This one is for the folks who question the animal welfare we farmers provide.
While doing chores this morning, Cindy was collecting eggs when she came upon a chicken that appeared to be setting on a nest in the corner of the coop. Upon closer inspection, the chicken was dead.
Imagine Cindy’s surprise when she turned to see a full-grown owl within about 4 feet of her, sitting in a feed bowl. I couldn’t see it because the sun was blocking my view through the screen. We’re still not exactly sure of the breed. I thought it was a barn owl, Cindy thought maybe a Great Horned. We’re sure it isn’t one of our local Long-earred Owl’s.
I gotta’ tell you, Cindy was just a little undone. I can’t repeat what she said, as there are some youngsters who follow this blog. Let’s just say she was more undone when I wanted to lock the outside door (that meant her in), long enough to put the Border Collie away. At this point the hens had run out the door and into their outside pen, not wanting to go anywhere near that owl.
Well, this being a comedy of errors, I had Cindy cautiously move around to the back of the owl, hoping she could encourage it out the open door. Noooo, the owl headed out into the chicken pen. You can only imagine the commotion. Thirty hens, and two roosters, all trying to get back through their small door at the same time. As for the owl, it was absolutely stunned and had no idea what to do.
All it really knew was it wanted out. It tried to go through the chicken wire. That didn’t work. It tried to go under the wire. That didn’t work either. At least, not without help.
Now before I go further, you may ask why we’re even attempting to save this owl?
We dutifully called the Utah Department of Wildlife and Natural Resources to report the injured owl, as all species are protected in Utah. An officer called back and after confirming the injury was a cut foot, he said the best path was for us to free the owl without further injury to us, the owl, the chickens, or the coop. So much for our tax dollars at work. Nobody ever wants to drive out here from Cedar City. If we didn’t have deputy sheriff’s who live out here, I doubt we’d have protection.
Ok, so back out to free this stupid owl.
First we removed the bird netting that covers the small pen. That was a trick as we had to do it from one side and the end, all the while keeping an eye on the owl, just in case it came to it’s senses and chose to fly.
Be tried to reach across with a long piece of PVC, but didn’t have enough leverage to get the owl’s attention. The obvious shortcut, through the big chicken door wasn’t an option, as it’s still iced in.
With the only option left, Cindy got on her hands and knees, crawled out the little door (I’m still too fat), and came face to face with one very undone owl.
How close have you ever been to an owl? Cindy can tell you they really don’t like people. The owl was ready to attack whenever it got itself all together. With a hurt foot, and being tangled in the fence, she felt relatively comfortable extending her booted foot towards it in an effort to get it repositioned.
All the stupid owl did was get further entangled, even to the point of getting it’s right wing UNDER the edge of the chicken wire. This wasn’t good. Now we had an angry owl trapped in the chicken wire between two pens. This owl has no idea how lucky it is. Cindy has an incredibly short temper, and it would have been far easier (and within our right, since it killed a chicken) to just shoot it.
Cindy finally had to climb over the dividing fence and once again come face-to-face with the critter. She used a short piece of PVC with a Tee on it to keep the bird’s beak busy while she wrenched the bottom of the wire loose. After a minute or so, the owl was free. We have a pen that needs repair. Cindy had to retrace her route, up over the chicken wire (bending it a bit) and back through the little chicken door on her hands and knees.
As for the owl, it first flew to the fence at our BBQ area, kind of gathering itself. I sorta spooked it and it flew around the perimeter of our west wall, landing in an olive tree on the south side of our property.
As it was sitting on the fence at the BBQ I read it’s rights to it. “That was your one chance. Next time you kill a chicken, you get the death penalty. No judge, no jury, just a .410.”
Here’s the kicker. This owl is sitting in an olive tree to the south of our house, wings spread full, when four doves nonchalantly fly into the same tree, on the opposite side. The owl could care less. It’s still processing what happened to it.
Damn! We’re so tired of the below zero mornings while doing chores, only to have to repeat the process with the windchill below zero in the afternoon. Mind you, this is an area that routinely hits 100+ degrees in the summer time.
Let me share with you exactly what we do on a typical week day in this weather..
Mom usually starts the day shortly after 5 AM. It’s lights on in the kitchen and check the coffee pot time. Even though the machine is on automatic, Mom doesn’t trust it. We don’t trust that Mom set it right, but that’s another story. The kitchen is her domain until she gives it up.
Bev is next up about 5:30. By shortly before 6:30 she’s out to pre-trip and start the school bus. In below zero weather, all kinds of things can happen. She’s already had two dead batteries, the fuel filter has frozen up twice, and her brakes have been frozen. For a while it was a real problem for her when the school district, which includes the Dixie area of Utah had 3 minute idle rule. That was before the deep freeze, and the kids were bringing blankets on the bus.
Cindy is stirring about the time Bev leaves. Since Mom has generally returned to her room to read, all the dogs are still quiet. It’s all about Mom as to when the dogs begin their day. After all, she’s the “treat giver”. Mom takes Cindy’s coffee in to her. That’s ok with all of us, as Mom is really Cindy’s mom. Chewy, the Border Collie knows she gets first treats, and is waiting on the foot of the bed. One small beg out of Chewy’s mouth, and most of the other dogs figure it’s their turn, too.
