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First Snow

The ‘bawk-bawks’ balked big time when I opened their Palace door this morning! Funniest reaction I’ve seen out of chickens in five years. I waited a while and then just left them to figure out what they were going to do.

I was puzzled … (so were they!) … our chickens had always free ranged all winter long. Except … LAST year. The combination of some of our flock having ALT (chicken illness) in November and then the onset of the Avian Influenza scare across Canada … meant all of these guys were inside ALL WINTER LONG last year. Wow. They kept to the five sheltered areas along their ‘chicken highway’ for the day. I’m betting they’ll be running up and down the hillside snow or no snow soon enough.

The rest of the flerd were not all that impressed either. The goats had been out exploring but had decided they were going to hang out in their own digs. Jill and Joker parked themselves in the donkey barns. Rosie was out and about as soon as she saw me arrive at the gate.

I’m rooting for the snow to just stay. I think it will at least for the week. I love how it brightens the paddocks and the woods. Funny to think that the shot above was just yesterday.

A few days ago my sister came for a visit with her two international student boarders. I loved being able to talk to the girls about the school systems they come from. They got right into the thick of things out in the paddock – helping to clean out the barns and to drive the compost away. Then we got down to the good stuff. Three donkeys – three brushers! Rosie just soaked it all up.

The three amigos are doing very well. It is heartwarming to see them all laying in the barn together on a stormy night.

Today’s snow was sticking to their hooves – making great ‘high heels’. It does not look very comfortable to walk on. Rosie is very used to me helping out when that happens. I let her know I’m lifting her hoof – and then get rid of the snow pack. This afternoon I leaned down and cleared her back hooves … and wondered why she startled so. That’s when I realized I had picked up Joker’s feet. Seemed quite a surprise to him! He was cooperative enough when he figured out what I was doing. A few hours later I nonchalantly picked up Jill’s foot. That was another surprise. I will need to work some clicker training games with them to help them relax when I clear their hooves.

I love this picture my sister took of the ducks. They were out into the snow pronto. No hesitation in this group. Snow – water you can eat! 😉 I had to say goodbye to our drakes today – Rupert and Baxter. Darn the same-old, same-old rooster dilemma… I’ve been dreading the onset of winter weather. Last winter I divided the drakes from the hens from February through to summer … I did see that they suffered being on the constantly shadowed side of the duck house – and that the indoor space was not ideal – especially on stormy days. But they just beat the crap out of the hens … Poor Penny (white Pekin) has been losing her neck and head feathers not to mention always nursing a sore butt – and has constantly been on alert trying to run away from them. The closed in hours of long winter nights put her – and Posh – right into their sights for bullying games to overcome boredom.

The kindest thing I could do was take on the job of dispatching them myself. They were calm and not stressed and then the ‘deed’ was done quickly. I had to make sure that was the first thing I did this morning as I worry I’ll lose my nerve if I think on it too long. So now we are down to a flock of five duck hens. There certainly was a muted tone to their day. Misty was looking for her boys. They were the last three of our original grouping. I think the other hens were thinking they should enjoy the reprieve while they could. There was also lots more room in their duck house tonight – and Penny and Posh can rest well for once. I did not realize when I started that caring for poultry would mean knowing how to humanely kill them too … I have to come to know that being able to do that here at home is the kindest way. They don’t have the stress of being carted off to a stranger.

So here we are … the beginning of a fresh new winter. I’m thinking this last month of fall is going to be a white one. Fingers crossed!

Hugs from the Meadow.