Tag Archives: flock members

Lesson 1510 – Chickens and the stress of warm days


We’ve just experienced a little vacation of sorts in the middle of winter.

Here in New Hampshire, for the last few days, our temperatures were in the high 60’s and 70’s, a vast difference (and improvement) from the freezing weather we’d had before and now seem to be heading back into.

And while we all shucked our coats, smiled, turned our faces to the sun, and walked around in tee-shirts. Plants and animals did not do as well.

Our dog Dalai, who has grown a substantial thick winter coat lay around the house panting, not wishing to exert herself more than she needed to. She sought shade and coolness on our tile floors.

In the backyard, I saw the tops of early spring flowers trying to catch what they must have imagined was the arrival of the spring sun. Nope, they’re in for a surprise.

That heat spell fooled us all.

This morning, the temps have dropped back down to February standards and the slush on the driveways and roads has refrozen. I’m lucky, all I have to do it put a sweater and  my wool socks back on.

Dalai is up and about again (although I anticipate a large shed during this week as a result of the warmth.)

The plants that took a chance to peek out will most likely freeze and die. Oh sure, there will be others but there won’t be as many when spring truly comes.

And our chickens, who live outside in a coop are at risk for increased stress on their bodies. Chickens do not need heat in the winter as they have a way to warm themselves (They fluff up their feathers and trap warm air against their skin.)  But when temperatures fluctuate, they can have a rough time.

Granted a few warm days is most likely not going to kill them, but when the temps go back down to freezing, they are at increased risk of frostbitten toes (they’ve just spent a few days walking around in mud that is now caked on their feet) and general ill health.

It’s along the same lines of your mother warning you to wear a coat or you’ll catch your death of a cold. It’s not so much that there are cold viruses out there that will attack  if you don’t have a coat on, but that *if* you go into the cold *and* stress unnecessarily your body, it lowers your immune system and allows you to be vulnerable to invasion and infection.

This is now the second warmest winter on record, 1 data point is interesting, two is a line and 3 indicate a trend. It’s too early to see if this will happen again next year, but it doesn’t matter, if you have plants and animals you need to be prepared.

So what can we do?

For animals with winter coats, make sure they have cool spots to go to. Be sure to give them plenty of water to replace that which is lost while panting.

For plants, there’s not much you can do, except  protect your plants from freezing (cover them) or maybe transplant them in the true spring to areas that have shade or are cooler. It might help, but then again, it might now. Early warm spells like this are notorious for decimating vegetation. Also consider planting your own wildflowers from seed in the spring to make up for any shortfall (the bees will thank you.)

And as for your chickens, check their feet and feathers and knock of any mud. Younger chickens shouldn’t be affected too much by the fluctuating weather, but keep an eye on your older flock members. Overly-bred chickens are notorious for having heart conditions (which is why when a flock is attacked by a predator, it’s not unusual to have chickens who weren’t attacked but who were frightened (shocked) die the next day from heart attacks.) If the stress is great enough, the flock will be affected.

Finally, just like you would if you were sick, be sure to give your chickens some highly nutritious food – a block of calorie dense suet, a seed block filled with plant oils, and plenty of fresh water. And when the freezing winds return, be sure to give them hope by whispering in their little chicken ears that “true spring will return, just hang tight for a bit longer.”




Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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Filed under Inspiration, Personal, Points to ponder, The Family

Lesson 807 – Getting Back Up

In the beginning, when each of my kids was born, Marc presented me with a tiny golden head inscribed with each new family member’s name. Those medals were a constant physical reminder, as clearly as any military dog tags ever could, of who I was and the role I now played in our growing family. I wore the necklace with pride night and day.

I stopped the heads at #3, however, because along the way, we had lost a baby and like many other young mothers, I didn’t know how to go forward. Did I add the baby girl’s name – Elizabeth to my necklace? Or did I just leave her off and recognize that she had been here but was now gone. I didn’t want to be constantly reminded of a loss, but I also didn’t want to be a traitor to her memory. Continue reading


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Life Lessons, Mama Hen, Maran chickens, Violet

Lesson 770 – Winter bedding

Marc brought our last chick back to the nest this weekend and while it’s wonderful to see him in the home again, interacting with all of his flock mates, his return raises the age-old question asked by all mama hens whose chicks have left and then returned home again from college. Continue reading


Filed under Backyard Chickens, Inspiration, Life Lessons, members of the flock, Teaching kids, The Family

Lesson 755 – A True Compass

Moms and Dads, take note – this is what happens to your kids when you surround them with animals and teach them that even the weakest among the flock deserves a chance.


