It is the last day of January and it is 58 degrees F. Everyone is sloshing through muck and puddles outside.
Barn windows drip with condensation. As I write this, rain is coming down, a hard wind carrying it sideways.
This is dangerous weather. When it is well below freezing and there’s ice on the windows and snow on the ground, I don’t worry. When the temperature rises, I do. Germs multiply in warm, moist air. Respiratory disease lurks in all barns, but when it is dry and cold it goes into hiding. Manure that has solidified into clumps on barn boards, and frozen hard into the ground outside, thaws. It releases moisture and ammonia fumes, bacteria and viruses.
Pearl, my Cochin, is my only feather-legged hen. I only have the one, and this is why:
Although some people think that feathered legs keep birds warm, around here they get muddy and icy. She carries the wet, cold around with her. Yesterday, knowing that this warm front was on the way, I mucked out the coop and put down fresh shavings, so that Pearl and the others have a dry home.
I’ll keep an eye on the outdoor runs. I’ve been putting down shavings, to keep the chickens up off the snowy ground. But, in this weather, it could easily go moldy, bringing illness to my flock. If it remains warm, it will all be shoveled out this weekend.
For now, everyone is safe and dry and breathing clean air in their well-ventilated coops. A January thaw is never a good thing. I’ll be paying close attention to the girls.