How the Hen House Turns: The Hose of Winter

How the Hen House Turns: The Hose of Winter
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

Looks like we’ll have this week off. No more threats of a deep freeze. However, Halloween is coming soon, and that means anything goes, including three feet of snow. That was years ago, so maybe now all we have to worry our birds about is Arctic air, especially if the temperature drops below 14 F. If water dribbles down the hose, even a little bit, you’re hosed.

I have a long hose. It runs all the way down the hill, laid out carefully so there are no sneaky hillocks for water to not climb over, all the way down the regulation 100 feet to the birds’ pen. But once—only once—when I left the faucet just slightly open one long, dark, very cold night, the dribbling water froze fast enough to build up and fill the entire length of hose with ice.

However, and this is a big however, especially if you live in sunny New Mexico—if you can manage to rearrange the hose without snapping it in two, so the sun can hit it—all of it—you might be able to flush out the ice and drain the remains before the birds get up the next morning.

Not that ducks have to have individual bathtubs to survive. They do fine, the websites say, with nothing but drinking water. But they love fresh water. So much! They dabble, you know, eat mud whenever they can get it, and so their water tubs quickly get muddy, within seconds, literally.

Who could deny them such pleasure? I couldn’t, so I lugged four buckets of lukewarm water down to the pen that hose-frozen morning and watched with great delight as they curled into their bathtubs and washed their feathers clean using their necks as wash rags.

The moral of the story? Drain your hoses well and put a mitten on the faucet. Happy winter, bird fans. May your hoses never freeze.

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