Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow and more snow

The weather continues to be wicked cold however with the coming snow at least those negative numbers are now closer to zero.
When one lives close to the land, one also becomes intimately familiar with the ebb and flow of life.  Eggs appear like little thank you gifts each morning.  Babies are born, cared for, and grow up, then have babies of their own.  All too soon the little fuzzballs are big girls, laying eggs, and going about their chicky business.
Most people know chicken as a source of eggs or as found in convenient packages at the local meat market or preprocessed into nuggets.  How did they live?  Did they have other chicky friends? I'm not a vegatarian but I do believe that animals should be treated as humanely as possible.  That also means that they should be able to go outside and feel the grass under their feet.  They should feel safe and cared for.  If injured or sick, they should receive care.
How can you get attached to a chicken?   Like children of our own, each pullet has her own personality
They appear to form attachments, friendships with their other chicky mates.  They groom each other.  They take turns in the dustbath.  When you come in to do your chores, the girls gather round, pecking the snow from your boots or grooming the folds in your coat and jeans.
There's always one or two who are more bold.  They knock the lid off the feedbucket.  They insist on sitting on the fresh bale of hay you're struggling to get into the chickenhouse.  the tug at the twine hanging out of your pocket.  They gently pull at your hair as you sit and rest for a moment (briefly forgetting how close the bench is to that favorite nestbox).  They vie and scramble to be first, whether it's first to the bowl of scratch or first on the lap when I pause and sit down.
I don't know why Amy started laying double yolked eggs.  Anyone who has handled these will attest that they are easily twice the size of a normal sized egg.  I can only imagine how much it hurts such a little chicken to lay such a big egg.  Like giving birth to an excessively large baby every day, the double yolker leaves the little hen feeling exhausted.  If she is unable to have the time to completely recover, the subsequent eggs can cause trouble.
And so it was with Amy.  I did what I could but it was too much for her.  Her chicky friends, Smokey and Jet, are looking for her but also seem to know.  It's sad to lose such a sweet girl.  she'll be in my thoughts in the days to come.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A good day to stay inside

What does cold look like?  Most of the country is hunkered down in zero and subzero temperatures.  The smart ones stay inside. The rest of us, have chores to do that take us out into that wicked wind.
Frozen waterers need to be freed from ice.  The girls are all looking for some scratch to warm their bellies.  I've been pleasantly surprised by how many eggs the girls have been putting out despite the weather.  The infrared lamp in the hen house helps to supliment heat on even the most bone chilling days. 
The girls have extra hay to cuddle into if necessary however appear to prefer making what we call 'the chicken pile'.  This is where all the girls snuggle together in a great big pile, taking turns at being at the bottom where it's warm.  It's funny to see best friend hens (Missy, Inky, and Lil'Miss or Amy, Jet, and Dusty) all preening each other, all happy as can be.

Stay warm.  Dress in layers.  Keep dry.  Above all, stay safe from the cold.  and don't forget to cuddle up with a friend.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter thoughts

It was 5 degrees on the local weatherbug thermometer as I bundled up to go check on the chickens this morning.  Any temperature above zero (and below 90F) works fine by me however I suspect that the girls would prefer something in the 60's.
It's no wonder that January is Oatmeal, Soup, as well as Hot Tea Month.  All sound delightful as I give the girls their morning scratch.  The door to the chicken house stays closed on these cold mornings.  Inside is a warm 42F. I'm always a little surprised by how warm chickens can be however just to be sure that they stay snug at night, a heavy layer of clean hay covers the floor and a heat lamp is strategically positioned near the waterer (just not too close to the hay).  They all happily surround my boots as I step in each morning, pecking away the snow or grooming my pant cuffs and pleats.  Moving slowly, I check for eggs while talking softly with the girls.
We're getting quite a few eggs each day.  As you note, they are quite colorful.  It's no surprise that Americaunas are in the group of chickens called 'Easter Eggers'.  Despite the chilly temps outside, everyone is warm and happy inside.

BTW: for those who are interested, here is a link to an application to calculate Wind Chill:
based on this, the 5F with a slight 4mph wind, drops the temp to -3.  I think a cup of hot tea would be good right about now.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's blizzard

At five this morning, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground.  The skies were dark blue-grey with a slightly brighter sliver along the eastern horizon.  The weatherman had forecasted five to twelve inches in the next 24 hours.  All doubts were set aside when the blizzard suddenly struck just before six. 
The storm varied between light flurries and white out conditions until around nine when it settled into those fluffy flakes that are good for snow-shoeing and skiing but little else.  There was about six inches down by ten.  Winter can be so beautiful.