Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's HOT!!!!

Well, summer has descended upon us with a vengeance. Actually, I don't think descended is the right word, more like, crashed down on us, suffocating us with its humidity and unmoving air. The first three weeks of June were unseasonably cool and very wet. But now we are experiencing incredibly hot temperatures and heat indices, like most folks in the rest of the country, and it is taking a bit of time to get used to it.

The chickens are managing. They are animals after all and thus, they need to have some survival skills in order to continue on in this world. But, they sure do appreciate pans of ice. Here's Obrahma simply standing on top of an ice tray I put out for them. Usually, they sip the water that comes from the melting ice but Obrahma decided to experience the glory of the ice cube straight up.

We've made some adjustments to their set up. We moved their coop to another area and installed our electric fence, sans the electric component since I ordered the wrong charger (oops!). We decided to get the fence in the first place for predator control, mainly for at night. The coop is as predator proof as we could make it but we had read that an electric fence was just another layer of security in case your coop had any weaknesses. The contained area helped them to really get a feel for their new stomping ground and where their coop was but there were a couple of things wrong with the set up.

First, there was suddenly no shade available, except for under the coop, of which they took full advantage but, it was a bit crowded under there so I'm not sure how much relief they really got from the heat all mushed together.

Second, the ground within their new area is sub par, to say the least. It's part of the area that they had to fill in with, what else but, fill, which is not dirt but simply crap they scoop us from somewhere and dump in your yard in order to "fill" the area with crap. It might help to level out an area but it leaves much to be desired in the "what can we do with this piece of land?" department. There is a lot of clover that has managed to grow up between the small gravel that passes for dirt, so at least there is greenery that they can munch on, but there are lots of divets and such that don't drain well and when you have the kind of showers that we had been having, it makes for a boggish kind of experience, at least until the puddles can evaporate.

Third, and really most important to me, they were confined. I had no idea how much that would bother me, but it does. After we moved them to their coop from the brooder and slowly allowed them to have free reign over our yard in the area where we orginally placed their coop(hey, that might be an original phrase I could use to market our eggs, instead of free range we could sell "free reign" eggs! Note to self....) I came to really love walking out our back door and visiting with them throughout the day. Even just looking out the window and seeing them doing their chicken things just really made me happy.

Well, when we moved them around the barn and placed their coop just out of sight of the house and put up the fence, well.... I found myself increasingly unhappy with the situation. It just didn't seem right to suddenly have them "cooped" up, for lack of a better description, after they had already has such a wonderful taste of freedom. I was not content to keep them confined. And honestly, they didn't seem like the same chickens. They didn't have any fun bushes to explore or tall grass to hide in or wood piles to pick bugs off of. It just wasn't right. So, I asked John if we could open up the fence and let them explore. He was okay with that, especially as the temperatures continued to climb and access to more shade seemed like the only humane thing to do. I guess, too, I felt that the risk of predators during the day was a lot less than at night. When they go in their coop at night, I close the doors and it is as predator proof as it can be.

And the freedom! Oh how they love it. They started venturing down our gravel road into the woods, not venturing too far but far enough to find new and exciting adventures. Like rotting stumps with bugs and mushrooms and lots of cool dirt under the trees within which they could nap or take dust baths.

And I found myself much happier and content. This is what chickens are meant to do. This is the natural thing to do. And if we are going to do this, we're going to do it right. I don't want to eat my chickens or their eggs unless I feel that they had it better off at our place. Otherwise, what's the point?

Now, if I can only get them to stay in our yard....

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