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  • Writer's pictureTina

Feathered Friends and Thankless Dictators

The older I get, the more I dislike winter weather. Don’t get me wrong, the first few snowfalls of the year are beautiful. Seeing the farm blanketed in snow or the trees encapsulated in ice makes me feel like I live in a fairytale. However, as soon as I open the door, step outside, almost fall on my ass going up the sidewalk, and have my little arthritic digits burn from the cold, it reminds me that winter is the big bad villain in my fairy tale. Sigh.

My bib overall-wearing husband coddles me. He is the reason I won’t be able to survive the zombie apocalypse. He takes care of the animals, so I don’t have to go out and face the elements. He is the one that gets up before dawn to milk and feed everyone. He is the one who goes out at night after dark to give everyone a wellness check and dinner. I offer to go out to feed at night, but he always tells me, “No, you’ll just get knocked down by the goats and complain about being cold.” He then gives an irritating impression of me whining about the cold in an annoying voice that sounds nothing like me…I hope.

The animals I take care of in the winter are my birds. Although my geese are old, grumpy, and incorrigible, I enjoy them immensely. I love it when I call to them using the exact phrase and tone of voice I used when they were babies, and they call back in return. The ones who return my call are slowly dwindling in numbers. The new hatchlings that were raised by the flock look at me like I’m insane when I call them.

Caring for the geese in winter is an easy task. Twice a day, I go out and put feed in small piles along the driveway. They come up and eat at their leisure. If I am late feeding them, they hang out in the front yard and tell me my actions are unacceptable. They won’t be ignored. They will hang out, calling and honking until I make my appearance. When they see me, they create a raucous, letting me know loudly and rudely what they think of me. Trust me; it’s not nice. However rude and incorrigible they are, I like my flock of grumpy geese.

I continue to care for and pamper poor old Goostavia. She is residing in the little green coop by the garage. Last night, I filled the little coop with straw, filled the unused nesting boxes with empty feed sacks for insulation, and placed a small bowl of feed in her coop in case she doesn’t want to go out into the snow to eat in the mornings. We prop the coop door open in the morning, and she lets herself out when she is ready. I water her outside because she splashes and makes a mess with her water. She doesn’t need wet bedding in the dead of winter.

She seemed genuinely appreciative of the thick bedding of straw I placed in her coop. She is unable to maneuver going up the ramp to her coop. Every evening, I go out, pick her up, and gently place her inside her coop for the night. Running from me seems to be our new game. Each night we follow the same routine, she sees me coming, honks at me, she waits until I am three feet from her, then gets up, flaps her wings in irritation, and limps away from me. Depending on the day and how agile I feel, sometimes the goose wins. Sigh.

As is the routine of nature, with the shorter days come fewer eggs from my chickens. One lone little girl gives me a large blue egg every day. I attribute the quick decline in egg production to the shorter days and the cooler temperatures, and I disturbed their routine by adding new laying boxes to their coop. They are creatures of habit. To winterize their coop, I lined the perimeter of the coop with bales of straw. I also gave them a thick layer of straw for bedding. I hang two large feeders inside the coop and keep them filled. I usually only have to fill them once every other week. However, I keep their water outside as well. I moved the water trough closer to their small door and added a layer of straw, so their little crooked chicken toes don’t have to touch the snow.

I’m keeping my small fall pumpkins for them to peck at this winter when the days are cold, and they spend more time inside. Providing entertainment and amusement for them is important, so they don’t begin pecking at each other. The Bibbed Wonder picked up a bag of oatmeal from the bulk store that will be used to feed them when it gets frigid. I add things like raisins, dried fruit, and peas to the warm mix. In my opinion, if I am cold, they are probably cold too. Happy birds make happy eggs. Except for the geese, those old grumps are never happy and don’t give us eggs. In reality, I’m a slave to feathered dictators.

I hope with the approaching cold weather, your nest is warm and filled with enough food to comfort you. Take care of those who need a little extra TLC, whether feathered, mammal, or human. Stay safe, be smart, give comfort from the cold, and keep washing your hands. Also, don’t forget the rule: 30 seconds with warm water and soap. I know where you can get some excellent hand soap on sale…insert a wink here.

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