This weekend the winds are gusting at 40 to 50 miles an hour and we had some torrential rain yesterday…but all the snow has thawed. It’s a good time to reflect on the ice and snow that lay on the ground a week ago and record some thoughts on caring for hens in the cold weather.
For our three hens - born last spring and purchased from Weeke Farm - this was their first real experience of snow and it was comical to see them navigating the new landscape.
Once the snow began to thaw, as soon as we let them out of their fenced enclosure they quickly found the patches of grass so that they could have some greens to eat. It was striking how the thaw started around the base of large trees – for example the larch next to their enclosure in the orchard and around the apple trees.
In very cold weather it is important to ensure that hens still have access to water as this can easily freeze. Last weekend this meant bringing water from the house as the outside tap was frozen too.
We also provided some new branches for the hens to perch on outside their henhouse so that they had somewhere that was not snow covered for their feet. We didn’t keep them shut up in their small roofed run as they love variety and as much freedom as possible – they had the choice whether to stay under cover or not.
Last March, when it snowed heavily, we saw a fox for the first time in broad daylight, and the snow this year made us more aware of animals usually hidden from view, from the very visible tracks. We therefore took extra care to check that the electric fence was working properly, and this meant clearing the snow and twig debris from the base of the fence to stop it from running to earth.
It is difficult to know exactly what a hen is thinking, but each of our three young hens kept laying an egg every day so they don’t seem to have been unduly bothered by the cold weather.
There is some useful advice in the following blog about what not to do when the weather gets cold:
And this information from the British Hen Welfare Trust is very helpful too: