Every morning, before I allow myself to eat, I go out and feed the chickens, bantys, turkens, ducks and the outside chicken house cats, whether it’s blizzarding, raining, blowing 75 mph or not. Some days it’s magical outside, with frost covering every surface and calm, or large puffy drifts, with the snow sparkling like rhinestones, but other days, it’s not so much. Today was really warm for a February, in the 50’s already and forecasted to be in the 60’s, which is extremely rare in Montana at the start of February. But, as is mostly the case, because it is so warm, it means the chinook winds are blowing in from the south west. And at a rate that is considered a hurricane rate in some of the places that Good Morning America reports on, like it’s some big catastrophe or something. We are used to that here, and anything that isn’t weighted down or positioned properly will be blown down the road to the neighbors or end up in the barrow ditches.
When it blows like this, it whines through the boards of my 1940’s version of a chicken house. I have insulated it, or at least tried to. The chickens will peck any exposed insulation, leaving it scattered all over the floor, so I quickly learned that the paper backing wasn’t enough to protect it from their vicious beaks and used old feed sacks of various sizes an colors to staple up over the insulation. It’s not a pretty site, but it generally works, and it was free and readily available! When I open the door on the east side, the straw will swirl around, creating a small vortex of flying bits of grass, feathers, dried poop, straw and anything else light enough to be picked up by the vortex. I long ago decided that I had to check my clothes and give myself a brush over before I went off to work to make sure they were chicken-free. And there have been many a morning where I had to change because of some mishap, but that’s another story. (who knew turkens had such large projectile poop!). I wear an old pair of Artic Cat snowmobile boots in the fall, winter and spring. They not only protect from the cold and wet, but also from the slushy mud and any blowing debris. Again, they are not pretty, as they are about 20 years old, but they work.
The chicken house cats also join the swirllng vortex as I enter the chicken house, weaving around my feet begging for their wet food I bring out to the tame ones. I can sometimes get the wild ones slowly to convert over to the tame side with enough bribing. The chickens now also join the vortex, as they know I have a bun that I will break into tiny pieces and throw to them. When I started this a few years ago, the theory was if I did this every morning, I could see who was around and make sure they were all ok. It would also get them OUT of the chicken house and into the pen, but only if the weather was to their liking. So when they leave it makes it easier on me to feed and water inside there. It worked this morning, because even if it is howling, they will still come out to get the bits of bun. If it’s a blizzard, pouring rain, or there are large drifts, they won’t budge outside an inch, and it makes for a chaotic feeding.
So the cats were eating their treat, and majority of the chickens were out in their pen, scrambling around to find the bun pieces. Now I was free to get in there and gather the eggs, feed and water. Except there was the huge sumo meat chicken who was right under foot. He doesn’t swirl in the vortex. He doesn’t swarm like the rest of the chickens. He is too fat and he only stands, sits and waddles as little as possible. He positions himself between the water and the food and he only has to move about 6 inches either way to reach either of them. And he always is sitting right in the middle of where I have to feed, so I have to watch out for him as I step in and out and around. I scatter cracked corn scratch in the outside pen to keep those chickens and ducks out there. But I have to feed inside the chicken house, too, because those that are left inside are not allowed to go outside without getting picked on, and they have to eat too. One of them is the elderly turken rooster who is stove up so bad he can barely walk. Another is my little banty hen, Chicory, who WILL join the swirling vortex, but only after her tormentors leave. I always save her an extra big piece of bun and feed it to her after everyone is outside. So she is underfoot also, and I have to be careful not to step on her, as she is only as big as a quail.
Gathering of the eggs and filling of the cat food dispenser comes last. This morning there were so many eggs, that they overflowed the bowl that I fed the cats with, so i had to put them in my coat pockets. This is always kind of a trick, because there are many obstacles when I’m feeding and I have to be aware of not hitting any at the pocket level, or I will have scrambled egg pockets. This has happened numerous times, and i always cringe when i have to retrieve them! On my way back to the house, I crave the brewed coffee I made before I left. The eggs in the bowl, my coat, boots and even my long hair is promptly blown free of all straw and dirt when I hit the full gale outside. I made it to the house without scrambled egg pockets and survived the swirling vortex till another day. A morning in the life of a Montana gal, never a dull moment. I look out the kitchen window as I’m washing the eggs, drinking my coffee, and see another swirling vortex. The magpies and the starlings are landing on the dog food dish out by the garage, picking up the morsels and taking off again to their perches to eat them. They create a fluttering, dark and noisy vortex, beautiful in it’s own way and it makes me smile. I move my bare foot to get a better position to look out. DANG IT!!! Zazoo had pushed an egg off the counter and I had stepped squarely on it. Bad kitty! Bad, Bad Kitty! — Bad Carey, bad, bad Carey! For leaving the egg out in the first place……Sigh……..