Friday, January 8, 2010

Being Cold is Getting Old

It has been pretty darn cold ever since Christmas. Although I don't mind doing the chores in the the cold - I have devised a very warm chore-doing ensemble - it sure is hard getting out of bed on these cold mornings. It warmed up to -2 degrees F today. You could see everybody's breath - the cows', even the chickens'.

On Wednesday, a veterinarian came to do a pregnancy check on Lariat. It was unlikely, but she had been briefly exposed to the bull before coming to our farm. She has a naturally barrel-shaped figure, so you couldn't tell by looking at her. I had just learned that if she WAS pregnant, we would need to immediately wean our calves so she could have new milk and colostrum for the new calf. Lasso and Reuben mostly eat hay, but they do still snack from Lariat even though they are nearly 9 months old.

The vet visit was an experience. First, Sara, Cadence and I got all the (very reluctant) cows haltered and tied to the loafing shed for their vaccinations. Then, picture that old public television program, "All Creatures Great and Small," when the vet has his arm up to his shoulder inside the back end of the cow. It felt very authentically farmerly. Well, Lariat is not pregnant, which is a relief... but it sure would have been exciting.
When I walked along the pasture to take a few photos, the brave cows ventured out this far. They are not getting much exercise these days. When we go in to feed them we have to constantly pay attention because sometimes they get frisky and start romping around inside the loafing shed. It is a bit unnerving when an ungainly 800 pound calf with horns romps toward you in a confined space!
Don't let that pretty blue sky above the chicken coop fool you - it is much colder than it looks. The snow is not fluffy--it creaks like styrofoam when you walk on it.
Inside the coop, the chickens have been spending most of their time lately up on the roost (an old wooden ladder mounted sideways) snuggled together. Out of the 24 chickens in the coop, we have way too many roosters: our old Americauna rooster Chagall; Big Red whom we could not bear to harvest; a sneaky black one that escaped being caught for the harvest; a large Buff Orpington we kept because he was one of the hens' favorite protectors; Ptarmigan - a now gigantic Brahma whom I discovered trapped and starving in the garage last fall, and Knickerbocker.
Knickerbocker is a spectacular rooster that we acquired by accident while delivering chickens to the processor. Several chickens had escaped during the transfer and he was the last one to be caught, but when I picked him up, he scarcely weighed two pounds - too small to harvest. I put him back in the truck to take home.

When we got home we realized he was unlike any of our other chickens; he must have escaped from somebody else. I named him Knickerbocker because he looks like he is wearing black knickers. He has grown to be a favorite. So far having so many roosters hasn't posed a problem but come spring we may have to worry about fights.
You might expect that during this extra cold spell our pampered pooches would prefer to stay inside. Nope - they have to make sure everything is safe and in order, with no obnoxious rabbits or squirrels scampering about.
They do appreciate their warm soft beds when they finally come in, though.


Becky said...

Brrr... I shivered just reading your post. It makes our lows of 18 seem balmy! Are you still keeping a heat lamp on for the chickens or are they okay without it?

Susan said...

I have been keeping a heat lamp on day and night, but I don't know that it helps much. The chickens don't really seem to mind the cold-- a few have even chosen to stay in the even colder barn with the geese and ducks. They eat and drink considerably more in this weather(I fill their water containers with lukewarm water and occasionally give them warm oatmeal to help them warm up from the inside.) I am afraid a couple of the roosters with the largest combs may have suffered a bit of frostbite though-- you can see black tips on Knickerbocker's comb in the photo.

Callie said...

Your farm looks picture postcard beautiful. Lovely yes, but very cold! I love the red barns. The ladder chicken roost is a great idea. Great photos!

katiegirl said...

I know what you mean about too many roosters. I need to rehome some, and also some older non-laying hens. I just can't afford to feed them all!

Hopefully y'all will get a thaw sometime soon!