After living in Southern California for most of my life, I became accustomed to days on end of abundant sunshine. You know the kind where where it is so intense that if you close your eyes, it warms your cheeks. It wasn’t until I moved to Cape Cod, that I realized that lack of sunshine had an effect on me. I noticed a pattern of turning blue and sad come winter, and I didn’t know why. I had heard of seasonal affect disorder, but never in my life did I think that I would suffer from it. But I did. Like clockwork, as soon as the summer skies grayed over, so did my mood. That was “before chickens” (BC). Since getting chickens, I haven’t felt this way for a number of years. Chicken therapy worked for my mild seasonal affect disorder and it might just work for you.
It’s rainy, damp, soggy and downright chilly to the bone. The girls, especially Oyster Cracker and Sunshine who are molting, spent most of the day inside the coop. I could not blame them. Winter is starting to reach out its hand and pull us into its embrace. Some say, we may even have a flurry tonight.
Tilly and the others have enjoyed the cooler weather. They take turns perching high up upon the log looking out into the woods. They can see so much better now that most of the leaves have landed into crispy wet piles on the ground. They love digging through the leaves and I love watching them. The hawk migration seems to be nearing an end yet I am beginning to see footprints and scratches around the coop from curious nighttime animals. Food is becoming scarcer and they are hungrier. The baby coyotes, raccoon, opossum and fisher cats born in the Spring are also now out on their own. They are now investigating the possibility of new food sources.
With the changing seasons, comes a change in the way that I care for the chickens. I am more careful about predators. I find myself watching for frostbitten combs and wattles and preventing it with Vaseline. In the morning, I treat the chickens to warm bowls of oatmeal with raisins. They enjoy warm chicken tea in their outside waterer and vitamins and electrolytes in the inside one. The coop’s windows stay closed during the day as well as the coop’s door at night. A shovel and ice scraper is propped next to the coop. A fresh bale of straw sits in the garage to scatter in the run for the snow blind chickens.
I am not a fan of Winter. The landscape is dreary and it is a time for Mother Nature’s creations to rest. I used to find it depressing until I started keeping chickens. Most days, the chickens are unfazed by what the cooler weather brings. The still flit here and there, pecking at whatever delights them at any given moment. They eat the snow. They jump up on icy piles. They frolic in the chill of Winter. This is what gets me through this season. Their little bursts of colors, their bubbling personalities, their hospitality and their Good Mornings seem to make Winter melt away as fast as it appeared.
|Free ranging last January|
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
I have lived on Cape Cod for seven years and find the winters here very depressing. I am now convinced that I suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder. I have never ever experienced the Eeyore blues as I do here when I am deprived of sunlight and warmth. The ground is frozen. The trees have no leaves and I am the only splash of color in this gloomy gray landscape. I have had a hard time grappling with this because I have never experienced these feelings before. As spring arrives, instantly the dark veil of gloom is lifted. It is replaced by robins in my yard pulling worms from the ground, glorious buds on the ends of branches swelling with new life, and beautiful hints of flowering bulbs waking from the icy ground.
I am convinced that over time, people become acclimated to a certain climate. I also think it is much harder to adapt the older we get. Change is never easy. Even my husband, a native New Englander, now sees the winters as being a little more difficult than they were when he was a kid. It’s days like these when the snow has begun to fall, yet again, that I yearn for that old warm southern California. However, this winter was different.
Usually, I fall victim to the blues around the end of November. This year, it has been mid-February. I think it has a lot to do with the chickens. I look forward to waking up and greeting the chickens each morning. Now they are the burst of color on the gloomy landscape during the Winter. They constantly entertain me and keep me smiling. I love it when they talk to me. I love it when Oyster Cracker is so excited at the prospects of getting treats that she jumps enthusiastically into my lap. I love feeling warm fresh eggs in my hands. I love hearing Chocolate crow. It took me a little while to piece this all together. In years past, I had considered getting a special light box to sit under. I now know that it is not necessary.