It's almost the end of February, which means it's almost March, which means it's almost spring.
It can't come soon enough. Among other things, the chickens have been sullen all winter. I don't really blame them. After all, they spend their summer frolicking in the grass.
Okay, chickens don't really frolic, but they had some good times -- for chickens -- eating, scratching, taking dust baths and occasional short, lumbering flights across the yard. For a while after we locked them up last fall, they would ready themselves at the door, eager to rush outside and eat a few more bugs, but the colder it got, the less they rushed the door. By the time it was -20 and we had about an hour and a half of daylight, they pretty much just sat in a sullen line, smoking cigarettes, drinking rum and cokes and watching "Oprah." Every now and then one of them would "Bawwwwk" in a disgusted voice and pinch her side to see if she was getting fat. When one did manage to lay an egg, it'd usually freeze and crack in about 30 seconds, which didn't do much for their motivation or their self-esteem.
I couldn't really argue with their attitude -- most days I wanted to climb up next to them and slump over in disgust, too. There's just something about January in Minnesota that makes the meaning of life a little hard to get a grasp on.
My wife finally took everything in hand. Somebody needed to or some of us might not have survived until springtime. She hooked up a of couple heat lamps so the chickens could work on their tans, spread some fresh straw around to freshen up the coop, and made me start giving them real chicken feed instead of Twinkies and stale garlic toast. It helps that the days are beginning to get longer; the sun has a little punch to it when you're standing out of the wind.
Whatever the reason, the chickens perked right up. I'd go in the coop and theyâ€™d all be up scratching around. Sometimes they'd do group activities -- line dancing or aerobic exercises (it's hard to tell the difference with a chicken) -- and it wasn't long until they were back to cranking out eggs on a regular basis. The rooster has started sucking in his gut and combing his feathers, and I've detected a certain amount of strut in his walk that hasn't been there for a while. And thanks to the chickens, my cholesterol is back up in the quadruple digit range and I'm feeling kind of perky myself.
When you live in the cold and the dark and the lonely long enough, it's easy to forget that the sun will shine again, that spring will come and that sooner or later, as the world moves on its course, all will be well.
It is still February. Spring isn't actually all that close. We still have March, and not even the end of March necessarily means the end of the snow -- we've suffered through some tough April blizzards in the past.
Still, there's hope. Spring will come and then everything will be possible once again. Trust me.
Me and the chickens.
Copyright 2009 Brent Olson