Mother Nature finally showed us winter was here and nothing to joke about last week when she dumped several inches of snow on us. Don’t get me wrong — snow on Christmas is a wonderful thing, unless you have to drive somewhere, or you happen to be a farmer with livestock. That’s when snow loses a lot of its appeal.
We have winterized our hen house by putting up sheets of plastic to keep out cold blasts of air from the roosts, plenty of straw to help the coop stay warm for nesting or roosting and heated water dishes so the birds have access to fresh water. I haven’t figured out where all the sparrows are getting in, but they have found the coop cozy as well, fluttering all over the place the moment you open the door. I am certain Alfred Hitchcock came up with the storyline for “The Birds” by going into a chicken coop in the wintertime.
Daily, we collect the eggs and do a quick wellness check on our biddies, since this is their first winter as well as on our older hen. The rooster is a giant lug, dumb as a brick and frankly a bit of a sissy — he hides in the coop most of the day coming out only to eat and make a racket in the early hours of the day. The rest of the time, he demonstrates his lack of self-restraint when it comes to the hens. He shows a preference for the blonde in the flock, a lovely Buff Orpington with a honey blonde feathers and a sweet disposition. “Buster” spends a lot of time making amorous advances to this poor hen, so much that she is frankly starting to go bald in a couple of spots.
Molting is common for birds to go through, but, not in the dead of winter. No amount of extra protein will help those feathers grow quickly enough to keep them warm during frigid temperatures. It leaves us with a couple of choices. I don’t really want to get rid of the rooster, he is big and dumb, but I sort of like him, plus there are no homes for wayward roosters, just stew pots. Nor am I going to build a special coop just for him, that is dumb and expensive, plus the separation would impact his mental health. Neutering him is also not an option, I can’t even imagine our vet’s reaction to that request, however, it would probably be the biggest laugh he would have all week. So, the fix will most likely be a chicken saddle.
Yes, you read that correctly. When evening time comes, I will go out to the chicken coop, snag the hens off their roost, and slip the saddles on them, straps will go under the wings and the “saddle” part will cover the lower part of their neck, across the back and down to the tail feathers. Its primary function is not so much to keep them warm, but to keep the rooster from pulling out additional feathers. The birds may look ridiculous, but they are effective.
We have a lovely assortment, including black with skull and crossbones, yellow with pink polka dots, a blue one with daisies and a pink “Hello Kitty” print. In a couple of weeks, the feathers should be grown back to the point where the saddle can be removed.
As we ring in the new year, the Hubs, Sparky and I wish you a blessed 2021, we will be lounging around in flannel pajamas instead of party clothes. We’re leaving it up to the chickens to celebrate in style in their fancy fake feathers.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.