Farmin’ in December

Snow. Lots and lots of snow. And cold. Too much cold.

I’m a cold wimp and my sentimentalities have been feeling bad for the critters living out there in it every minute of every day. And while I’d love to bring them all in the house for a warm up, I know that wouldn’t help (and would put me to the top of the crazy farmer list). So I’ve been doing my best to keep them all comfortable – deep straw bedding, fresh thawed water, extra protein, and heat lamps on the single digit nights.

And they are doing just fine. The sheep and goats seem unfazed, although they apparently don’t enjoy walking in snow because they are sticking very close to their little barn.

The turkeys insist on roosting on the fence instead of sleeping in their straw house, and a silly duck keeps laying eggs in the snow (only to have them crack and freeze in place).We’ve kept one duck pool thawed and they are enjoying their daily romps in the water, sometimes just hanging out in there as the snow falls around them.  That water heater does a fantastic job!
The girl bunnies are snuggling together under their heat lamp and nibbling the last of the fall apples. Sable, the fluffy angora bunny, was recently brushed and is softer and fluffier than ever! Brushing him took out a lot of hair (his loss is my gain! SO fluffy!) so he’s been chillin’ under his own personal heat lamp at the corner of his bunny condo.  All is well in the rabbit house.
The chickens have slowed down laying which is completely expected at this time of year.  The cold has brought the various ages of birds together and the older ones are softening a bit to the younger ones. (Those older hens can be mean to the young girls! Apparently until they learn their place in the flock.)

A couple of die-hard chickens are still roosting in the apple tree every night.  Yes, even in the single digit temps we’ve had.  And yes, there is a heat lamp in the chicken house right next to them keeping the sane chickens warm. Even in the ice storms those tenacious girls were clinging to their branches. Who am I to fight with such will power!Will power, determination, and good nutrition have been on my mind a lot as I walk out in my parka to care for them twice each day. You may not believe that as you watch our Christmas cookie pile dwindle away, but those traits seem so important as I watch my feathered and furry friends tough out the cold winter with nothing but their bodies on.And there’s something they get from it.  Those stubborn chickens in the trees are toughing it out for some reason.  The ducks purposely post themselves outside their shelter, head into the wind, eyes closed, as if reveling in the feel of it blowing their faces.I think back to their wild ancestors, or ones like them who live apart from humans.  And I know that my flock and herd would be doing those things if they were left on their own in the world.  So why should I stop them now?  I used to lock the chickens and goats in at night.  I no longer do. I trust the flock dynamics (the turkeys seem to scare away all small predators and the dog keeps coyotes at bay) and our fences, and let the critters tough out the cold as they see best.

Some nights I look out and see the goats laying in the snow, right under the moonlight.  And I feel a bit envious of their coats and thermodynamics. In the moonlight is a beautiful place to be, crazy as the cold has been.  I’ve found myself reveling in the evening moonlight with the wind on my face, slowly adjusting to the temperature, and I know my animals will be alright.

And then I go into my warm house and cozy up to the wood stove, grab another cookie, and thank God I’m not a chicken.

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