Sunday, January 15, 2012

Don't Believe the Hype

We still love our birds -- don't get me wrong -- but they haven't exactly been living up to the accolades I posted late last week. Temperatures plummeted to the single digits over the last two nights and even daytime conditions haven't risen above freezing since sometime early Friday morning. The hens have been cranky the entire time -- it's a toss-up as to whose complaints about the weather have been more intense, but it looks like they're kvetching more than us.

They also seem intent on laying eggs and returning to their collective huddle around the feed trough as quickly as possible. Instead of sharing a single nest and leaving one of their broody sisters to keep things warm as they do when weather is a bit milder, they've taken to dropping the eggs helter-skelter throughout the coop. Despite reasonably robust insulation, a great big window aimed at the sun to increase passive heating, a 100-watt red heat bulb, and a deep-bedding system that generates heat as it composts, their house is still a rather chilly place to just leave eggs lying around.

But we're not complaining -- regular visits to check on the hens insures that we farmers bundle up and venture out into the wintry wonderland, despite the occasional flash of wintertime blues that make it tough to climb out of bed and tackle a daunting to-do list. I've long appreciated the declaration of a friend who now has young children to stave off her own inclination toward seasonal torpor. Several years ago, she culled most of her aging flock, but kept a few through the winter: My hens, she declared by way of explanation, are the reason I get out of bed in the winter.

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