February 17, 2013. “Chickens in the Snow,” by Mary Koncel. While my husband and I hurried around last weekend, unloading bags of grain or filling up water buckets before the snowstorm, I couldn’t help but notice how our animals had their own way of preparing for the oncoming blast of winter. In the house, the dogs and cat were already curled up on the living room couch, snuggled against each other so closely that they morphed into a massive heap of black, white, and grey tabby fur with a few legs and a tail thrown in for good measure.
Outside, the horses had eaten enough hay and assumed their defensive position: backs turned to the wind, tails tucked, and ears pinned firmly down. Normally, sweet Rain keeps a respectful distance from cantankerous Maxine, but in these urgent times, they too understood the need to close ranks. Standing side-by-side, they waited for the worst – or until, of course, I called them into the barn and the comfort of their stalls. They can be drama queens at times.
Despite the increasing wind, our chickens were intrepid. Always waiting for an opportunity to be “released” from their chicken coop, they ran out the door – in the way only chickens can run – when I opened it for a few precious minutes of freedom. They wasted no time – pecking through the tufts of frozen grass, searching for the scattering of sunflower seeds that always miraculously appear somewhere in the yard.
This winter they’ve become spoiled, mostly because of the lack of snow. And when there has been a storm, they’ve come to expect us to shovel a path for their little excursions to the barn and back. (A bunch of angry chickens raking their beaks against the wire of their coop like hardened prisoners with cups in hand is hard to ignore!) Naturally then, when the snow started, I thought they’d make a beeline to their coop, first Mary Pat and then the others, without any coaxing. But they didn’t. Instead they continued with their important chicken business of the day. Speckles had found a leftover tomato from the day before, and Henrietta was scratching in a pile of leaves under the forsythia bushes.
And then there was Miss Anita, one of my favorites because of her penchant to keep me company when I’m cleaning the barn. A sweet and gorgeous Australorp, she stood almost in profile for maybe a minute or two as flakes of snow gathered on her, a little on her neck then a fine layer covering her back and wings. Chickens in the snow—especially fresh white snow on luminous black feathers—is a splendid sight for any time, but especially before the predicted wrath of that particular storm.
I almost regretted having to round up “the ladies,” but I was cold and saw their growing annoyance with the wind and dreaded white stuff that was accumulating on and all around them. (The others weren’t as tolerant as Miss Anita.) A handful of grapes caught their attention and lured them to their coop without any stragglers. It was a good feeling to see them tucked away in their new pine shavings and hay – warm, safe, and already waiting for someone to shovel a path for their next winter excursion.
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