Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Threat of Snow

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Late Fall

It's cold here in the Ozarks, danged cold, and the farmer is hunting for his seed catalogues so he can start dreaming of spring.

There has also been a threat of snow.

The routines on the farm change with the seasons.  A month ago I was worried about finishing up the mowing and getting the daffodil and tulip bulbs into the ground.  Now my thoughts are more focused on helping the farm fowl survive the winter and keeping the house warm.  The dogs and I are hunkered down, and the chickens are out working the cold, cold ground.

A big chore in winter is just keeping water available for all of the animals.  The outdoor water bowls freeze over every night, and in the morning I have to bust the ice so that the birds can drink.  Sometimes, on days like today, the water in the bowls even refreezes during the daylight hours.  From where I sit right now, I can see that the birdbath is frozen over and in need of my attentions.

One of the peacock hens was injured yesterday, though I don't know how.  During the afternoon feeding I noticed the straw under one of their outdoor perches was blood red.  My first thought was that PeeWee, the young hen who was born this spring, had perhaps been injured by one of the adult birds.  All of the big birds except her mother seem to resent PeeWee and never miss a chance to chase or peck her.  But it wasn't PeeWee who was injured.  Later I noticed one of the adult hens sitting alone on a perch and looking subdued.  A closer examination revealed that she had a gash just above her wing - a shoulder injury.   I was careful to give her a separate supply of food so that she did not have to mingle with the others, and this morning she looks to be somewhat better.

Hector, the farm's lone duck, has been doing a bit of showing out.  Hector was born in the incubator last July along with fifteen baby chicks.  Those chicks now number twelve, and they are all Hector's adopted brothers and sisters.  Hector eats grass and grains scattered on the ground, just as the chickens do.  Once a day I feed bread bits, but the chickens just about always beat him to that.  While the chickens scurry about grabbing bread off of the ground, Hector looks skyward wondering what all the fuss is about.

But that changed this week when I scattered some dry dog food for the birds.  The chickens, preferring sunflower seeds that were also being offered, were only mildly interested in the dog food, but Hector went nuts for it - scooping up most of what was scattered about.  (My son told me later that ducks at one of the local parks eat dog food as their primary nourishment.)  That same evening, after he gorged on the new food, Hector scandalized the barnyard by making amorous advances toward one of the hens.  The next day after eating dog food, he jumped in his kiddie pool (which was almost frozen) and bathed and quacked with glee.

I think I may have created a monster.  Maybe a good snowfall will calm him down!

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