Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

A blizzard is due to blow in here in the next couple hours and last through tomorrow, bringing with it at least 10 inches of snow for my area.  Yet today was warm, sunny, utterly pleasant, with the snow from yesterday's storm already melting away.

That, however, made the hill from our house utterly slick, so my trip to the feed store and post office is postponed.  But hey, every day I don't go out is a day I don't spend any money, so that can be a win.  Funny thing is, it's just our small section of the hill that is so slick; the rest of the hill had melted away to dirt.  Ahh well. The Post office will still be there on Monday.

The chickens were most delighted with the weather. The day before, they downright refused to go outside - that evil white stuff was all over the ground AND falling from the sky.  But with today's rapid melting - and drying - they were able to run around the side of the house to a favored scratching site, and to dust up a storm. But with the freedom came a price.

A couple of chickens are still molting, and others have plucked their belly feathers in a misguided attempt to keep their eggs warm - eggs that will never be hatched, because we have no rooster to help make the babies.  I noted that a couple of them looked rather red on the belly - cold chapped skin when the feathers are gone.  So I consulted farming friends - the funny part is they mostly live in Australia - and they said that a thin layer of vaseline would do the trick, just like you do for their combs.

So daughter and I opened the garage, let the chickens out and started to coat these chickens.  We got the first two done and then realized - they'd gone to ground, laying, flapping, rolling in the dirt like they were broken, soaking up the sun.  And rubbing off the vaseline just put on.  So we gave up for a bit; she took the eggs in the house and I cleaned out the coop.  Thorough cleaning offered up by the warm weather, and a curtain over the second nesting box in hopes that they will go back to using it again like they did when we put the first curtain up. (The other day, they came in after a run about outside, and so many decided it was time to lay, that FOUR of them stuffed themselves into the one nesting box at the same time!)

The girls found a small patch of brown grass near the downspout that actually had green sprouts at the base of it, and attacked it like it was an anthill.  No more green grass in that spot!

Clean coop, fresh food, a lowering sun and a growing chill to the air got the chickens to wander back into the garage, which got them scooped up one at a time and their butts coated. The ones who had been caught and coated earlier got a new coat, and we noticed their skin was already looking much better. Several suffered - in their minds - greatly at the indignity of being held firmly and turned upside down while something was rubbed on them.  The horrors!  How mean we are!

They were rewarded a bit later with a bowl of warm cooked kidney beans, which they happily tried to steal from me even as I was putting them in the coop.

We also managed to measure each chicken for their impending coats of doom - otherwise known as chicken saddles, to help keep feather pulling to a minimum.  I don't have the right kind or enough elastic, so they are free from the indignity for yet a few more days.  I decided to make one for each, because you never know who is going to be picked on and why.  Another reason I'll be happy to have spring again; they don't do this when they have more greens and run about time.

Chickens cared for, fence propped up where the wind has blown it sideways, four fallen trees - three of them rather large - dragged around to the wood cutting area on the near side of the house, and the deck shoveled off just in time for the next round.

Daughter has to brave the weather to go to work very early in the morning; hopefully it will not be a real problem.  The rest of us have another day at home, warm and quiet.  Perhaps we'll bake some bread.

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