Dangerous Weather

It is the last day of January and it is 58 degrees F. Everyone is sloshing through muck and puddles outside.

Lily feet

Barn windows drip with condensation. As I write this, rain is coming down, a hard wind carrying it sideways.

This is dangerous weather. When it is well below freezing and there’s ice on the windows and snow on the ground, I don’t worry. When the temperature rises, I do. Germs multiply in warm, moist air. Respiratory disease lurks in all barns, but when it is dry and cold it goes into hiding. Manure that has solidified into clumps on barn boards, and frozen hard into the ground outside, thaws. It releases moisture and ammonia fumes, bacteria and viruses.

Pearl, my Cochin, is my only feather-legged hen. I only have the one, and this is why:


Although some people think that feathered legs keep birds warm, around here they get muddy and icy. She carries the wet, cold around with her. Yesterday, knowing that this warm front was on the way, I mucked out the coop and put down fresh shavings, so that Pearl and the others have a dry home.

inside clean coop

I’ll keep an eye on the outdoor runs. I’ve been putting down shavings, to keep the chickens up off the snowy ground. But, in this weather, it could easily go moldy, bringing illness to my flock. If it remains warm, it will all be shoveled out this weekend.

old hens

For now, everyone is safe and dry and breathing clean air in their well-ventilated coops. A January thaw is never a good thing. I’ll be paying close attention to the girls.


  1. If we would only just have one January thaw it would be easier. It seems like the last couple years we have January thaws about every week. It was in the 70’s here Monday and Tuesday and tonight a low of 8 degrees.
    Next week a couple days in the 60’s again.
    I noticed Monday and Tuesday a high odor of ammonia in the coop. I hired a handy man to clean out my coop and add new shavings. Can’t do it myself for a little why longer, recovering from surgery.

    • I was noticing that there haven’t been comments from Ken for awhile and was wondering what happened. Nice to see you back. Get well soon.

      • Glad to see you are back Ken, but sorry to hear you had to have surgery. I hope you heal well. Don’t know if you saw that one of Terry’s Polish died of heart failure. And her other one Sixouise isn’t doing well either. I am sorry to see her Polish won’t live as long as your Whichaway and Wrongaway did.

  2. Twinkiedink doesn’t look up to par this morning and we can’t see Buffy. Everyone ok today?

    • Twinkydink is fine, but is sulking because of the weather. Buffy is down to her last days. She sits quietly out of the way. She is weak in the legs and can’t walk much but is able to get to the food and water! She’s still the right weight and doesn’t appear to be suffering. I’ve dusted her with louse powder as she can no longer dust bathe.

  3. We just worry about them – your site is the first one we turn to as we start our day. We can only hope that when it comes time, Buffy will go gently. Thank you for your quick response and explanation.

  4. I always check in on this site first thing in the morning too! I’m sorry about the lovely Buffy. She has fooled you before though….
    This is one time when our temperatures, puddles, and humidity match. However, in my case when the weather changes it will just get windier and warmer. Almost never goes below 50 here, and seldom above 75. I learned to never put down anything in my coop that will mildew – I just add new dirt from expanding the garden whenever the old dirt looks tired, and I scoop poop at least once a day. They love to have a dry place for dust bathing in the rainy season!

  5. It looks like there’s a CD hanging in the doorway. What is its purpose? Do the girls have their own CD player?

  6. Great post Terry, Do you ever put straw down in their run? I started this year just because it has gotten so muddy and I am trying to keep them as dry as possible. Will I have the same issues as the shavings by using straw?

    • Straw is not as absorbent as pine shavings and has a tendency to go moldy quickly. If you use straw to give the hens something to stand on and stay out of the muck, (which I’ve done, too) then I’d clean it out thoroughly once a week.

      • I did straw once to save money..will never do it again..what a mess and horrible to clean up. The droppings and moisture just sit on top of it and the birds stand in it…. it is awful.

  7. So much work! Your animals are so lucky to have such a knowledgeable and hardworking “caregiver.”

  8. Thank you so much for your posts Terry! We learn so much from them.

    • Dear Marigold, I almost got one that said “Gentlemen” for the goats, but they’re not. They’re boys. So, I’m looking for one of those.

  9. I just checked the main screen and saw the snow all gone, how odd! I thought you had shovelled it all away! We have wind and rain yet again, I hung corn to keep them occupied.

  10. Thanks for the warning about the possibility of shavings molding. I had considered myself quite clever that I found a way to keep the muck factor to a minimum by spreading shavings in their yard, but now I’m aware of the potential downside of doing that. Do you think there is still a risk of mold if the girls keep things stirred up with their scratching?

    • There’s always a chance. The first year your chickens are active scratchers and the risk is small, but my old hens don’t scratch at all. So, it depends on weather, health and age of the chickens, and so many other factors. Just stay observant!

    • I been reading a bit about koi fish Terry. I was wondering did you pick the Beast as a two inch old fry because she was one that would come up to the surface to greet people ? And does she have a favorite treat, I have heard alot of koi fish like honey nut cheerios, silkworm, bugs and some even love chicken ?

  11. I noticed the CD disc hanging in front of the chicken coop door……..Im trying to figure out its job…..but I stumped. Why is it hanging there?

  12. Kit I’m very impressed you remembered my Whichway and Wrongway.
    I’m doing well, I had a open appentectimy (sp?). Yes my stubborn self waited too long to go to the doctor so I had to have the open surgery instead of going through the belly button to remove it.
    Yes Terry the worse part of being laid up is relying on others to tend to your animals. I am just not completely satisfied with the way they do it.
    With the cold weather I needed help ever morning with hauling water to the coop. I’m not suppose to lift over 15 pounds to the end of the month. Well I decided I would just carry the water out one pitcher at a time instead of a 5 gallon bucket at a time. So this morning I thanked the neighborhood youngster for his help, paid him and doing the chore myself one pitcher at a time, about 10 trips.

    • Well, Ken, sounds like you are always true to your own nature :) At least you’re following doctor’s orders and not lifting anything heavy. I’m lucky here, as Steve does a very good job caring for all when I go away (and puts up with my worried questions and text messages) and when we all go away, I have a pet sitter who comes three times a day. Have used her for 15 years. Wouldn’t leave if Luisa wasn’t available!

    • I always remember anyone with Polish chickens who have very very cute names :)
      I hope you continue to heal and not hurt too much.