So far, this has been a wet and windy winter. The hens are unimpressed. Their copious feathering and lightness make them particularly vulnerable to anything above a strong breeze. Many times over the last three years I have had to rescue a windswept hen from a rose bush or the coop roof. So they have spent a lot of time huddled in the coop, muttering complaints and refusing to lay eggs.
Of course this is an improvement weather-wise on last year, when we were under a foot of snow for weeks. My girls dislike snow even more than the wind and wet. They spent most of last December shrieking at the injustice of the white stuff covering up their lawn and feigning death to make me bring them treats. Cunning, chickens. In the very cold weather, I was defrosting the drinker two and even sometimes three times a day. We were all cold, miserable and fed up.
This mild but soggy winter should therefore be a breeze (pardon the pun). I confess I took my eye off the ball, and was quite pleased not to have to trudge across the lawn at 7am with the kettle. You would think I'd have learned by now, wouldn't you?
Yesterday morning, I saw a scrum at the feeder. Normal breakfast behaviour. But ten minutes later, there was still a scrum. And a few fights. Huh. That's not normal. I put down my tea, secured the bonkers puppy and went to investigate. I found a full feeder, but an empty tray. The driving wind and rain had managed to turn the feeder tray in to a mini swamp. These soggy pellets had made a sort of disgusting soup, which the girls had happily scoffed. Unfortunately, the creeping wet had made the pellets in the main part of the feeder mutate in to a sort of pellet cement around the feeder holes. So no feed could flow in to the tray. It just sat in the main body, looking all delicious and edible but tantalisingly out of reach. Which explained why a hungry and bad tempered Maeve was kicking the fluffy arse of every one of her flock mates.
I removed the feeder, and emptied it from the top. The free flowing pellets were still good, but at the bottom the pellet cement was well and truly set. It took two boiled kettles of water and a toothbrush to clear it all out, and all the while I muttered obscenities about bad design and the Great British weather. Once everything was back in working order, I returned the pellets to the run. The girls dived in, stuffing their beaks and occassionally throwing me evil looks.
It's nice to be appreciated.