We were feeling lucky that our 2 hens survived the winter. They had a small heat lamp inside their coop, and a heated water base under their water font, but still… they spent a lot of time under a tarp thrown over their coop and run. Gwynne kept shoveling around their habitat to have access for food, water, and egg collection and ended up with snow piled way higher than their coop. We let them focus on survival and didn’t add supplementary light to force egg production through the winter months, so they had an egg break – which is normal. They were back at it by the end of March.
All was well until we had a sudden death. Can chickens have heart attacks or aneurysms? They popped out of the coop in the morning, as usual, but only Henny came for morning treats. Gwynne found Penny just lying in the coop and went back a few minutes later to bring her in the house for some TLC but she was already dead. On one hand, we felt really bad that a creature in our care had died. On the other hand, we were offended that she died in spite of being spoiled rotten.
A lone chicken is not a happy chicken. Henny was so freaked out that she wouldn’t go back in the coop and dropped her egg out in the dirt run.
On good ole Craigslist, we saw an ad for adult laying hens at Dunlap Hatchery in Caldwell, which is only a block away from where we had to be, anyway, to return clipper blades we had sharpened for a vet office. The animal carrier got re-assembled and lined with towels, and Penny II (P2) came to live with us. She laid an egg in the nest box the very next day, and only took a day to catch on to the routine of when treats arrive and who brings them.
In the meantime, our neighbors let their chickens run loose and we were feeling guilty about how confined our girls were. We found two second-hand metal shelving units to use as framework (what would we do without Craigslist), ordered some wire mesh, and fashioned a roof and 2 door units from the shelves. Voila! The girls went from an outside space that was 4 x 6 ft. to one that is 4 x 14 ft. with a higher ceiling. The door panel on the West end will also block the wind (almost always out of the NW) and the afternoon sun during hot months.
We enjoy the “bird window” in the office where we can sit at the desk and watch the hens in their enclosure, as well as the wild birds that come to the feeder right outside the window.