Chilly Chickens

As I sit typing, I can see steely clouds gathering, cloaking the mountaintops. Will it snow? Probably not, but we’re prepared, just in case. We have water, food and logs in abundance. Our chickens provide us with fresh eggs but, unfortunately, they also give us cause for concern…


We’ve kept chickens for seven years, and our latest are the most lacking in common sense. As dusk falls, they make their way to bed, but not in the way their predecessors did in the past. Instead of roosting on their pole, in their snug, dry henhouse, they insist on sleeping on a shelf outside. In the summer it didn’t matter, but now nights are freezing, often wet, and there is the threat of snow.

We’ve tried everything to break this silly habit. We spoke to them severely, explaining it was for their own good, and that they’d catch pneumonia if they stayed outside. We tried removing the shelf, but they just huddled unhappily underneath where it used to be, outside in the cold. So we replaced the shelf and tried education. Just before bedtime, Joe helped them onto their night perch, hoping they’d get the idea, you understand. But they simply jumped back down again as soon as his back was turned.

Chickens are totally blind in the dark, so we changed our tactics. Now we wait until dark, and Joe (complaining loudly) plucks each chicken from the outside shelf and carries her into the henhouse. There they stay all night, but the following night they roost outside again. And the nightly ‘putting the girls to bed’ ritual continues.

Joe and I watched a TV show the other night about brains. It seems a chicken’s brain is about the size of a jellybaby, so perhaps our expectations are too high. It’s very likely our hens will never get the idea. Through my window, I see the clouds are thickening and night is falling. The temperature is already freezing; it may well snow tonight. Brrrr… Time to send Joe out into the cold to put the chickens to bed, one by one. Roll on summer…