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What you need to know for 05/27/2017

Greenpoint: Fowl weather? These birds at ease in blizzard

Greenpoint: Fowl weather? These birds at ease in blizzard

I am practical about what animals we keep here
Greenpoint: Fowl weather? These birds at ease in blizzard
The ducks were the first ones out on Tuesday, the morning of the all-day blizzard.
Photographer: Margaret Hartley

The ducks probably enjoyed last week’s blizzard more than anyone else. They are not bothered by cold. They are not bothered by snow. They are not even bothered by high winds.

While the chickens, goats and oxen spent most of the day hunkering down in the barn or in any shelter they could find, the ducks wandered through drifts, lay down in snow piles and went for a swim in their water dish.

I like those ducks. They are a pretty constant source of amusement.

I am practical about what animals we keep here. I have to be, since other members of my family would like to keep each and every animal they meet. With a husband who doesn’t eat mammals, I say we can’t raise pigs or cattle, although he got me with oxen since they’re for working, not eating. And we did have a smallish pig for many years, when he convinced me that pigs are as useful as tillers in the garden.

Besides, she was a lost pig and needed a home. I’m sort of a pushover.

I say yes to chickens, because of the eggs. I said yes to dairy goats, because of the milk and because they are small, and our cattle quotient is already filled by the oxen. I made my family promise they would not insist on naming and keeping every baby born. I’m still fighting on that one.

The ducks we keep for the eggs, although their egg-laying season is kind of short. But what they lack in production they make up for in happiness.

They waddle around together. They swim in absurdly small water bowls. They sleep outside in the pouring rain. They love a blizzard.

When I took the dog out first thing that snowy morning, the ducks had already broken out of their night house, a kennel inside a plywood box considered so luxurious to fowl that five roosters and several hens sleep in there with the three ducks.

When the dog and I got back, the roosters were huddled at the back of the duck house, the hens were roosting on the rail by the front door and the ducks were walking happily through the snow.

I spent the day doing the things you do on an all-day snowstorm: shoveling paths; hauling hay, feed and water to the barn; cooking. The goats came out of the barn in the morning, ran to the front yard and turned around, babies bleating, to run back into the barn where breakfast was waiting.

They ventured out a few times during the day, but were pretty happy with the arrangements indoors. The oxen were too. The ducks wandered and quacked, and made themselves various deep-snow nests when they wanted a nap.

I worried. I’m the mom who tells the kids to put on sweaters when I’m cold. It didn’t seem possible the ducks could be comfortable, but their house was kind of crowded.

So I pulled out the emergency cage, the one we use for injured chickens. I added a thick bed of hay and plywood roof, and tried to convince the ducks it was cozier than a blizzard. They stared at me. My husband thought the high snow was impassable, so he picked them up and put them inside. They ran out, proving they could wade through any snowdrift.

Later, when no one was looking, they tried the cage and found it lovely to snuggle down in. Except for the time the goats broke in and started eating the bedding. And the other time when they came out for a drink and took turns bathing in their water dish, even though it was 19 degrees, snowing hard and blowing.

We quit trying to tell them what to do, until nightfall when we herded them into the night house. Ducks know how to enjoy a snowstorm.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on April 2. Reach Margaret Hartley at 2margarethartley@gmail.com or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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