Pekins are wonderfully feathery. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that two thirds of the little round bird you see is comprised of feathers. A soggy pekin is a pitifully skinny (although amusing) sight. In the summer this over-abundance is a pain, and my girls can be seen panting in the shade. I imagine it's a bit like being wrapped in a high tog duvet all year round. However, in the winter it's a God send.
I will freely admit to fretting about my girls once the thermometer dips below zero. Last winter, when the temperature hit the perishing lows of minus twelve, I almost smuggled them indoors. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of the ever tolerant husband getting up in the night to use the toilet, only to turn sleepily around to find eight small chickens perched on the side of the bath. I couldn't see it going down well. Instead, I made them comfortable with extra bedding, hot porridge and extra corn rations. All was appreciated, but I'm not sure how much was necessary.
They appear to cope well with the cold on the whole. The one thing they are not keen on, and which frequently accompanies the colder weather, is the wind. Being light and covered in feathers is a positive disadvantage when faced with a northerly gale. For the first time this season, the air movement got up beyond a breeze today.
With a strong wind blowing, your average pekin finds walking in a straight line next to impossible. She finds herself going woefully off course. In her panic, she speeds up, which only seems to increase the problem. Hence a hen that was ambling towards the bird bath finds herself mysteriously plastered against the rhododendron bush in the corner. She will usually mutter in alarm, before attempting to reverse her course back to the Palace. Unfortunately, the wind whistling down the garden means that she is more likely to end up in the greenhouse where she will huddle with fellow refugees.
When the wind is particularly strong, I don't let the girls free range. I learnt my lesson last year when a frightened Maude attempted to fly back home to safety only to find herself smeared across the patio doors. I'm not sure who was more traumatised to be honest. Today the wind wasn't dangerous, but challenging at times. I watched a grimly determined Maeve dig her claws in to the soft lawn and drag herself towards the coop like a chicken Terminator, while the others cowered in the shrubbery. The wind blew her feathers over to the right, giving her a curious lop-sided look. She made the door way, and turned around to throw a disgusted look at her inferior flockmates before scoffing all the corn.
Poor Gladys has had the most trouble. All of her feathers are fluffy, so today she resembled a ball of lint in a tornado. Only by offering her a grape could I work out which end was which. As one end elongated and a beak emerged, I was surprised to find I'd been offering her backside a snack.
Let's hope for calmer weather tomorrow.