Our chicken coop sits outside the kitchen window. I love that it's there and that I can look down into the yard to see what the poultry population is up to while I make my coffee in the morning. It's situated perfectly, better there than relegated to the backyard.
Early this week I saw Dorothy, one of our oldest hens, roosting on the uppermost rail in the coop with her head tucked under her wing. She looked cold and miserable. A few minutes later, in the time it took my kettle to heat up, she was sitting in the doorway of the coop in the exact same position. It was as if she had been teleported while my back was turned because I never saw her move. The other hens came and went as if she wasn't there at all. My heart went out to her. She's sweet and large and matronly. She's what I imagined all hens were like before I brought chickens home and discovered how different they all were.
My oldest birds are five years old; Lucy and Lupe and Tiny and Dorothy. Lord only knows how old Le Bete is. The old gentry are losing their hardiness. Tiny hobbles through the yard like his shoes are too tight, the Sussies have lost their feistiness and Dorothy, as large as she is, looked downright diminutive in this cold weather.
Watching her from the window I wondered if she was having trouble getting warm like I do sometimes, the kind of cold where no matter how many layers I have on I still can't get warm. I've learned that on days like these, you really need to get warm from the inside out. You need a big bowl of warm oatmeal.
I made two pans of oatmeal for the birds and topped it with yogurt mostly just to cool it off some before I gave it to them. Dorothy didn't walk away until the pan was cleaned out. Twice. After she'd had her fill I wrapped her in a towel and brought her in to warm her bones a bit more. I had the feeling she knew I was trying to help her. She was compliant and stayed in her box. Eventually she perched on the side of it and watched my do the dishes. Less than an hour later she was in the yard again looking much more mobile.
I'm expecting better weather this week and looking forward to it because I'll be running again, this time with a running group that has an actual schedule! I suspect there will be too much peer pressure to poop out and skip days which is a good thing - or so the adult side of my brain says. The adolescent side of my brain says THIS IS SO UNFAIR! and flings herself on the bed.
Here's to taking care of the ones that need you, yourself included. We all need a little warm oatmeal once in awhile.