According to the calender, winter is a few days away, but according to the world outside, winter is here and feeling fierce. We had a dusting of snow on Monday, and frigid temperatures since. It has been in the single digits at night, and below 20 during the day.
Temperatures like these make livestock keeping a bit more challenging. The water hose and faucet are frozen solid, so water must be hauled from the house morning and night. I fill 2 five gallon gasoline cans (clean and new, or course) with water and keep them near the wood stove. First thing in the morning and as soon as I get home from work I carry water to the hoof stock, (horse and goats) and the poultry, (chickens and ducks.) The hoof stock and the chickens both have electrically heated water containers. The poor ducks, however, had better get their water while it is still liquid, because within an hour or two it is frozen quite solidly.
The Muscovy ducks are pretty sly, and when the weather is very cold or stormy, they put themselves into the chicken coop where food and water is plentiful. (Point of interest, the chickens are free to come and go from coop to yard from dawn till dusk, but when the weather is this cold they stay quite firmly in the coop. Who says chickens are brainless?) The Indian Runner ducks,however, have found this cold, snowy weather to seriously cramp their style. Normally they are all over the property, foraging for seeds, bugs and whatever else strikes a funny ducks fancy. This week they have been quite forlornly hanging out in the barren space under the chicken coop during the day. At night they put themselves into the small wooden duck house. They look quite dejected all told. Hard water, no bugs, cold feet. It's a sad time for ducks.
We have snow coming, big snow if you believe the forecast. I've been fretting about those Runner ducks. So today I hatched a plan. I decided that tonight, when they went into their little house, I would catch them and lock them in the calf hutch. The calf hutch is like an enormous fiber glass dog house. Its original purpose was to house dairy calves, but at my wee farm it has sheltered chickens, pigs, goats and turkeys quite nicely. I have it next to the chicken coop, in a fairly sheltered spot, and filled with about 12 inches of dry bedding. So this evening, when dusk fell and the ducks were in their house, I set the calf hutch up with a nice pan full of clean, warm water, and big bowl full of food. I fastened a grate over the door, opened the side window and knelt on the icy ground in front of the duck house intent on catching birds. It was darkish outside, and real dark with my head and shoulders in the duck den. The ducks were startled to see me there, and began to leap about in alarm. I paused, pulling out of the low hut to think how to best accomplish my goal, and decided that seeing well was a must. I pulled my trusty iPhone out of my pocket, activated the flash light app and once again stuck my head in the doorway. The male duck dove over my hair, scrabbling wildly and tried to get past me. I snagged his long neck in my hand, prayed it wouldn't break and clutched him to my chest. He was not amused, flapped and scratched and made heroic efforts to escape. Since I have opposable thumbs and a brain someone larger than a small duck, I prevailed. But then there was the next problem. I have crummy ankles, tendon troubles in both, and getting up from kneeling is never graceful for me. Getting up on ice, clutching a terrified duck and an iPhone was less graceful still. But I am nothing if not determined, and I managed. I carefully skated across the icy hen yard, and placed the drake inside his new digs. Then it was time for round two. I carefully got down, aimed my light into the house, and grabbed for the hen. She dodged. She darted. I reached. I grasped. I did a face plant in the shavings. I was glad I had recently cleaned them.
Once again I struggled, gracelessly, to my feet, slid to the hutch, and inserted the unhappy hen inside with her mate. I shut and locked the window and felt most pleased with my efforts.
Now, how does one remove large quantities of (mostly clean) pine shavings from hair that is the texture of Velcro? These are questions I never had to ask before I lived with and loved livestock.