Winter Settles In

Other than the surprise Halloween snowstorm, the weather here has been unusually mild. But winter has settled in. This morning there was ice on the pond, it was brittle and thin like sugar on creme brulee.

Outdoor fish go into a cold-weather stasis. They don’t eat. They somehow stay suspended, barely breathing, barely moving, in the frigid water. As long as the pond doesn’t freeze solid, they’ll be fine. Under that big rock is a safe cave where the Beast has her lair. The smaller goldfish join her. The pump is on all winter. Water cascades down the rock, aerating the open water. Sometimes, in the middle of winter, the ice will be inches thick, and through it’s rippled lens I will see the fish, their fins slowly flipping back and forth, keeping them upright and balanced.

This morning Candy’s water was frozen solid. I was prepared with a spare to swap in it’s place. I’ve also given her extra hay to nestle in.

In the winter, outdoor bunnies need their waterers replaced several times a day. The narrow, metal spouts freeze quickly. But Candy has her own solution. She drinks from the heated chicken waterer in the coop.

The goats, with their thick coats, coarse on top, fine underneath, are all set for cold weather. But, they’ve told me that they need hay in the morning. I’ve been giving them half a flake. The process of digestion in their four stomachs actually generates heat. That’s why I like to feed them their main meal late in the afternoon. Their belly furnaces will keep them toasty all night.

As for the chickens? Don’t worry about them! They do not need heat in their coop, or sweaters, or hot oatmeal. They need what they have – draft-free dry barns, free-choice laying hen pellets, free-flowing water, sunny spots to stand in, and a place to roost, cuddled up with friends, at night.


  1. I must tell you that I don’t usually see you out and about on the web cam while im running around the house. But, this morning I was very excited when I happened to get a glimps of you walking around with your camera in hand! It told me that I was going to see another update of the daily lives of you girls and goats on the Henblog! I so look forward to seeing new photos of them and what you want to say!

  2. Terry, what I love about your blog (there are many things, this is just one) is how you manage to pack in the most relevant, helpful information in your writing, without writing paragraph after paragraph. You always have good quality pictures, something interesting to say about the pictures and your life, what you’ve learned and what you’re feeling. In just a few words! Now that is a gift! The English write that way…spare, but enough. Like Beryl Markham in “West with the Night.” Your writing reminds me of hers – and she was enchanting. So are you. Your blog is the first I click on, whenever I am on the computer. You are a delight to read. Thank you! (your next book could be a primer on blogs!)

    • What a nice comment! “West With the Night” is one of my favorite books of all time. If my writing reminds you of that, then it is a huge compliment. It also reminds me that it’s time to reread it. BTW, before I write a post, I write it in my head, edit and edit it down and think through what my point is. By the time I get to the computer, it’s been written already. Then, when I write the post, there’s more editing. Sometimes the process is easy and sometimes it takes me an hour to get it right. But, the posts are never quick!

      • Do you plan the actual wording in your head or just the general ideas? I too am impressed with your writing and always look forward to a new blog! The ice pictures, both the one in words and the visual image, are great!

        • Often, having the title makes the writing go better, but then I have to be flexible and if the topic veers, go back and rewrite the header. Sometimes the visual image leads to the writing and sometimes the idea leads me outside with my camera. This morning I saw the ice and knew just what I wanted to talk about.

  3. I too always check your blog first thing when I switch my computer on. I agree how well written it is, so easy to read. I know from my son keeping a blog in the past, how time consuming it is to do. I haven’t seen any other blog that attracts so many comment’s which say’s something in itself.

    I just love the last photo of the girl’s together, so sweet.

  4. I love the last photo, Terry?

    Stay warm… we’re getting some cold weather now, frosty mornings and snow on the hills further north.

    Goats munching hay in a stable… now that’s a real Christmas Crib :-)


  5. Is the new angle of the perch keeping the feathers cleaner? I had to give a first chicken bath recently and referred to your excellent video. Thank you – made it easy!

  6. Amazing how all the gems fit on the first two rungs of the ladders! Thank you Terry, you’re site always makes my day!

  7. I absolutely love your site. Thank you for sharing lots of great advice as well as lots of laughs!!

  8. I agree with the comments about your writing. Who else but you, the chef/author/blogger would come up with that beautiful word picture of ice on a pond? “…like sugar on creme brulee.” I love that!

    Candy looks like she’s got her winter coat on, the boys look chubby and furry, and the gems look nice and cozy. Was the gem’s pic taken in sunlight or maybe with incandescent? Differing inquiring minds here, i.e. husband and self, would like to know about that lovely light.

    • The girls on the roost photo was taken at dusk with my iPhone. Adjusted a bit to make it sharper in iPhoto. I find that if my composition is good I can get away with technically poor photos :)

  9. Another great post, as always. I wonder if you’ve ever had a lame chicken as I now seem to have? I have a little mille fleur d’uccle and she’s been limping for about a week. I’ve checked her foot top and bottom and don’t see anything unusual but it just doesn’t seem to be getting better. If it were warmer I’d try an epsom salt soak and keep her isolated, but I hate to bring her in the house for several days then try to get her adjusted again to the freezing temps. Any suggestions? Hate to take her to the vet- not only for the cost but for the trauma that would cause her.

    • Yes, I’ve had a few lame birds that “got out of bed wrong.” If she’s fine other than the limp, don’t worry – I bet she’ll recover. But if she looks listless, etc. you’ve got a more serious issue.

  10. Thank you, Terry. The little chicken’s eating fine but looks so pitiful limping about. I’ll wait it out and hopefully this will clear up soon.

  11. That Candy is one clever rabbit and always good for a smile. Also love the group picture of the gems–reminds me of my elementary school pictures on the school steps at year end.

  12. Completely off the subject Terry..but one of these days can you post a blog on how to clean a chicken coop? I have been ready reading about a technique where you just completely clean twice a year? So I am confused as to maybe I am working too hard? I completely rake everyhting out once a month. Thank you again for your expertise as always!

    • Donna, there is a “deep litter system” which is basically like keeping your hens on a live compost pile. It still takes work – the litter must be turned, it needs to be kept dry on top, you need the right quantity of hens for space. And that twice a year clean out? You’d better have a good back or a backhoe. However, it is very successful in certain, limited situations. Harvey Ussery is a proponent (do a google search). Just leaving the barn uncleaned is not the same thing :)
      I prefer to have a tidy barn that I skip out frequently. It take only a minute a day and 10 minutes once a week. But, like Harvey, I have a compost area in the pen. I’ll write more in the New Year about how I do it. Maybe a video!

  13. That would be great! YES! That is the man that I had been reading about that promotes that technique. I will look forward to it. GEEZ..The feathers this year from moulting were unreal! They look wonderful now but I swear my yard looks dreadful! Do you go ahead and mulch the feathers too? I could make decorator pillows!

    • He is a serious homesteader who maximizes his small acreage and grows most of his own food. He doesn’t have retired hens, and he has a complex system. Worm composting, row covers. He’s way farther south than me. Very interesting, but not for me.