Guest Post: First Big Snow, Hawks and Traffic Jams

By Margaret

We had our first significant snowfall yesterday after a rather long Indian Summer (is that still a PC term? Probably not.) It’s hard to believe that just two or three weeks ago it was a balmy 65 degrees and we were practically still wearing shorts, but not really. The weather people say that we’re going to have less snow than normal this winter in southwest Colorado. When we heard this, we were bummed because we just invested a lot of money in a used ATV with a snow plow AND some great cross country skiing equipment for me. We’re looking forward to exploring all that the Ridgway/Ouray/Telluride area has to offer in terms of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.


While it’s too early to say for sure, it appears that the weather is going to catch up with us. We had about 7 inches here from this last storm and appear to have another 7 forecasted for early next week. And we must really be in luck because in between the weekend looks clear and sunny.


We had a couple of challenges with the chickens. First, a hawk had stalked and then attacked one of the hens last week. He didn’t get her, but the flock was pretty freaked out the rest of the day and the entire next day, pretty much just staying in their coop. Since we are not allowed by law to hunt down red-tailed hawks, I had to think of a cheap and fast deterrent. I heard that plastic owls will keep hawks away, but those cost too much money. My idea was to string nylon cord in a criss-cross pattern about 7 feet off the ground of the entire chicken enclosure. The thinking here is the hawk won’t want to negotiate between the string and will feel insecure about getting caught down in the yard. So that’s what we did. Plus, I also strung up strips of aluminum foil here and there to add reflection and further deter the hawk.


The deterrent is working so far. It’s been a week and the hawk hasn’t returned. He may also have gotten scared by my screaming and yelling when I saw him perched on the post a week ago. Crazy woman lives here, he may have thought, not worth it.


The other challenge has been the overnight temperatures, which have been getting down into the teens and last night dipped to ZERO degrees F.


Yeah, F.


Not that it made that much difference in the temperature, but I installed a very small electric heater inside their run, which I had previously wrapped in greenhouse plastic and surrounded with straw bales on three sides. I figure it at least kept their coop about 10 degrees instead of 0. Maybe I’m kidding myself and it didn’t make much difference. In any case, I was pleased to see that none of the chickens appear to have frostbite or any injury due to the cold the last couple of days.


I bought a water fount heater a few weeks ago and have been using it, but it’s not inside their run, it’s near the fence, and the chickens just don’t want to be out and about when the wind is blowing and it’s snowing and cold. I put out a black rubber bowl of water inside their run, which does freeze up, but I can go out there and poke at it or add hot water a couple of times a day. Not ideal. I don’t know what the answer is except to shovel a path for them, lay down some straw and encourage them to walk over to the fount. They were doing that today since it’s been warmer and sunnier.


The good news is that the hens are continuing to lay between 3-5 eggs per day, usually just 4, even though there are 7 of them now. (One died in Sept from unknown causes). No slow down in production yet. I’ve been giving them scratch and occasionally corn.


What I love about this place this month: how beautiful the snow looks as it arrives, falls and settles. How bright everything is now when the sun shines. I love the “traffic jams” of cattle drives that are always unexpected and so far, still amusing. I love how three cows escaped from the ranchers near our house last month and have been wandering around free. Our new neighbors call them the Three Amigos. I think it’s hilarious how they are renegade cows. I love the wild turkeys. Today I discovered our area is in the flight path (and resting path) of sandhill cranes. I’ve seen them fly overhead and have heard them up on the Buttes, but I haven’t yet seen them up close.


There’s a lot of reasons to love this place. We’re still finding new ones.