Huh. It seems that winter has decided to put in an appearance here after all. For the last few days the temperature has struggled to get much above freezing. Of course, this means that our central heating decided to shut down. Impeccable timing, our appliances. However, the human suffering is nothing compared to that of the chooks.
Chickens are surprisingly hardy creatures. They can tolerate very cold temperatures, as long as they are dry and out of any cruel winds. But they are utterly dependent on help from their keepers. I maintain that you haven't earned your chicken keeping stripes until you have trudged through snow in your pyjamas at 7am to make sure your hens have some non-frozen water to drink. Bonus points if you get up during gales to check that the roof is still on the coop.
So, this morning I braved the thick frost to clean out my girls. I knew I was in trouble when my fingers got stuck to the run door latch. That's how cold it is. The hens muttered blearily at me, and had to be encouraged to leave the coop so that I could clean. Once evicted, they sat at my feet like pissed off tea cosies and made themselves as awkwardly placed as possible. Running the chicken assault course gauntlet to clear the soiled newspaper from the coop floor was no easy feat, let me tell you.
Once the paper was out, I found myself with a familiar problem. The hens had used one corner of their sleeping quarters for their most, er, energetic of expulsions. This charming pile of excrement was now solidified and welded to the coop floor and wall. I hit it a bit with the dustpan and brush with predictably rubbish results. With a resigned sigh, I fetched the edger.
Now, to be fair, a wallpaper scraper would be more effective and less troublesome. But we don't seem to have one. So the only thing with a steel edge I can find is the border edger. Which has bent, because we're on solid clay and it's a cheap tool.
Weilding the edger like a welly wearing warrior, I set about Mount Poo. Instead of cleanly coming away in one solid lump, my efforts merely shaved it. I was basically chiseling a poo sculpture. I ended up with dessicated chicken faeces, blowing in spirals around me. Nice. But eventually, the poo mountain was shaved away and swept in to the bin. Of course, by now I can no longer feel my fingers.
In these temperatures I tend to layer the nest boxes with extra wood shavings, just to make sure that if things get dire the girls can use them as extra insulation. While slinging handfuls of bedding in them with my numb claw hands, I found an egg. Hardly news, what with it being a chicken coop. But what was different about this egg was that it had frozen solid. And in that process, cracked. So the shell was zig zagged with a delicate pattern, and the inside was frozen jelly. I was going to take a picture, but the demon hound leapt up as I was examining it and ate it. Gulp. In one swallow. He didn't even look sorry.
We are predicted a heavy snow fall tomorrow, so at least I know that my girls are prepared. There is poultry spice on their feed, and mealworms and pasta on the menu for their before bed snack.
C'mon, winter. Do your worst.