Last week we here in southern California were waddled tightly in a heavy woolen blanket of stifling heat. The kind of heat that makes it difficult to catch your breath, let alone complete any task at a rate too slow to be counted as productive. Temperatures soared and records crumbled from their decades old pedestals. While it was difficult for us to ride the wave of heat with short brief ventures out from our air-conditioned house, our poor poultry were left to muddle through the intense heat. Even the dogs and cats chose to hide in the cavern of a house as the temps soared close to 110F.
We did what we could think of doing for them. The big windows on the coop were propped open 24 hours a day, our large 12 foot square canopy still stands erect as a barrier against the blazing sun. A mister ran sun-up to sundown, waters were changed daily and cold and frozen treats were given as often as we had them. There is no thermometer inside the coop but I image what an awful week it was for the laying girls to be forced in to the nesting boxes to sit for an hour or more as they laid their eggs.
Worse yet was our broody who tried in vain to maintain her clutch of 2 dozen eggs at a consistent 100F degrees.
The sweltering temps finally took their toll near the end of the week-long stretch. One by one, her eggs rotted, day after day until we were left with 6. By hatch day our broody girl, Beatty, was so spent from the heat and extended sit (we had held her broody for a few weeks before eggs shipped in for this hatch) that she crushed to 2 chicks that did manage to hatch. After the death of the second one, she hollered “Uncle” and was happy to return to the flock, not giving another thought to the weeks of solitary confinement or her desires to be a mom. Relieved to be back to scratching around with the girls and her rooster. The upside, we had a dozen eggs in the incubator and managed to get 6 new fuzzy butts from this hatch, including my friends first in-house Serama baby.
That’s the Serama on the left and a Marans/Barred Rock mix from our flock.
Then there was 8.
Our meat bird flock had the toughest time coping with the suffocating temps. They grow so fast and their little frames hold so much weight it is akin to sporting a sauna suit all day and night. I had heard the Cornish Cross have a hard time with the heat, the made sure the mister was directed at their pen and that they always had fresh water, but alas, we lost one and almost lost another.
It took an evening after work, through the night and day in the air-conditioned house to finally return the little bird back to her former self.
We are only a couple of weeks away from the date set for our meat birds. To lose meat we have worked so hard to raise for 2 families is a hard hit to take. We are all grateful that we live in a time when we are not dependent on growing our own food and that we can easily bounce back from the loss. But the loss of life, no matter the purpose it was to serve, is still a difficult pill to swallow. Knowing there was more we could have done to prevent the loss but not realizing it until it was too late, that has left a bad taste in my mouth that I will not soon forget.
Being in the beginning stages of journey into homesteading and learning to live a more self-sufficient life I am thankful for the opportunity to learn these hard lessons on a smaller scale. With each success and failure we learn something new and with each season we grow wiser for both the highs and lows. We will be able to take this education with us as we continue to grow and branch out farther toward our dreams.