Deep Freeze

Tonight is not a very good night to be a hen, here at the Hillhouse Coop. It’s mean cold outside, and although it might look as if our girls had it good… tonight, they just plain don’t. As I get up and look out the window toward the coop, I feel for em. Many aren’t even choosing to roost tonight, as they’re finding more warmth with their bellies against the ground (which itself has to be freezing too!) Alas, one door is full of holes, and now is losing a pane of glass too – by now it lets in as much outside air as a screen. A 250 watt heat bulb has been on non stop for over a month now, but little good it does on a night like tonight. When it’s below zero. When the water freezes less than a half hour after I’ve refilled it. When the birds are covered in tiny ice crystals, and half a dozen gals can’t stop sneezing. (Yeah, chickens sneeze. It means the same thing as when you and I do.)

The structure itself looks impressive; it’s well-built, sturdy, and has been built on a human scale. Painted a nice barn red, it looks a tidy addition to our property. But on a night like this, those things don’t matter so much as they serve to make me feel a good deal of guilt. I had this small structure built so that my many hens might enjoy a comfortable hen house, one with enough room for all, yet cozy enough, well insulated enough to keep in the shared warmth of so many feathered bodies. That was the idea, but I didn’t know enough yet to execute the plan as well as I should. First off, the damn ceiling’s too high. The room is too narrow, and the doors at either end prevent us from making better use of the wall space. Roosting bars are too steeply stacked, meaning that birds are always pooping on the backs of those one rung below. If I’d been thinking less about how I wanted the henhouse to match my garage and more about the comfort of the birds who were actually going to live there, I mighta done it differently. But then again, live and learn. I’ve lived with it, and now I’ve learned what I’d do differently. But for now, it’s so bloody cold we’ll all just have to make it through as best we can. Can’t make any big changes now.

Oh, may God bless and keep my chickens safe and as warm as possible tonight. They have continued to give us eggs when so many other flocks are down. They do so well by us, I only wish I could keep them more comfortable in return. Especially right now, as I’m about to snuggle deep down into my winter bed, which is so many, many degrees warmer then theirs is on this night of the deep freeze.

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