Our hens are faring well so far in their first winter. We've had many cold days and nights, and a few minor snowfalls, usually overnight. The first time it snowed, they seemed wary; they moved with trepidation, stopping to peck at the snow. Now that they've experienced snow a few times, they seem totally unfazed by it. They still go to the patch where the grass is sparse, as do the wild birds, to look for seeds and bugs. They crisscross the patio, leaving tracks in the snow. The LB is their main caretaker, going outdoors first thing in the morning, after getting dressed but before his own breakfast. He feeds them, changes their water and collects eggs (we've gotten at least one egg per day all winter so far, without using a sunlamp yet). The LB has started cleaning out the coop all by himself too. He loves his hens. I have so enjoyed watching him grow with these responsibilities. My super kid.
When we went away, the boy next door came over, with a parent, to care for the hens. He's seven years old and was very eager to help. His family enjoyed the eggs. We stayed very connected to our hens on the trip, though. The Bear spent some time this fall working on two technological additions to our chicken-keeping life. The first is a "hen-cam," which he can access on his phone or laptop to keep an eye on the coop. He built a small "bot" with a camera, similar to the one he used to make a stop-action film of the monsoon clouds last summer. He placed the camera in our bedroom window, aimed at the coop. It was really fun to check in on them while we were away! We could see them eat and drink, go in and out of the coop to lay eggs, emerge in the morning and retire for the night. They're surprisingly busy! For such a small flock, this is a high-traffic henhouse.
The Bear built another helpful item this fall too: a computer-controlled door for the henhouse. The computer is set to recognize sunrise and sunset times each day, signaling an actuator to open or close the sliding inner door accordingly. The hens are always inside their coop by sunset, so this insures they get closed in safely for the rest of the night, and it lets them out in a timely way in the morning. It's so cool. It came in really handy while we were away, but we use it all the time right now. It's really convenient with the short days and long nights. When the days get longer, we'll go back to doing it the old-fashioned way. The Bear is very proud of his invention and you can read more about our Electric Henhouse, in much more technical terms than I could ever offer, on his blog, Ink of Park. Yep, he blogs too. He's been blogging much longer than I have and he's a good read, that one.