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The magic of feathers

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People often ask me if I worry about the chickens getting cold during the winter. Actually, no. The breeds are supposed to be New England hardy, and the girls huddle up on the roost. Summer heat seems much harder on them than the winter cold, and they go right on laying in winter.

Now the poor tiny birds, that’s something else. Chickens have a much more favorable surface-to-mass ratio and dense layers of feathers. Whereas the tiniest of birds have a relatively large surface area and can afford only so many feathers if they hope to fly. But, somehow, the birds get through the winter.

I’ve often meant to lurk outdoors on a winter evening with binoculars to observe just where the birds sleep. I do know that they love cedar trees. There are lots of wild cedar trees nearby, though there can’t be enough to go around. Plus we’ve planted 17 arbor vitae trees, large and small (mostly large) at the abbey, and that should help.

Sometimes on the coldest mornings I’ll make an extra large batch of grits and serve them to the girls while the grits are still warm.

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