Posted by: highmountainmuse | January 28, 2009

The night the chicken blew away

The thermometer this morning read “OFF.”  Our digital indoor/outdoor thermometer only reads temperatures down to 21.8 degrees below zero. After that, you’re on your own.  Guess they figure no one is crazy enough to live where temperatures reach below -22, and if they are, they figure you don’t want to know just how cold it really is.  I’ve found though that it’s all kind of the same.  Whether its -22, or -30 or -40, you’re going to dress the same (as much as possible), and you’re going to act the same (as speedy as possible) out there.

 

Of course, the horses and chickens and wild birds and animals don’t have that luxury.  (I don’t really consider it so much a luxury as a necessity in these temperatures).  All the animals manage remarkably well.  For the horses, we feed heavy, they grow thick coats likening them to the wooly mammoth (we do not blanket), and they hunker down and wait for the sun to come up.  It’s Colorado.  That sun does come up! The chickens sometime have frost bit combs.  The red on their crowns turn black for a few weeks out of every winter.  Much to our surprise, the color does slowly return.  And the wild birds, the crows who wish they had heeded nature’s warnings to fly south, regret having hung out through winter to clean up the scraps the chickens don’t eat.  They spend the night open and exposed in the Aspen branches (not as savvy as the local Stellar Jays and chickadees, who know at least to seek the protection of the thick Blue Spruce).  At first light, and usually through to when the sun finally clears the mountain to the east and starts to shine on us directly, I see those crows like big black balls decorating the Aspen trees behind the chicken coop.  Guess they know Forrest isn’t much of an early riser either, so it could be a while before breakfast comes.

 

The “off” temperatures are harsh, but the wind throughout the night made it even more hard to bare.  And the wind continued all day, drifting up the snow to a smooth, slick finish across the open parks and paths; piling the sugary snow into every leeward side of every exposed rock, bush, fence, building; stripping the trees bare of the snow protecting their branches from the intense high mountain sun.

 

And as I snowshoed through the white washed parks this afternoon, the mountain took me to the ocean, in spirit, with that wind holding the fury of the waves.  Powerful, ruthless.  You would be wise to respect it, but it remains indifferent to you.

 

snow blowing over the top of the mountain

snow blowing over the top of the mountain

All this wind reminds me of the story of the night the chicken blew away…

 

Everyone who’s had chickens knows about the pecking order, and I guess most of us at one time or another, end up having such sympathy towards that pecked-on hen that we end up with a special pet in the house. (I think this is normal, at least…)

 

One winter, probably 4 or 5 years ago, we had Little White Hen in the house with us.  But before she took residence for the night in our back hall way – really, she’d jump up on the back door to let us know it was time to let her in at night, then waddle over to her cage, a big dog crate, and walk right on in – but before this, she was confined to a cardboard box on the back porch at night, the box left open during the day so she could “free range” around the pack porch.  Chickens don’t go too far in two feet of snow.

 

So, one night, the wind is howling, it’s a real cliché kind of blustery night going on out there… and we start hearing all kinds of stuff getting knocked over and blowing off our back porch.  Brooms and shovels and snowshoes and cardboard boxes and… Cardboard boxes?!?!?! Little White Hen!  We jumped out of bed simultaneously, threw on some clothes, grabbed flashlights and dashed out into the stormy night.  Following in the direction the wind was blowing, we ran past our cabin, past our yard, past the nearest guest cabin, and finally, as we approached the seasonal ditch, there was Little White Hen’s box.

 

But no chicken.

 

We must have looked ridiculous out there, underdressed, waving our flashlights around and calling for the little hen (I’m sure she knew her name).  All to no avail.

 

Giving up, saddened and dejected, we returned to the back porch with the empty cardboard box. 

 

I hadn’t turned my flashlight off yet.  Something caught my attention in the corner of the porch.  Something little, and white…

 

There was Little White Hen!

 

Had she been there the whole time, or had she, more than likely, somehow battled against the wind to make her way back to the porch?

 

In any case, now can you see why we then ended up keeping her inside at night?

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Responses

  1. Love you little hen story with it’s happy ending. Growing up, we had a goose residing in our bathroom. We didn’t have indoor facilities ourselves but the goose did. 🙂
    I appreciate the sub-zero stories. We are located in Northern MN. This winter has been brisk with lots of below zero days. Spring is coming…………Grace and Peace

  2. Another great story shared with us! The way you write I can always visualize the story as if I’m actually living it!

    Also, it’s nice to hear you still have Stellar Jays and Chickadees in the winter. I wasn’t sure if they stayed year ’round or not.

