Micro-Season: “The Chicken Lays Her First Eggs”

We are at the end of the micro-season, “The Chicken Lays Her First Eggs”.  This micro-season is part of the mini season Major Cold.

Major Cold is the last mini season of the 72 Season calendar and runs from January 21 – February 03. The micro-seasons contained within this mini season are:

  • The Giant Butterbur Flowers (Jan. 21 – Jan.24)
  • The Mountain Stream Freezes Over (Jan 25 – Jan 29)
  • The Chicken Lays Her First Eggs (Jan 30 – Feb 03)

The micro-seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai.  Each micro-season lasts about five days and highlights a slight change in the natural environment.  The micro-seasons are specific to the climate of Japan.  However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean that it isn’t applicable to others.  They can become a starting point for a personal exploration into the world around you. 

Chicken with eggs by Alison Burrell on Pexels
Photo by Alison Burrell on Pexels.com

Traditions to Welcome Spring

Anyone who has ever raised chickens for eggs knows that the amount of available sunlight impacts the hens’ laying.  Hens usually start laying eggs when there is about 14 hours of daylight, and lay best when there is closer to 16 hours of daylight.  So although this season implies that hens start to lay eggs right now, they may need some help from artificial lights for the next several weeks.  Especially if your hens are living in New England.

However, in New England, we do have a few traditions around this time that encourage us to start thinking about spring.  The most famous is probably Groundhog’s Day.

Groundhog’s day is held every February 02.  This tradition was started in 1886 by a newspaper editor and a group of Groundhog hunters.(1) On this day, the people of Punxsutawney gather around Gobbler’s Knob and to see if the groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow. As the legend goes, if Phil sees his shadow winter will continue.  However, if it is cloudy and he can’t see his shadow, winter is almost over. Unfortunately, Punxsutawney Phil weather predictions are not very good. The data shows that he has only been correct 39% of the time.(1)

Grounghog standing by patrice schoefolt on Pexels.com
Photo by patrice schoefolt on Pexels.com

Another event that often happens around this time is something known as the January Thaw. This weather phenomenon is described as “a few days in mid- to late-January in which unseasonably warm temperatures have a tendency to occur.”(2) Much like Punxsutawney Phil accuracy rate, January Thaw is not consistent.  Climatologist Art DeGaetano explains, “Such phenomena are not a sure thing, as even the most pronounced singularities only occur in slightly more than 50 percent of the years.  During the remaining years, conditions, in the case of the January Thaw, may be colder than normal.”(2)  The causes of the January thaw are not precisely known. Yet, climatologists do have a theory. 

In the late winter the winds in the upper atmosphere can shift as a result of warmer temperatures in the Bermudas.  This high level warm air impacts New England’s weather patterns. This theory is supported by other indicators including changes in the ocean currents.  After about a day or so, the colder air from the North pushes its way back in and the area returns to its normal seasonal temperatures.  


Although this shift in temperatures is sporadic, it is consistent enough that poets have written about it. Below is a poem from the September 1930 issue of Poetry Magazine.

“January Thaw” by Rosalie Dunlap Hickler

There was rain in the night, a dull delivering rain
That washed the air of sparkle and hard blue gleam,
And bent the frozen grasses in the meadow,
And loosed the stream.

Now is talk and laughter  of running water,
Light imperious talk of water freed.
Indolent winds stray through the winter meadow,
Winter indeed!

Everyone knows that death is a season only.
Through laughter is hushed again, and tempest shout,
It is not long till fire runs in the maples
And ice goes out. 

Haiku About The Thaw

While Issa may not experience the January thaw as we do in New England, he still wrote haiku about the melting snow.

snow melting--
at the gate the sparrows'
New Year's bash!
-Issa

There is a good chance that when Issa wrote this haiku he was talking about the Lunar New Year, which falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. In 2022, that day was February 01.

This is another haiku from Issa’s collection.

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
      with children.
-Issa

This next one is from Jack Kerouac. He may have experienced the January thaw when he lived in Lowell, Massachusetts, or in New York.

Snow melting,
 streams rushing -
Lookout leave the valley
-Kerouac

And finally, this last haiku by Kerouac doesn’t mention thawing or melting snow, but it makes me think of warmer spring temperatures.

Sunny day – bird tracks
 & cat tracks
In the snow
-Kerouac

Resources:

  1. Groundhog Day; National Today
  2. Blaine Friedlander; From Folklore to Science: The January Thaw is Real
  3. Rosalie Dunlap Hickler; “January Thaw”: Poetry Foundation

Looking for something else to read? Naturalist Weekly also has several curated book lists of poetry, haiku, and books featured on our blog. We are an affiliate of Bookshop.org and may receive a small commission if you purchase a book from Bookshop.org.

Naturalist Weekly runs on coffee and a passion for writing, and your donation will keep the coffee pot full and the content flowing. 

6 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Chicken Lays Her First Eggs”

Add yours

  1. This brings to mind a rather noted New Englander who wrote one or two famous horror stories. In 1968, Stephen King published a short-story titled “Strawberry Spring” that mentions a false spring phenomenon (and its associated serial killer, Springheel Jack). I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the term “strawberry spring” but it’s stuck with me since I first read that story decades ago. We sometimes experience that weather anomaly in this area, too. I enjoyed all the poetry in this one, especially Issa’s haiku about the village being flooded with children. Nicely written, Mark! 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, I haven’t heard about a strawberry spring. Maybe I need to figure out how to link that short story into this micro-seasons? That would be fun! I hope that you are doing well. Talk soon,

    1. Some of my research showed that in German culture they looked to the badgers for help with the weather. Interesting that all the weather forecasting animals are similar. It doesn’t seem like anyone uses birds or fish for weather forecasting.

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