Tis the season….for ice

tracks1Sorry it’s been so long in between posts, I was trying to avoid a weather-centric rant regarding how cold it’s been here and how much I hate freezing temperatures. But since you asked, chipping ice out of all the water dishes and having to painstakingly pick my path through all the iced over puddles is not my favorite way to start the morning. In fact, the only thing all the ice in the backyard is truly good for is getting to watch the roosters have some hilarious, squawking wipeouts while chasing their ladies. After eight straight days of dealing with temperatures that peaked in the 20s, and having to haul warm water outside bucket by bucket (uphill both ways, mind you), I called my parents back in Minnesota to whine about my struggles. Unfortunately, I got zero sympathy, since it’s been twenty below zero where they live.

The chickens have a great way of dealing with the cold – they rarely come out of the coop. Although they still barrel out the door every morning in their haste to get the grain scratch I always scatter for them, I’ll go back outside a few hours later and they’re all prudenceroosted up already, happily basking in the glow of the heat lamp. The turkeys, at least, don’t seem to even notice the temperature. Dimsworth and Hawthorne spend their days as usual, lumbering around the backyard, showing off for Hester, Constance, Prudence, and Temperance. The new lady turkeys seem to love it here, and have settled down into a nice routine. They have their favorite grazing, napping, and preening spots chosen, and divvy up their time accordingly. The only difficulty I’ve had with them involves their penchant for flying. Even when Christmas was their age, she never flew anywhere. These gals, however, seem to delight in flapping up to the roof, any roof, when it’s time for me to shepherd them into their chalet for the night. I’m positive they do it just to vex me, because if I turn my back on them, they jump back down and pace in front of the chalet door, hungry for their dinner. I had to find a ten foot long stick to use to herd them back down to the ground.

The cold weather has also forestalled most construction projects, IMG_0705although Gene did build me a replacement hay feeder for the one that the goats wore out. I’m really excited to begin work on the Quail Sanctuary, but the events of this morning have pushed another project into emergency-get-it-done-now status. The nesting boxes in the chicken coop need to be redesigned. Badly. Right now, retrieving the eggs involves kneeling down below the roosting bars and reaching into the boxes. In the year we’ve had the coop, I’ve never had a problem taking my time and carefully plucking each egg out of the nest, despite the gathering of feathered butts perched directly above my head. Today, however, was different. I got rained on. A terrible, horrible, stench-filled rain that got all over the back of my shirt, and worst of all, fouled my hair in the worst way possible. And it was all from one chicken! Sigh. I’ve never harvested eggs so quickly in my life; I literally threw them onto the kitchen counter and raced into the shower. Gotta love Mondays.

Where’s the turkeys?

ladiesNow that it’s been a few days, the ladies, as I’ve taken to collectively calling the new turkeys, have started to settle into their routine. Every night at dusk I herd them into the chalet, which is a much easier process now that they’ve realized delicious kibble will be waiting for them inside. At dawn I let them out, and they follow Dimsworth and Hawthorne around the pasture, separated by the fence. I would love to be able to let the boys come back in, but the first time I staged a meet and greet, they ignored the ladies and went straight to attacking Woolimina. Of all the critters to harass, I don’t know why on earth they picked the one with the horn that sticks straight out. Woolimina’s not afraid to use it, either. So far it’s Woolimina 10, turkeys 0.

The ladies have managed to scare the heck out of me twice so far. The first time was roostingwhen I went to check on them one night when they were still sleeping in the cabana, only to find no one home, not even the pasture chickens. The warm, comfy, brightly lit cabana, normally crammed with sleeping goats, turkeys, and chickens, was totally empty. It took a while, but I finally found the chickens sleeping in the goats bedroom, one curled up on top of Ariel. The turkeys took a bit longer to round up, but lots of hissing and several scratches later, everyone was safely put to the bed in the chalet. The next night, I panicked again – I had tucked them all safely into their new nighttime quarters, but it was completely empty. Nary a turkey in sight, until I looked up. They had all flown up to one of the support beams, eight feet in the air, and settled in for the night. They’ve done it every night since, and seem quite content with their new home. I think they’re going to be beautiful when they’re full grown, except for perhaps the darkest one, Constance. For some reason, her neck is bare, so she looks exactly like a turkey vulture.