Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chooks and the polar vortex

Have you heard about the cold gripping most of North America?  School was preemptively cancelled for today with a delayed start tomorrow to keep kids out of the dangerous wind chill of -25°F.  Apparently, too many liberals talked about life being better in Canada, and the weather moved on down for us to try.  Yikes.  I am fortunate to have a roof over my head and a snug wood stove to boot, but I admit as a first-year chicken keeper, I have been worried about my chooks.   My chickens are in a beautifully made but unheated coop and a fairly open run.  They have happily been outside in 20s and 30s, but -5°F (before windchill) was giving me pause.

I read a lot of online chicken forums.  Keepers from Alaska, Minnesota, the Dakotas and New England tried to assure the rest of us that the chickens would be fine if they have acclimated already.  I believed them, until I observed ice on the inside of my bedroom windows.  At 11pm, I snuck out of the house to bring them hot water bottles wrapped in tea towels and excess wood shavings for more bedding.  Oh, I worried about my chickie girls.

This morning, the thermometer read -9°F and the metal trim on our sliding glass door was coated in ice.  Was I a fool for not heating the coop?  How had they fared?  I wanted to check but was afraid of what I'd find.  I decided to wait for the sunrise and see.

The answer?  They seem totally fine.  At sun-up, one of my girls was peeking out of her little coop window, wondering just what was taking so long for us to open the door.  I made them a warm oatmeal and peanut butter breakfast, refilled the hot water bottles and went to check on them.  All three came rocketing out of the coop as soon as the door opened, just as they always do.  They happily puttered around the coop, fully ignoring my oatmeal offering, and then settled down on a pile of wood shavings I put out there to protect their feet a bit.  -9° and they are outside by choice.  They are fine.

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