In search of ponies: Blizzard becomes feather-raising experience

When the winter waves hit, the dogs came in, the horses got an extra scoop of sweet feed and the firewood was stacked high.

Everything was ready for the bitter wind and clinging ice…Until I suddenly remembered, I had no interest in frozen chicken.

Namely because a frozen chicken is wasted on a vegetarian, but also because this particular chicken has a name – Molly – and, well, that just kind of changes things.

Besides, the unfortunate chicken stew I ended up with over the summer when her sister chicken decided to go for a swim in the horse trough was an added incentive to keep her scratching.

Not being of the farming persuasion but being in the unique position of having a single hen to care for, I found myself pondering what exactly one does to keep a chicken warm in blizzard.

Even in the barn where she usually roosts, the temperatures were brutal for a football-sized bird. Sure, it’s shelter enough for horses, but they have a several-hundred-pound advantage and if a water trough can freeze solid, surely a lone chicken would be no challenge for Old Man Winter’s wicked breath.

Of course if one had a full-up chicken operation going, there would be a hen house with comfort in numbers and perhaps even a heating element of some kind (pardon the pun), but a single, free-spirited chicken just doesn’t warrant all those digs.

And while it’s one thing entirely to bring dogs in the house, the image of an anxious, squawking, flapping chicken pinging from the dining room table to the kitchen counter just didn’t resonate with snowbound domestic harmony – much less said pinging chicken with bored dogs in chase.

Which left only one option as I saw it.

I bundled up and braved the blizzard, snatched the shivering and snoozing hen from her perch on a stall railing and deposited her head-first into a cat carrier, trying not to knock her around too much as I high-stepped through the snow on the way back to the house.

Satisfied that I had saved her from her frozen fate, I covered the kennel with a blanket in the garage and went on about the business of being snowbound.

The next morning I waited for the sun to do it’s business before I took her back to the barn, sorry that she remained confined, but glad that at least she was still alive, and finally when the world was a little warmer, I bundled back up and carted the kennel back to the barn.

But when I bent to open the wire door, I saw only feathers – masses of them.

Stuck in the door, stuck to the floor, poking out the sides … Feathers everywhere.

Instantly struck with fear that I had somehow committed some chicken-care faux pas that had caused Molly to explode, I bent and looked deep inside the kennel, afraid that there were chicken chunks scattered amidst the feathers.

There, huddled shaking in the far back corner was Molly.

I never realized how much of a chicken’s rounded physique could be attributed to the feather count but covered in huge bald patches, Molly not only looked more than a tad mangy coming out, but far thinner than when she went in.

Well that was counter productive.

While keeping her warm during the worst of the cold was the prime objective, there were many more pretty cold days to come, days for which she might need feathers.

Molly and I compromised in the interest of keeping what insulation she had left – she uses her new roost in a sheltered nook of the barn and I don’t put her in the “box.”

In the meantime, she seems to have sworn off egg-laying – not that I blame her aversion to squatting in the snow, what with her minus a few feathers and all.