely perfect, from them.