Everyone really liked my Selfies with Tonka post, so I thought I’d take selfies with the goats.
The Goat Boys, as ever, added a bit of chaos and spontaneity to the endeavor.
Caper said that if he could show off his beard, he’d cooperate (as much as a goat cooperates.)
Pip agreed to pose if I gave him scratches, in the right places, of course. This is his happy face.
Pip, ever polite, says thank you.
This winter has been the exact opposite of our the snowbound freezer that we survived last year. Yesterday the temperature reached up to 60º F. Tonight the thermometer will plummet to a more seasonal 12º. If the temp can’t tell me where we are in the season, the animals can.
Yesterday, neither Tonka nor I could bear to do our exercises in the indoor ring. Instead we walked about outside. The ground was visible. There were only patches of slush and ice. I unzipped my jacket. He stretched out and relaxed.
Bare ground, though, is not a predictor of spring. It’s typical to get a thaw. Heavy snows can still follow. But, I do trust the sign of flying fur. Tonka is shedding, as are the goats. For winter, the Boys grow a long outer coat and a soft, dense under-lining. When it sheds, it sticks to everything. Today I’m going out to buy lint rollers, (in a six-pack !) which this time of year I keep in my truck and at the back door.
The best sign of spring though, is this. The Beast. Alive and well. During the winter she has been in a state of suspended animation in the safety of her cave. This week she made a showing. Spring is definitely around the corner.
All chickens have lice living under their feathers, crawling on their skin. You usually don’t see them, not with those fluffy bottoms. The hens show no signs of distress.
Despite the yuck factor for us humans, this is no big deal. I’ve written about lice here if you want to see photos and learn more.
The hens keep these soft-bodied, detritus-eating external parasites at bay by dust bathing. In the winter, the ground is frozen solid, or thawed and muddy, or covered by snow, which give the lice population the opportunity to explode and cause discomfort and lack of vitality. So, provide your hens with a dust bath inside of the coop. I used to use a kitty litter box, but the Girls kicked the sand out. Now I use a tub and fill it a third-full with all-purpose sand and a cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth.
It’s good if you can set it in a sunny spot.
If possible, have a tub large enough that there can be communal bathing.
Let the sand fly!
There’s been a break in the bitter cold weather. That’s not always a good thing. This warm front came with snow and then rain and fog. It does this to trees.
Each branch is outlined with ice.
Branches are encrusted with granular snow, which weights them down.
Spring buds are encased in frozen water.
It’s beautiful but dangerous.
I’m headed out to upstate New York today. The roads are currently too slippery to drive on, but the temperatures continue to rise. It should be safe in a couple of hours. Later this week I fly down to Dallas for a training conference. I’m looking forward to talking behavior science with people who work with other species, but I confess to being most excited about getting off of the plane in 80º sunshine. Unfortunately, the weather report for that part of Texas is for rain over the weekend. Oh well, at least it won’t be frozen!
Have a great week, everyone. I’ll be back at my computer next Tuesday.
The animals are fine. On a day this frigid, the hens get scratch grains to make up for the calories they burn to stay warm. They’re delighted.
Even with temperatures this low, they don’t need heat in the coop. I’ve written about care for chickens in cold weather here.
The goats have furnaces in their bellies. Really! The bacteria in their guts that digest food generate heat. On a day like this, they get an extra flake of hay (put out on top of their tree out in the sun.) The goats are delighted with a reason to get more than their usual ration.
Tonka, too, will have extra hay. But with the windchill in the double digits below zero, he’s staying inside. I’ll be going to the barn after lunch to take him for a walk around the indoor to keep his day from being totally boring and to let him stretch his legs.
It’s the humans that have the hard time of it. Last night, when the wind chill was around 20 below, Steve realized that the pond’s water level was low and that the pump was making straining noises. So, he threaded a hose out from the basement, filled up the pond and cleaned out the filter, making sure that Beast’s lair would keep her safe through the rest of the winter.
You do what you have to do, but for now the animals are tucked in, Steve is reading the Sunday paper, and I’m about to make brownies for Valentine’s Day.
Stay safe and cozy everyone!