Queens Farm animals weather falling mercury

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"I said, "Somebody tell those ducks to get out of there,'" she said.

But in truth the ducks were probably fine, as were the other animals at the Queens County Farm Museum in Glen Oaks, where Miller works as the educational coordinator.

"It's been record lows, but we've seen harsher winters. As you can see, these guys are perfectly happy in the cold," she said, referring to a group of goats in a nearby pen. "They're not too inhibited by snow."

Typically crowded with more than 2,000 students on field trips during the spring and fall, the farm receives only a bus or two of children a day during the winter and the pace becomes more relaxed, staff said.

On Tuesday morning, snow covered the museum's 40 acres as ducks walked on a small iced-over pond and swam in a small corner of open water. Mr. Kosher the pig, separated from the female swine by a small fence so they would not overrun the farm with piglets, pushed a smaller male out of the way and ate the other's food. And Daisy, a cow of Ayershire and Devon extraction and the unofficial mascot of the farm, gulped down her hay.

Daisy, who is more than 20 years old, is "elderly in cow land," according to Amy Fischetti, the museum's executive director. She said he staff was giving the cow extra attention during the cold because of her age, although it probably was not necessary.

"She's elderly in cow years, but even she's coping well in the cold," Fischetti said.

During the winter, Fischetti said the animals receive more feed because they need to burn additional calories to stay warm. The staff also checks to make sure water buckets and troughs are not frozen, adds more bedding to the shelters, and puts up some wind blocks, which she said was done "for our own peace of mind."

Fischetti said that while the animals do not come out of their shelters as often, the staff was not overly concerned about their charges handling the cold.

"They all seem to be acting the same," she said, noting that farm animals have lived in harsh winter climates for ages. In case of emergency, several of the farm's livestock handlers live nearby and a caretaker stays there full time.

The minor exception to the lack of behavioral changes might be the hens, who lay fewer eggs in extremely cold temperatures. The museum sells the eggs to people who stop by for the farm freshness, but icy roads have kept customers away and averted a shortage, Fischetti joked.

In the end, she said, the animals probably have the advantage over their human caretakers, she said.

"Working outside in this weather is very challenging."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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