Hotter than Blue Blazes

Last week Lake county Montana was setting new records with heat.   Most days were in the 90’s but when I got in my truck after my last survey on Tuesday afternoon and my truck set a new high temp for the day.

That is 111 hot degrees

That is 111 hot degrees

It was probably not that warm we all know how vehicles heat up, but the bank thermometer at 7pm still said 100 so it was definitely a scorcher. Let’s hope this week the forecast for the high 70’s is right.

Picking Your Chicks

The most important thing you can do is pick the right chickens for you.   There is lots that goes into this and a  a bad choice on any one of them can make for a disaster.   Here are some of the most important elements to think about when picking you breeds.

  1. 2011-08-23 001 (1024x683)Why are you doing this? Do you want a few eggs?  Are you part of that backyard flock movement?   Do you want to fill your freezer filled with chickens?   Do you see yourself selling eggs and or chickens?
  2. Where do you live?  City, country, or in some subdivision with its own rules.   There are laws that may impact how many and what types of chickens you may have.   You many not be able to have roosters or more than three, six or some other legal arbitrary number.
  3. Where will you keep them?   They need space and the more chickens you have the more space you need. They need shelter from the elements and predators.   You for sure need coop space and preferably some outdoor space as well.
  4. How much time do you plan to put into this? Animals take time, chickens are no different.   They need full food dishes, clean water and a clean coop.   Like everything else they poop.   Don’t kid yourself they poop plenty. So just like a horse stall or a kitty box they need to be cleaned up regularly not  once a week or month.
  5. Can you afford chickens?   Chickens have ongoing costs for feed and bedding.   The start up costs can be huge if you need to build coop and pen space.   If you plan to butcher there are costs associated with setting that up as well.   Imagine what you think it will cost and double it for sure, triple it if you want to be safe.
  6. What is your climate?   Some breeds don’t do well in the heat, others can be prone to frost bite.     Do your research and learn what traits work well in your neck of the woods.2011 02 10_0474 (1024x768)
  7. What are your emotional desires?   We are human after all and there is some emotion that goes into picking your dog, cat, horse and even your chicken.   Do you want them to  be friendly?  Do you care if you can pick them up easily or not?  Do you want “cool looking” or pretty chickens?

There is no perfect breed for anyone but knowing the answers to these questions can help to set you up for success.

I will share will share some insights in to my answers and hopefully that may help you as you muddle through trying to find the best breed of chicken for you.

  1. I am mostly an egg person, who has few qualms about eating poor layers, older birds that need to be rotated out, roosters and when I end up with too many birds in the fall
  2. I live in the country, in a rural subdivision with covenants long since ignored.  I am not near anyone and in Montana generally speaking property owner rights are pretty strong.
  3. My chickens live in a shed with a coop within it.   They have a fenced run and get lots of daylight free range time.
  4. I use my chickens as an excuse to get up out of the home office, so gather eggs often.   I check water in the AM and PM and use self feeders.   I scrap their poop board at least every other day.   In the summer every day.
  5. My initial investment was such that they will never pay for themselves. I soon decided I wanted more chickens than my initial coop would support and found myself building a second larger coop, and giving them access to my shed in the winter.   I get my feed and bedding at the local feed store.   In the summer they eat very little because they free range forage so much.   In the winter they eat much more.
  6. My climate is windy, windy, windy.   In the winter you can add cold, sometimes bitter cold to that.
  7. I want cute, pretty birds.   Plain white or brown birds have no place in my coop.

My favorite birds are dual purpose birds with cushion combs, who are active foragers.  I won’t shy away from the right bird if they have a single comb.  I tend to like gravitate toward the old fashion breeds because they were developed for the lifestyle they live on my place.  I am not opposed to stretching my limits for something new, but don’t hesitate to send something that doesn’t work out to freezer camp if it is best.   I have been known to be swayed by a pretty feather pattern a time or two.   Some of my favorite breeds are wyandottes, Brahmas and rocks.  They seem to work well for me.  Find what works well for you.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Summer has arrived, we can take off the flannel sheets

We are having our own heat wave Montana-style, 80’s in the day and 40’s or even a few high 30’s at night.  Yesterday the humidity here was 10%, desert dry.  I personally think it is too hot and miserable, but know it could be much worse.

I grew up in the Midwest and my family still lives there.  In the last few days they have been having a summer heat wave.   The temperatures are in the high 90’s and low 100’s.   The humidity isn’t far behind.   Nights bring them no true relieve as it is still well into the 70’s all night long.  They now have some formula call heat index, which is the summer equivalent of windchill.  Everyone knows in this kind of heat they are miserable, and knowing that it feels a few degrees warmer doesn’t change that.

Today I can’t imagine living in that kind of heat and humidity; I have been away too long.   Yet I grew up there without all the TV and internet telling us it was hot and what to do.  We lived in the west side of a large four-plex next to a large blacktop parking lot.  Our home was on the second and third floor, a true oven.

I can remember  you threw the windows open as soon as the sun went down, and promptly closed them and drew the shades when the sun came up to try and keep the house cool.  My Grandma on those hottest of nights would  sleep on the screened in porch; today  they would worry about personal safety.  Summers also brought out people in the evenings as they would sit out under the trees hoping to catch a breeze. Some nights it was just your family and other nights neighbors would arrive with their lawn chairs and all sit and chat about the world and the neighborhood.  (I don’t remember mosquitoes, but those were the days when your yard spray had DDT in it.)

I am not sure what year it was, but that hot apartment finally got the best of my folks and they had a window AC unit installed .   No one I knew had AC,  it was quite an exotic luxury at the time.  It was more exotic than color TV.   That AC unit work hard and kept three rooms of our place relatively cool and the humidity down.   In the hottest of summer nights we kids would camp out on the living room floor sleeping on pallets made of furniture pads.  Today we would be told to stay in the AC all day, but come morning my  mom would help us fold up those pads,  move then out of the living room and then chase us outside to be kids.

Living in a big building like like ours had a quality that no one else had a big basement.  It had an entrance from the outside so it was perfect as a neighborhood gathering place from kids.    It was on those hottest days of summer that kids from the whole neighborhood would head to our basement to play where it was cooler.  We played for hours down there in the summer.  If we were not there you might find us on the porch out of the sun playing quite games or playing school.   We also could be found quietly reading on the shady side of a building or tree.

Even as kids we understood heat, and how to survive.   Today I listen to the TV and they are constantly telling us do this and not that in this hot snap.  Has the human race evolved such that we no longer have common sense about summer weather that we had 50 years ago?  If so, I am not optimistic about the future of the world. Global warming won’t kill us our stupidity will.