Early this winter, I let the chickens out on a day after a light snow fall. The chickens quickly came out of their door, down the ramp onto the dirt pad, and then stopped. It was clear that to them, the snow was absolutely strange. They were “chicken” to go further when they encountered it! Experiencing snow for the first time would be startling for any creature, and it was interesting to witness the behaviour of my chickens adapting to the reality of life in the winter in Ontario, Canada–that is, we get snow! (As a side note: I wonder where the usage of the word ‘chicken’ comes from, when it connotes someone who is afraid or is holding back in doing something. Any ideas for the origin of that usage? Let me know in the comments!)
In order to encourage them to interact with the snow and their new environment, my wife sprinkled grains of rice out in the snow. Once they began to acclimate to the snow, the draw of the rice was nearly overpowering and prompted them to move further from the coop and out into the snow. Chickens have finely-tuned senses and are very intuitive. You can feel free to encourage them to venture out into snow and explore their winter environment, so long as temperatures remain above freezing. Below freezing temperatures specifically with high winds or snow fall could risk hypothermia for your birds.