You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Feb 18, 2011 : 10:35 a.m.

Cooped up backyard chickens revel in the melting snow

By Corinna Borden

Borden - chicken in coop

Even with a window, a coop is a coop.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

I returned Wednesday to Ann Arbor from a week away. I left town with snowdrifts and nary a sight of grass or earth anywhere. I return to puddles, calcifying stalagmites of gray snow forms and soil once again visible in our back garden. The soft breeze and the smell of warming earth enveloped me on Thursday as I went out to open the coop for the chickens.

I am reading Joel Salatin’s "The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer," and he describes the joy he experiences moving chickens onto fresh earth. “The unbridled delight these animals express through their demeanor and antics when offered a fresh salad bar is both obvious and palpable. You can feel the happiness in the flock.”

Happiness I felt, and happiness I want to share.

Given the state of the weather and my girls’ unwillingness to venture onto deep snow, there had been very little happiness these past few weeks in the flock. One gets a whole new appreciation for the term cooped up when you open the door to a coop that has been lived in 24 hours a day for weeks at a time. Usually our girls are outside during the day, but not when there is snow on the ground — they don’t like walking on deep snow because their legs are so short.

Our girls knew something was different today. Instead of clustering on the spilled sawdust around their coop door, they all paused — heads high, beaks in the air. One ventured onto my path of trodden snow towards the dirt closer to the house, and, suddenly, a fluttering barrage of feathers and flapping wings launched themselves towards the soft wet earth.

It was a struggle to tear myself away from watching their evident contentment and thrill at being able once again to scratch and dig into earth not covered in snow.

One girl took such obvious pleasure in burrowing into the soft warming soil, I could almost feel the nooks and crannies of my feathers being dusted by the earth.

I know, being human, we have weeks of snow and cold ahead of us. Yet this week my backyard chickens were able to dig in the soil, the pendulum is swinging towards spring.

Their clucking pleasure was a huge gift. I don’t imagine chickens have any sense of time. So for my backyard chickens, the moments of digging and bathing in the soil in our temporary respite from winter this week lasted for eternity.

I can only hope.

Corinna works with the Westside Farmers Market and writes about many things.


Corinna Borden

Sun, Feb 20, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

@Jim Pryce, not boring at all! I think it is fascinating how many more eggs we have been getting in the warm and sun than the chilly cold. Good thing to know is not just for our girls. @alnan, I love your story about the "escaped" chicks! Thank you for sharing.


Sat, Feb 19, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

Love these " farm" stories and the humor they produce. Many many moons ago we purchased baby chicks for the Kids Easter. Fenced them in the unused sand box. They were pretty well grown when one spring night a nasty Spring storm roared by blowing over the fence and apparently the chickens with it. We had a big "farm field" behind us but never did find the chicks. And by the way This was way back when you did not have to have approval by the City to have Chickens in your back yard.

Jim Pryce

Sat, Feb 19, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

I also let my chickens out for a few days this week. For them being able to get out my egg production is up. Being in Superior Twp. I'm not restricted to a small flock. My 20+ girls in the summer were producing up to 60 eggs a week, which dropped into the 30 eggs a week in the winter. The past few days I got 7 eggs one day, 9 the next, as compared to only 3 to 5 in the chilly days. I could go on & on, but I'll stop, so as to not bore folks.

Bertha Venation

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Loved the videos. Thanks!