The sun is growing stronger. Even when the temperature was below zero outside, sun rays heated the black asphalt until the snow melted and turned into vapors of steam that played on the road. Snow caught in the branches of evergreens melted in the frigid weather, making shiny icicles below the white caps on the branches. A few ambitious Christmas trees strive for that magical look, but they fall short of these unassuming trees growing by the highway, holding their load of snow under the power of the March sun.
This is our entrance to the Hencoop after the blizzard. We are using the chicken door, which is about 18 inches high to care for the hens. The driveway that leads up to the hencoop is covered in snow that is chest deep or deeper... that door is 8 feet tall!
I am glad that at least the sun is showing signs of spring because we will be getting 1800 baby chicks in less than a month. The busy season for us starts again very soon, as we have to prepare all their brooders. It’s a huge job. Then, once those chicks arrive, we will be running hard until the warm season is done. Our fields and outbuildings will be full of the sound of hundreds of birds. We will be almost over-run by life and work and the unforeseen dramas that always come with farming.
None of that is happening yet though. Our 800 laying hens, which have been with us all winter, are still waiting cozy their own in a coop socked in by snowdrifts. It has not been a fabulous winter for chickens to explore the outdoors, and so the coop is usually full of their voices, curiosity, and social intrigue. Soon all of this vibrant life will spill out into their yard, under a wide sky that has more than enough room for all the hens’ energy.
Now the hen yard is often still, but it is amazing. On the east side of their building, where the west wind dumped its load of snow, we can walk on a drift over a five foot fence, and we still have more than a foot of snow between our feet and the top of that fence. Standing there, we look over the top of our huge coop and the fields beyond it, a vista usually seen only by birds. Everyday places in our farm are now scenes of quiet, icy wonder.
Power is building from the sun, though. Its power will melt all those drifts, change the fields to green, and sweep our farm through its growing season like a raging river carrying a little boat on a long and bumpy journey. We are going to be inside that boat absorbed with the job of navigating it.
In this fleeting time, before our wild ride begins, I am transfixed by the sun’s strength as it waits in quietness. The wide open sky opens itself to more light as the nights grow shorter with every passing day, and I will welcome that light as well. Accompanied by this power, I feel fierce, full of awe, and ready for this year’s raging journey.
Thanks to Farmer Elizabeth O'Sullivan for caring for our hens and writing the reflective story above and sharing the images of her hens this winter!
The hens still love going outside to forage for hay and enjoy the sun...
We don't feed our hens dyes to make the yolks darker. Yup... that's pretty common in the premium eggs in the grocery or farmer's markets because it is cheaper to just feed a dye than let them forage like this
For good measure, here is a video of our pigs living up the outdoors in winter: