The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Poultry in the snow

Photo: Cloud examining the snow

Photo: Cloud examining the snow

Sara at Farming Friends warned me that Guinea Fowl hate snow. This week’s snowfall is the first since they hatched in July 2007. So I was interested to see how Thunder and Cloud would react when I opened the hen house door.

The feel of snow underfoot is always a pleasure for me. The crisp squeakiness takes me right back to our childhood winter garden. The shock of the cold and brightness.  And there are always the footprints.
“Are those really my steps?”

As I walked down the garden I remembered my ninth Christmas. I was given a microscope and it snowed. I spent hours collecting falling snowflakes on a piece of soft black cloth and rushing indoors to marvel over the beauty of each flake before it melted. Every snowflake is said to be unique.

Thunder burst out when I opened the hen house door. Apart from the first alarming steps across this new crunchy covering, he took the snow in his stride. The wild bird seed treat was just too tempting to dilly dally. Cloud was bemused, trying to eat the snow in preference to the seed that I’d scattered for the flock. She quietly tasted and examined the flakes for a good five minutes making small inquisitive Guinea Fowl pring sounds. It was so good just to stand and watch her sample a few flakes and move gently on to try some more further down the run. Unhurried, yet as diligent as a lab technician on a Nobel Prize winning team.

Snow was a new experience for Peace and Hope too. Our new Wyandottes swayed uncertainly on the edge of the nesting box and gazed out over the icy terrain. Chivvied by me, they looked at each other and flew down to investigate.

These two new girls are settling in well now and sometimes, on very chilly nights, prefer the warmth of the hen house and actually brave the stairs and the pecks of the bigger hens. On the nights that they choose to sleep under the starlit sky they are lifted into the house. These pretty hens remind me of Cora and Clarice who lived in Gormenghast Castle.  They used to pause and look at each other before tackling a task as one. I read The Gormenghast Trilogy in my twenties and the characters in these novels have haunted me ever since.

It was young Beatyl’s first experience of snow. His strut was not quite so strutty after the first footfall. But he picked his way across to snow to join the girls. They are a great little threesome.

Mrs Boss is loving being a bit further up the pecking order. She is now invited to the morning cocktail party hosted by the senior poultry and she also has access to the kids’ tea party at the other end of the run.  She bustles between the two events, happier than she has been for years.

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  1. just stumbled upon your website and spent a lazy Saturday going through it – even tried tried your recipe for steak which was a triumph!!
    I do so much miss no longer being surrounded by animals and reading your blog was pure joy.

  2. Bless all the birds! Ours have yet to experience snow and it may be a while yet… Snow hardly ever settles around here. I have had to put new water dishes in every day this week though as the water has been freezing – up to 3 inches thick!

  3. Re: your earlier post about your dogs teeth – this is a very good site for reference about animal health – It also has lots of info on why raw meat is better than pet food. It gave me lots of guidance after one of my dogs was ill.

  4. Caroline

    such a lovely story of your feathered friends foray into the snow!

    we have experienced bravery from the pekin bantams we hatched last summer, all five have been making journeys across the snow and finding it interesting, however their surrogate mother and aunt put one foot on the snow and dashed inside, from where they demanded to be hand fed until the snow disappeared (4 days)

    the heavy frost we’re now experiencing in this part of Suffolk is less scary for young and old who will now venture outside for food. (phew)

  5. I’m so glad Mrs Boss isn’t at the bottom of the pecking order now too. It’s been so lovely to share in her growth and what a fabulous adoptive mummy she is.

  6. kate (uk)

    No snow here,just hard,hard frost, almost as white as snowfall. Plants in the garden flat as pancakes and the soil looks like piecrust- pale and solid. We’ve had quite heavy mist the past few nights that has hung around into the day, so the frost hasn’t melted. Fabulous sunset yesterday, the sky was pink and dark dark blue with a golden full moon, silver blue mist lying over the icy fields, tree skeletons poking up through it. Stunning, but very,very cold.First proper winter in years.
    My Christmas tree ( five years old) is still in the house as it would be too much of a shock for it to go and live back outside after being indoors, I’m waiting for some higher temperatures and even then I think I shall need to fleece it at first and acclimatise it slowly!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Wendy

    Just off to bed but had to answer your comment.

    Yes, it’s great to see a happy Mrs Boss shimmering in the run. She has worked so hard raising stock for us and others that it’s a joy to see her finally enjoying life in the chicken run after 5 years of bullying.

    There is always a chicken at the bottom of the pecking order but I’m delighted that it’s no longer Mrs Boss.

  8. Lovely bit about Mrs.Boss and how happy she is at the moment. x

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pamela

    Gosh, I would have expected you to have had snow on an off all winter. I do love it although the smaller roads around here can be treacherous with the cut backs on gritting.

    Years ago, the snow was so deep that we could toboggan on ‘The gallops’ – two wonderful hair raising days. Twenty years ago we had very hot summers and always snow in the winter. Now the summers seem to be wet and the winters generally mild. Apart from the chilly cottage, I love the snow. It kills off a lot of garden diseases, tests my driving skills and looks so pretty.

    Hope that you’ll find a pot of gold soon marked ‘skiing fund’.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  10. Clarice and Cora would have been great names for the Wyandottes. We rarely get snow in my little part of Cumbria even when it snows everywhere else. I drove out of town at Easter and just a couple of minutes away there was snow everywhere. Lots of snow at my sister’s in Kent, her children were told to take PE kit in every day while the snow lasts so they have dry clothes to change into after playing in the snow. I just wish I could afford to go skiing for a few days, I really miss it.

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