Winter complicates a lot of things one of which, I am finding out, is animal chores.
Outdoor livestock of any kind and the caring for them takes on a whole new level of diligence in the winter.
Partly because it is so gosh darn difficult to pull yourself out of a nice, warm home and into frigid weather and partly because...you have to do it ALL. THE. TIME.
Animals need to be checked on more often, fed more often and their water needs to be constantly available to them all the time because these are the things that help them retain their heat.
Can I just say keeping water available around this time of year is pretty hard. In single/teen digits, before you put the newly poured water down it has already started turning into ice. Blah. Blech. No FUN.
It's like getting ready to run a race and realizing your shoe laces are tied together just as the whistle blows.
And in the case of chickens: here's a hint for you: eggs freeze. You have to be sure to gather them soon after they are laid (which by the way is not coming as readily now since the chickens are having a not-enough-daylight/too-cold egg strike) lest the the eggs freeze, expand and break their shells.
So-you have to leave your nice warm home, put on all your arctic gear, head out with water for dog. Chickens. Calf. Break up ice in water containers of dog. chickens. calf. Feed dog. Chickens. Calf. Gather chicken eggs (NOT dog or calf ones mind you)
Then do it all again.
You know what REALLY bothers me about it all, though? Those pitiful looks those animals give me to make me aware of their intolerance to being holed up in a stuffy old chicken house or barn.
Again, in the case of the chickens~ they flock to the door and stare longingly (albeit beadily) out the door...WAITING for me to open up so I can feed them and anticipating the moment they can bolt out the door. Unfortunately for them, I have already by now closed the other door that leads outside the chicken house so they are good and stuck. Once one nearly took out my head (not kidding. and NOT exaggerating.)
I always try to assure them that it is for their own good. That they wouldn't, in fact, like to scratch around in tons of cold snow, that the ground would be too hard for anything productive to come from it, and that 9 degrees is awful cold without a wind break and shelter. I try to convince them they ought to be thanking me but instead they peck my boots and blow dust in my eyes.
Today was a more mild day and I felt bad for the crazy things (they really do look pitiful when they want to) so I let them out for some fresh air.
Following is the story of what happens when penned up chickens are liberated in winter:
They FLY to the doorway all ready to run out and start scratching up dirt and earthworms only to discover an odd blanket of some bizarre white substance. They don't know what it is---but it doesn't look friendly. Especially to their bone-naked legs.
They stare wondering what to do. Wait. Wait. Then the leader makes the final decision to move forward, regardless of outcome.
Others follow. Some, eagerly, as if it was their own idea. Others~not so much.
"You mean, I have to step in THAT?!?!?"
They make their way to the only place that isn't covered in snow~under the turkey run~making sure not to step on any snow during their trek.
They discover that the dirt (being protected from the elements) is nicely loosened and dry, just as they had left it those lovely green days of yester...month.
So they do what any sane chicken would do~they start to take a dirt bath!! Peck, scratch, shake bum. Push, poof wings, settle in.
Oddly, it reminds me a lot of my nightly routine with my down pillow.
Ooooh, yeah! World peace! Inner purpose! Amazing what bathing in dirt can do, isn't it?
They start to really get into it and the dust, it is just a'flyin.
But they don't REALLY get into it until you start seeing chickens going upside down...
and when they start twisting into pretzels and becoming unrecognizable~you know it is time to give them their privacy because you won't be getting them out of that stupor of ecstasy any time soon.
I have never in my life seen a more contented, satisfied chicken.