Snow Blind: Why Won’t My Chickens Walk on Snow?

January 24, 2020

It wasn’t until the first snow fall, that I discovered chickens are snow blind.  At first, I could not figure out why the chickens did not want to leave their coop. I tossed out some mealworms to entice them, but they did budge from the coop door. Was it too cold? Too windy? Too wet? None of those things seemed to be it. The chickens were acting like the snow was hot lava. They were not planning on venturing out one bit no matter what I did to entice them. They were content to look out from the coop door. Perhaps wishing it all away.

Sunrise after a light dusting of snow.

The snow wasn’t that deep, only a few inches, so it wasn’t until a bit later that I put two and two together and shoveled a path for them.  At first I thought I was just spoiling them, but to my astonishment out they came. It was like nothing had ever been wrong in the first place. They quickly began searching for those initial mealworms that I had tossed in before I shoveled.

For lack of a better term, I call it snow blind. For some reason, chickens do not want to walk out on the snow. In my mind, I’ve come up with with a couple of different possibilities of why they act like this with snow. Perhaps it has to do with their vision, we do know that the chicken eye is much different than the human eye. I also know that chicken feet are prone to frostbite, so perhaps standing on freezing cold snow might not be all that comfortable.  What ever the reason, here is how you can fix it.

Exploring a freshly shoveled path. Photo Credit.

The best solution I have found is to shovel a pathway where they can see the ground and where they are placing their feet. Once I shovel the area, I spread some shavings onto that area and toss out some mealworms or even stale bread for encouragement.

Plastic over the A-frame chicken run provides a bit of snow-free space for the flock.

I have learned that adding a roof or some plastic sheeting to the chicken run is very helpful. It keeps out snow, provides shade, deters critters and wild birds from entering the run and it also protects from other sorts of weather. I’ve done a few versions over the years. Currently, I wrap my coop in plastic and plexiglass panels during the winter. This helps to keep away moisture, humidity and dampness. Covering the run also prevents you from having to shovel out the run on the worst wintry days. It turns out, cold hardy chickens seem to do better in the colder months than the hot dog days of summer, even with the snow.

Here are some other winter chicken keeping articles you might enjoy:

Why I don’t heat the chicken coop

How to keep the coop tidy in the winter

Winter boredom busters

Melissa

Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.

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6 thoughts on “Snow Blind: Why Won’t My Chickens Walk on Snow?”

  1. Hi! My family and I are new to chicken keeping but we got 2 hens about 8 months ago and then 2 new fluff balls arrived about 3 months later. Since then, we moved to a new state and it was the chickens first Fall and Winter with snow. Turns out they love to hop in the leaf piles and even attempt to eat the snow.

    I love your website and I even have your book. It has helped me a lot with studying and learning about the chickens. Thank you so much!

    Note: We have and Australorp named Jo, a Sapphire Gem named Feathers, a Silver Laced Wyandotte named Pearl and a Buff Orpington named Poppy.

    Reply
    • Oh how wonderful. It sounds like you have an amazing flock and I am so happy that you are enjoying watching them. Thank you too for the kind words. They mean so much to me.

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  2. After reading about chickens, I have recently learned a lot about how chickens think and express themselves. Turns out chickens are much smarter than I originally thought. I always thought they were simple and unable to think and reason. I now know they are very social, they can recognize one Chicken from another, and they also have friends within their flock, and that means they have a very good memory. They also communicate with each other with the sounds they make that we call clucking. They also can become good pets to humans. All this has changed the way I see them. In the past I thought they laid eggs and were good to eat, so I looked at them to be what humans want of them. To be honest, this allowed me to minimize my opinion of them and that justified how we treat them. But now that I see how aware they are, I feel guilty for not understanding them, and not giving them the respect they deserve. The same is true for other animals that we eat and disrespect them just to justify our cruelty to them. I don’t want to be a vegetarian, because I know as humans we are omnivores which means we require the the meat they provide for us. I have tried to justify our actions by thinking they are raised as part of our food requirements so it’s OK. But that’s not really working for me. The bottom line is they are basically food farms for us. Our treatment of all farm animals as just food sources, and that’s because of the Bible. I sure see things a lot differently than I ever have. I now feel that we should use our technology to grow the meat we need without taking the lives of the animals we share the planet with. They have social hierarchies just like we do. For example, think about how all mammals are born to a mother that cares for her young by feeding and protecting them from becoming prey. watch them show emotions for their families. I understand the concept of the survival of the fittest. and the complexity of the food chain in order to sustain life. Wow! the Cosmos had figured all this out to work the way it does, but I say we need to amend some of the Cosmos’ original plans Think of it as a software revision just like we do software to accommodate evolutionary requirements to meet the end users.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I do agree with you. I am glad to be able to help to open the door to these sorts of conversations. I think in many ways, in agriculture and farming, some things have been taken to extremes. People do not need to consume meat every day nor do they need to eat meat at every meal. If people started to add some meatless days to their lifestyle, not only would their health improve, but it would also decrease the demand for this level of factory farming. Also, supporting local small farmers, who raise their meat on pasture, organically, although expensive, I feel is worth the expense. It all starts with peoples’ mindset. I am hoping that with generations to come that can changes.

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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.