Winter catches me by surprise. I know it’s coming, but I always think I have another weekend to plant spring bulbs or to paint the Adirondack chairs.
Some people want to do good deeds. Others want to improve their health. I want to be more like my chickens. Over the next two months, I intend to follow their example to recharge this winter, a season that inexplicably surprised me by arriving on time.
The hens are in full winter mode. For starters, they’re laying one or two eggs a day, a pitiable yield from 13 coddled and cosseted chickens. They pop out of their coop when the sun comes up around 7:30 and are back in for the night by 5.
They’re ruled by the sun, and daylight is their master. There’s not enough of it — plus, when it’s cold, their energy goes into making heat, not eggs.
They’ve been molting — losing and replacing feathers — for weeks now, and several are rough-looking characters, like post-apocalyptic survivors trapped in a backyard pen. Again, it’s an energy issue. Their resources are directed inward growing feathers.
My flower beds are doing their own winter reboot. The compost I spread on the beds is gradually breaking down over the long, dark months. A layer of snow is good for the plants; it protects them from drying wind and prevents roots from heaving out of the ground. They’re storing up energy for a spring growth spurt.
While we’re buried in our phones and work and Netflix binge-watching and other decidedly un-nature-like activities, it’s easy to forget the value of paying attention to the season’s cues.
I like to take time to be still, to put energy into new feathers, you might say, during winter. Some people think summer is a time to regroup, but I like nature’s example — wild exuberance and growth during long and sunny days, quiet stillness in the winter. Plus, I get to catch up on my TV shows.
Spending time outside in the winter is a good way to appreciate nature at rest while you’re sliding over cross-country ski trails or tromping through the woods. Check out our Winter Wonders story up above.
My Buff Orpington Ola is a sorry excuse for a chicken, at least on the outside. But inside, I know she’s got lots of fluffy yellow feathers getting ready to surface and soon will get back to laying five eggs a week. Winter didn’t catch Ola by surprise; she knew it was coming — and she’s owning it.
By the way, the photo of the single chicken is Ola in mid-molt.