It's become very obvious that in order to be a proper chicken farmer, we needed a better living arrangement for the gals. Up until January, the gals took charge of their foraging, wandering any green space that was accessible, provided they weren't required to cross the snow.
That changed in January, when a cold winter wind blew in so quickly that it caught the gals out in the open. Rather than hustling back to their little coop to get out of the weather, they all huddled down and remained in those huddled bunches for the entire windy night.
The next morning, I couldn't believe my eyes... they were all nearly frozen. I fetched each and placed them one by one into the coop. I felt sick. I just couldn't believe that they didn't get out of the weather... and that I didn't notice them in their distress.
Thankfully, none died; although many sustained severe enough frostbite to damage combs... one will lose at least one toe. This incident made it clear that something substantial needed to be constructed for the gals to pass the winter months safely.
A month later, this beautiful sight drove into my yard. The gals are now happily housed in their new digs... and that's just where I plan to keep them, under the soft cozy glow of the heat lamp, until the weather is more hospitable for our flock.