I’m the sleepy head, as is my dog, Sarah, the Finnish Spitz. About time Bev comes in, I’m crawling out of my warm bed. Sarah, generally asleep on the couch also welcomes the morning with her famous Finnish Spitz “lecture”. Some day I’ll get a recording of it.
The dogs all line up for “pills”. Koda, the collie/shepherd gets her insulin shot, thyroid pill and 1/4 tsp of peanut butter. Mindy, the old30 lab, gets her thyroid and and anti-itch meds along with 1/3 of a marshmallow. The rest of the dogs get 1/3 marshmallow each, even though they need no pills.
By 9:30 AM, it’s time for chores. What’s the temp? Is the wind blowing? Which way and how strong? The answers to those questions tell us what to wear. For the past couple of mornings, at -16F we’re wearing long underwear, jeans, shirts, sweatshirts, bib, heavy farm coats, a couple of hats (I wear a ball cap with either a bomber or duck hunter hood), and gloves or maybe even the glove/mitten combination. Sometimes we put on muck boots, or snow boots. I usually get away with my Ariats and thick wool socks.
Our garb reminds of when I was little in Wyoming and was dressed in a snow suit. I spent all my time walking around with my arms out and prayed I wouldn’t fall down.
On our way out, we pull the water hose from our tub, where it’s been thawing after last night’s chores. We check the “chicken bucket” for goodies. Finally we pick up the filled water bottles for the rabbits, and begin the trek to the animals. It’s been so cold the last few days, that we’ve left Chewy in for fear of frostbitten feet.
First stop for me is the sheep and cow water. I bust out as much ice as possible from the Pygmy goats and from Zena’s pan. I also have to work on Coco the cow’s bucket since she chewed/played with her heater. It takes a couple of minutes to fill the sheep water (it has a heater), and the rest of the water. I disconnect the hose and immediately replace the two containers covering and protecting the frost-free head.
In the mean time, Cindy is trudging north about 400 feet to the rabbit/goat barn. Once there, she’ll toss alfalfa to the goats (outside if there’s no wind or inside if it’s windy or snowy), and feed the rabbits. Then she’ll change out the frozen water bottles and take care of the goat water. Some days that means busting ice before adding enough water for them to drink within the next hour.
I feed the Pygmies and the Dwarf boys, heading over to the sheep. The sheep are going through about a bale a day now. As I toss the alfalfa flakes into their feeder, I count heads and do a visual health check. We have one old gal (we call her blue tag). She has a lot of wool on her face and doesn’t see real well. I toss her a portion, hoping she finds it before the others track it down.
Coco’s next. She’s one big love bug. No matter how cold, she has to be petted and loved before she eats. She’s pregnant as are all the other female animals. While there, I toss a 1/2 flake to Zena, who’s due to kid February 14. Trust me… we didn’t plan that one.
If Cindy is still working the rabbits, i head out to help her. It sometimes takes two of us if we have pans to clean, or bunnies to check. Also, depending upon the condition of the goat water, Cindy may have to empty the barrel. Right now, we’re bucketing water to them as the hose snapped off at both ends. The cold got to it.
Half an hour or so later, we trudge back to the chicken house and aquaponics house. The chickens are so tired of the cold, they’ve all but quit laying, even though we have a heat lamp on them. Can’t say as I blame them. It’s cold in that external nest box. We’ve pulled more than one frozen egg from there. Earlier this week, the aquaponics system froze up, even though we had some heat to it. Not a pretty sight at all. The fish are all at the bottom of the big tank with ice above them.
With chores done, it’s time to head for the house. If we’re lucky, there’s at least one cup of coffee left. Each of us retreats to a computer to blog, study, and play. We’ll relax or if necessary, run into Enterprise for things like clinic appointments. If we have to go, we’ll do several things at one time, like stop at the grocery, as well as the hardware store for things on lists we keep.
Bev is back out on her bus trip by 1:45 and will be home about 3:30. At 4, we begin getting dressed for afternoon chores. Again… what’s the weather doing? You’d think we could wear less stuff in the afternoon, but the wind picks up and the windchill drops like a rock. I think it’s worse in the afternoon than in the morning.
Mom usually has dinner ready by 5. After that, it’s TV time for a couple hours before the day ends about 8 pm. Yeah, we’re in bed early, but then… everything starts again in the morning, no matter what the weather is doing.
We’ve chosen to have livestock and fully understand that no matter the weather, they get fed and watered on schedule. During kidding and lambing season (March-April), we’re up all hours of the night, and sometimes even all night just to make sure everything goes right. No matter how hot it gets, how cold it gets, or even how wet it gets (one summer thunderstorm dropped 3 inches of rain right at chore time), we get chores done on schedule. Only two things chase inside… lightening and blowing sand.
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- barrel of peanutbutter feed for dogs or livestock
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