The snow has finally departed. We are now left with a boggy quagmire where the back garden should be. Even the very air is saturated, and the thick fog adds a deeply unfestive gloom. The hens all look like they're sporting wet look gel in their feathers and squelch forlornly across the lawn in search of bugs. It's nice to see them emerge from the Palace, even if conditions are less than favourable. Although there is something rather majestic about a short, shuffling chicken emerging from the fog.
Wet, muddy conditions are a pain in the neck when it comes to pekins. Their beautiful foot feathers get clogged up with balls of mud which have to be gently soaked away so as to not cause serious foot problems. Luckily for me, my girls are pretty sensible and dislike getting their feet dirty. After a brief foray, they can be seen perched in the run fastidiously cleaning their feathers. I still check their feet regularly during the winter. It is a problem which can easily be rectified if spotted early, and a real welfare concern. Many pekin breeders who show never let their birds free range for this reason (plus broken foot feathers from digging up your plants looks scruffy). Personally, I'd rather give the odd pedicure and have them careering about the place.
During the summer months, the chooks use various inconsiderate places to dust bath. Barely a pot or container is left undisturbed in their efforts to beautify themselves. During the cold/snow/frozen ground/muddy months, things get a bit trickier. I have run out of clean, dry dustbathing materials and the girls are not happy. In fact, so great is Purdy's displeasure that she decided to bathe herself in the soggy border. She is now stalking about the garden looking like someone has used her to clean around a U-bend. Spikey, scrawny and covered in mud, I can't help thinking that this was not the effect she was aiming for. Every so often she strectches up and flaps her wings, sending arcs of sloppy mud flying across the rest of the flock. They mutter offendedly and shuffle further away from the skanky hen.
I will be buying some play sand in the morning.