Winter isn’t for everyone, especially Little Geri

Little Geri hates snow and can’t seem to get her nerve to leave this concrete island in the yard and cross the snow to get to the woodpile where the rest of the flock preens each morning.

Winter is a challenging time for chickens, who generally despise snow. I seem to have a particularly fraidy-chicken bunch in my backyard.

The following montage provides you with the highlights of a snow-blanketed morning in the chicken compound, which should explain to you why I haven’t missed cable TV since I got backyard chickens. Constant entertainment, I tell you.

■ ■ ■

All the single ladies emerge from the Poulet Chalet into the wintry morning, stopping at the door of the coop and staring into the drifts that appeared overnight.

They seem aghast that Mother Nature would, once again, torture them with this horrible frozen material, preventing them from scratching the dirt to their little hearts’ content.

One slightly brave chicken, Camilla, tests the snow with one of her talons, recoiling at the cold. An annoyed peck from an impatient flockmate urges her into the tundra, and others reluctantly follow her. Because that’s what chickens do, they follow.

Their mission? To make the trek across the orchard to the woodpile. That’s where they gather to preen themselves every morning. And that 50 feet to the woodpile is a treacherous, frozen journey on a snow-covered morning such as this.

Some of the ladies opt to try out their aerial skills to avoid touching the snow as much as possible, with mixed results. Some hurtle themselves awkwardly, like poorly skipped stones across a pond, skidding and landing in piles of snow. One by one, they make their way to sanctuary.

Except for Little Geri, the large and in-charge masculine hen who despises snow the most.

Geri stands in the threshold of the henhouse, watching the others make their journey and refusing to budge.

Until ... FFFOOMPF!

An avalanche of snow slides off the Poulet Chalet roof and dumps around Geri, who flaps her wings and hops to the next safe place, a concrete stepping stone.

Phew, that was close. Did you gals see that? This place is dangerous. The woodpile seems safer.

She psychs herself up to take the leap, preparing to plunge into the snow. She inches toward the edge of the paver. Curling her talons over the edge, she cranes her neck forward and leans as far over as possible ready for take off. Then at the last second, she loses her balance and lurches backward, flapping her wings and planting her feet squarely in the middle of the stone, as far from the snow as possible.

That was just practice. Just warming up. Focus, Geri, FOCUS!

She alternates legs to stand on, curling her talons up into the feathers covering her underbelly and switching feet to warm them up.

Phew, it’s cold out here. You gals cold?

She gets the evil eye from Miss Cleo, who is currently in full molt mode and has half her feathers missing with only stubs indicating where they will grow in. She shivers and wags her tail with no feathers.

Geri preens a bit, adjusting feathers here and there, nonplussed. Just getting ready, getting her nerve up, and decides to take a break.

Hmm. It’s not so bad here. I have plenty to eat.

She gobbles a few beak-fulls of snow.

I don’t need no stinking water or food. I’ve got this refreshing snow all around me. That’s all I need. Just this frozen, fluffy white stuff and my own little island.

Fifteen minutes later, it’s time to try again.

OK, eye on the prize, Geri. The woodpile is warm. The woodpile has friends to preen with. The woodpile has dead bugs to find and a wheelbarrow to perch upon. EYE ON THE PRIZE, GERI.

She inches to the edge of her concrete island, only to do the hokey pokey at the last moment, turning around three times.

This isn’t so bad. I mean, how long can this last? The snow seems to be melting. I can just stay here, all by myself. Just like the song.

A few minutes later, she gets up the nerve again.

Annnnnnd ... NOW!

Whoops, see, I slipped a little there. Sure is slippery out here. Not safe for launching. I better wait and try again later.

The humans that feed her open the sliding-glass door and yell, “Geri! Get it together! C’mon, figure it out!”

Geri stands paralyzed, a chicken statue marooned on her concrete island, staring blankly into the snow.

More than an hour after she nearly died in the Poulet Chalet avalanche of 2017, Geri remained stranded in the sea of snow, without the nerve to follow her flock across the Great White Beyond to the woodpile.

One of the humans who steals her eggs daily eventually took pity, coming to her rescue. She protested less than usual when the human picked her up, in her weakened state, but quickly rose to the top of the pecking order when she rejoined her flockmates.

Hey, ladies! Let’s get this party started! I made it! Hey, get outta my space, Estelle. You know that’s my wheelbarrow handlebar.

Phew, this weather, huh? I mean, cluck snow. Amiright?

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener and journalist who hosts “Diggin’ the Garden,” the second Wednesday of every month at noon on KAFM 88.1. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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