Though the crops we currently have planted are colder weather varieties meant to withstand freezing temperatures, a sustained period of time below freezing can be potentially harmful. It all depends on whether or not ice crystals form inside the plant cells. The cells are filled with water so if that water turns into shards of ice, the cell wall is damaged and the plant tissue ruined. Since we endured a “hard freeze” (sustained temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit), our crops are at a higher risk for damage. The team will be monitoring both the field crops and the greenhouse seedlings over the next week to assess any potential damages caused by the weather.
With these wintry temperatures we’ve been experiencing our priority is the comfort of our animals. The team has been ensuring that warm water is placed in both the chicken and goat pens in the morning as well as the afternoon. Warm water is essential for two reasons: (1) with sub-freezing temperatures the water will freeze and our animals can’t stay hydrated and (2) our goats won’t really drink if the water is too cold. Our animals need extra food and water in these cold temperatures in order to keep their energy up and regulate their body temperature. In addition to their typical diet they’ve been getting warm oatmeal with cinnamon which can act as a natural antiseptic and promote healthier digestion by alleviating gas.
Part of the care of our chickens involves monitoring the size of their crops. Since chickens have a beak rather than teeth, they have a rather interesting digestive system. Once they ingest food through their beaks, the food travels into the esophagus where saliva and digestive enzymes are added. From there it moves into what is called the crop, an elastic sort of storage compartment at the base of their neck. The food can be stored here for up to twelve hours before being moved into the gizzard (or stomach) to be digested and ground up. When too much food piles up in the crop or when it cannot efficiently move into the gizzard, the crop swells. With chickens this tends to happen when they overeat or when they ingest long grasses. The grasses tangle easily in the crop making it harder for them to digest. When the team notices this issue in any member of our flock, Farm Educator Bonnie will give them olive oil and massage the crop by hand to help break up any blockage and get it to move to the gizzard.