Saturday morning, I came downstairs to find this box, perforated with air holes, and placed by my son Trevor on our kitchen table. Continue reading


Filed under Backyard Chickens, Inspiration, Life Lessons, members of the flock, Teaching kids, The Family

Lesson 678 – The Next *Big* Thing

Although many of you know that I write this blog, you may not know that in real life (you know the thing where you have to work for a living?) I am a full time writer and journalist. I write newspaper and magazine articles and marketing material. It’s what I do. It’s what makes me happy.  (If you want to read some of my writers’ advice blog posts go over to Live to Write – Write to Live.)

It comes down to butt in chair.

It comes down to butt in chair.

In my travels I’ve bumped elbows with some very talented authors. One particular author, Hilary Weisman Graham  who knew I was working on a book-length project recently sent me an invitation to be part of a writers’ tour – I accepted and that’s what this post is about.


This post is part of a blog tour where writers share what the “Next Big Thing” is. The writer who tagged me is Hilary Weisman Graham over at http://www.hilarygraham.com/index.html Hilary has written Reunited which is a terrific Young Adult book about teen girls and the value of true friendship.  Hilary is also a screen writer and was on the Mark Burnett/Steven Spielberg-produced reality show ON THE LOT: THE SEARCH FOR AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT DIRECTOR (which aired on FOX primetime, the summer of 2007) – which is pretty cool.

Thanks Hilary for tagging me on this tour.

Other writer friends of mine who are working on projects include: Continue reading


Filed under All things chickens, Chick Literature, Mama Hen, Personal, Quotable Chicks, Teaching kids, The Family

Lesson 676 – Of one flock

One of the *best* things about having chickens is that when people know you have a flock, they send you chicken related objects. One of the sweetest gifts I got this past holiday season was this card designed by the brilliant photographer Anne Geddes. You only see the front in this photo, the card actually opens up to show a parade of 6 little chicks. Continue reading

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Filed under All things chickens, Mama Hen, Personal, Quotable Chicks, Teaching kids, The Family

Lesson 636 – Cutting a dog in half – and still have it be alive

I haven’t talked much about our flock member Pippin and perhaps because people were spooked by our two recent losses in the flock, I was asked by more than one person if he was okay.

Not only is Pippin okay but he is incredibly talented. He recently acted as my magician’s assistant while I performed a mystifying and dare devilish magic trick. (I’m currently in discussion with some of the bigger venues in Las Vegas because of this one.)

I call this trick – “cutting a dog in half – and still have it be alive.” (I know I have to work a little on the title.)

Here is Pippin at the beginning of the trick. Would someone cue that magician’s music for me?

adorable hairball

And here he is, just a few hours later – clearly cut in half and yet STILL ALIVE!! Simply astounding. Continue reading


Filed under Life Lessons, members of the flock, The Family, The puppies

Lesson 635 – We’ve lost two members of the flock

It’s time to get this news out of the way.

We’ve lost two very prominent members of our flock.

First Simon, my beautiful painting chicken, Simon died last week. We had noticed throughout the summer that at times she seemed to be gasping for air but then every time I’d pick her up to check her out she’d be fine. At other times, she’d be lethargic one moment and then in another, she’d be up and about. She ate fine, drank water, and was active with the flock.

It’s just that something was a bit off about her.

The other morning we went to the hen house to let the chickens out and there was poor little Simon – she had died during the night.

Simon, if you recall, was our artist chicken. One day in a fit of boredom, my kids decided to use a chicken to paint a picture. Of course they chose Simon who was by far, the sweetest and most docile member of our flock. It was not unusual to find Simon in my lap when I was reading a book outside.

Feathered Fireworks

For the painting project, the kids held Simon, dipped her feet in paint and then created a work of art that was entitled “Feathered Fireworks.” The piece sold at auction for 300 dollars with the money going toward a local playground renovation fund. So basically because of Simon, kids get to continue playing.

How many chickens leave a legacy like that? Continue reading


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, Chicken art, Death in the henhouse, Life Lessons, members of the flock, Points to ponder, Rabbits