In Admiration of Animals

This cold is getting old. It’s -5 degrees today, Valentine’s Day, with a “feels like” wind chill of -23 F. It hasn’t been above 15 degrees for 10 days and it’s not supposed to “warm up” to a HIGH of 20 degrees until Wednesday. On a day like today, I can’t be out for more than 10-15 minutes before my fingers go numb, then painful, through double gloves. That’s the time it takes to change frozen water for the chickens in the coop and the cat in the garage or refill a couple of wild bird feeders — all while Boz “helps” me by playing and bounding and wanting all the attention I can give him.

After my last venture outside to do these daily chores, it took almost 30 minutes for the pain to subside and the feeling to return enough to my fingers to type on the keyboard. I need to find better gloves, gloves that let me use my hands and fingers to perform the necessary tasks while protecting them from frostbite.

I’m amazed by the animals. When given his choice, Boz (the dog) will be OUTSIDE during the day, watching over the place, almost as much as he is inside, on the sun porch. And when I step out for one of my multiple daily treks to change frozen water for the chickens, cat, and wild birds, he eagerly bounds around in the snow, excitedly plays with me, chases after his chew toys, and seems utterly unaffected by the sub-zero temperature and triply sub-zero wind chill. He has a thick layer of loose, floppy skin under his short, thick, dense fur. And the pads on his feet must comprise a tough insulation that would make great gloves if I could find a pair made from something like his natural foot pad material.

I feel sorry for the chickens. But they have demonstrated how cold hardy they are after 10 solid days of this ridiculously cold weather. None have shown any signs of frostbite. The 3 Garys — Plymouth Rock laying hens — still lay 2-3 eggs/day. Roger the Rhode Island Red rooster has grown a lot. He’s bigger than the Garys now. The Annies (3 Australorp pullets) and the Ritas (3 Rhode Island Red pullets) have grown a lot, too, and all could be old enough to begin laying eggs any day now. I fully expect their egg-laying to be delayed a bit, given the conditions, but, other than not wanting to leave the relative warmth of the coop, all the chickens seem to be doing well. And I believe it’s the accumulating snow outside that I have been too cold to scoop away for them and too hesitant to melt away with the propane torch for fear of starting a fire with straw strewn around the ground that keeps them from venturing outside. What can I say? I’m not a robust chicken tender. It’s all I can do to change their water, collect eggs, and scatter some treat feed around for more than 10-15 minutes at a time.

The wild birds — Cardinals, Juncos, Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, etc. — may be the most impressive of all. They eat a LOT more, yes. I need to fill their multiple feeders at least every other day now, as opposed to pre-winter time when I filled them once, maybe twice a week, at most. But, other than that, it’s like nothing is different for them. They’re puffed up a bit and look a little rounder. That’s it. They’re just as energetic as they are any other time of the year.

Meanwhile, I’m typing this in the well heated house, drinking a drab of warming Scotch before noon, and dreading my next trip outside.

I admire these animals.

Published by joesmithreally

Slipped away from increasingly stressful, disordered, random, and violent urban life after 3 decades to live in peace and attempt to start and steward a small farm.

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