(thought I'd put this separately, so those of you non-avian admirers out there could skip it)
The Brick went out to open up the coop this morning. (We close it every night after sunset, to make sure predators are kept out. Even with a 5' chain link fence around the property, we have coyotes and a resident fox who keep tabs on things.)
A hen greeted him. ("She looked kind of shellshocked," he said.) Two more wandered out from the clump of trees.
Somehow I'd managed to lock out 3 hens last night. With snow on the ground. And about 20 degrees outside.
They always get in the coop at night by dark. (In fact, I can see their silhouettes on the ground outside, thanks to the heat lamp and extra light. Looks like backstage at the Chicken Rockettes.)
Only 3 hens didn't.
I felt terrible.
We checked them carefully. Thanks in part, I'm sure, to their free-ranging in all temperatures and weather, they looked just fine. (They must have a guardian angel.)
The chickies are averaging 5-8 eggs a day, in spite of snow and cold weather. (Black Australorps, brown eggs.) We've been able to use all we want, plus give away cartons to neighbors and friends. (Free-range organic eggs make great Christmas presents!) Next week, I hope to start selling some. The girls have to earn their feed somehow.
Oh, and tonight? Before I close the door, I plan to count.