  3. I need to check out your blog – I her MN is a lot colder than here, or at least it tends to feel that way! We’re spoiled with sunshine here. Figured someone out there would relate to the chicken in the house story. I think you got me beat with a goose in the bathroom…

  4. It’s quiet – that’s about it for the birds who stick it out with us. A few magpies hang out by the cliffs on the road along the river, and come up to check out what’s left in the chicken coop. And walking through the woods by the river, I’ve seen grosbeaks, but they don’t come up here. Wait til spring… I start seeing all the old favorites again – they all know where the feeder is, and reward themselves when they make it backup the mountain!

  5. Your comment raises another question for me. I’ve always read that I shouldn’t feed birds in the mountains…I guess mainly because it attracts bears. Have you had any problems with that? Come to think of it, though, I guess there are a lot of food sources for bear around the ranch.

  6. Our bears hybernate or leave in the winter here, so we’re lucky, no worries about them, not this time of year at least. I’ve heard mixed advice on if feeding the birds – if it is good for even the birds or not, but I’m a big believer in that each of us needs to do what we feel is right. I love caring for them, having them squalk at me, all excited for their breakfast. I don’t believe it hurts them. I think they love it as much as I do! We have many guests who hang hummingbird feeders outside “their” cabin when they are here for a week in the summer. I’ve seen the hummers find it, love it, and move on when those guests move on. Their instinct is also strong enough that when it’s time to head south, feeders or no feeders, they go! Birds and people both, I guess…

  7. I didn’t even think about the bears hybernating in the winter! Do you continue feeding in the summer, too? (I guess I’ve never noticed your feeder) I love watching birds and have my own feeder as well. It’s always wonderful to see a new bird and look it up in my bird book.

    I never thought of bringing a bird feeder to hang on the cabin while we are there. I’m going to try to remember to bring a hummingbird feeder this summer. I love their vibrant color and the amazing sound of their wings!

  8. I’ve seen some folks get some wonderful photos of the hummingbirds that way, too!

  9. LOL! I just brought our little beat up Abigail Adams in the house. I’m hoping to heal her wounded head (quite a gash) and not let those nasty big hens at her again. I don’t think Honey was quite in for all this….wait until we have calves in the bathtub!!! 😀

  10. Oh that’s wonderful! You made my day! Forrest is chuckling because though I don’t know if we’ve had calves in the bathtub, he knows I’d do it if I “had” to. Had lots of lambs by the woodstove…

  11. oh, Jen– fun to read your blog. Your mom sent me the link. I’ll never forget you wonderful wedding! mud and all. still have my waterproof boots I bought in Crested Butte to be able to celebrate with you. I’ll look thru the blog and enjoy when my life has more time and I have more brains. Give hugs to Forrest. I’ve moved from the building with your mom and dad and out to Ashland, OR. not as rugged, but beautiful, too.
    Cindy Barnard

  12. Oh, thought of one more thing, in light of Peaceful Acres comments (and thinking of Karen, too) – isn’t it wonderful what Honey (whoever she or he may be for each of us) puts up with for our love of animals!

  13. Gosh, it’s nice to hear from you! Funny what we remember, but I remember I’m pretty sure, you wore a denim shirt with some red embroidery to our wedding. Is that right? Do you get to use those boots in Oregon? Forrest is almost as tall as Bob now, and just keeps on growing!

  14. I JUST FOUND YOUR SITE . IT IS VERY ENJOYFULL TO READ . I AM IN MY 60S AND WAS RAISED ON A RANCH . I HAD A LITTLE WHITE BANTY HEN AS A PET . SHE WOULD RIDE AROUND ON MY SHOULDER . WHEN I PUT HER DOWN SHE WOULD PECH AROUND AND IF I WALKED OFF AND SHE DIDNT SEE ME SHE WOULD GO CRAZY TRYING TO FIND ME . SHR LIVED IN A WOODEN BOX ON THE BACK PORCH
    ONE NIGHT A CAT OR COYOTE GOT HER AND I HAVE NEVER STOPPED MISSING HER EVEN AFTER OVER 50 YEARS . KEEP UP THE GOOD STORYS . THEY REMIND ME OF A MUCH BETTER TIME AND PLACE .

  15. What a sweet story, thanks for sharing, and I’m really glad you found our site. Hope you’ll share more! Your little white banty sounds like the little white hen we had. Our son used to take her for rides on his sled in the snow. What sweet creatures… Please keep in touch!

  16. […] assume the wind will continue like this all night.  It’s one of those nights like the one that blew the chicken away.  I know I will not sleep well.  I will listen for trees falling.  I will look out side in the […]


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