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Monday, July 18, 2011

Heat Wave: shade for the chickens and "Spearjitos" with raspberries for the humans

Wisconsin is under an "excessive heat warning" for the better part of this week. I like the heat, the sweat, the lethargy I feel when it the heat index is +100. My chickens, on the other hand, are not fans. The poor ladies and their gentleman have serious needs during the dog days of summer. Like dogs, chickens don't sweat, so they cool themselves off by panting; their mouths were agape today, and their eyes seemed to be pleading with us.

We are by no means experts on this topic, so if you have more suggestions, please share. However, we monitored our flock all day, and we took care of them by doing the following:
  • We filled their water containers with ice and water and updated with ice throughout the day.
  • We gave them extra dishes of water.
  • We fed them frozen "treats." We simply had put a few pieces of fresh fruit in the freezer early in the morning, and we also took out some frozen veggie scraps that we had been saving for stock. As the treats thaw, they get soft, and the chickens are delighted to eat them.
  • We provided them with shade. The vines and trees we planted in their run are now providing some, but in prior years, we'd put up a tarp on parts of their run to provide a bit.
  • We sprayed their run and their coop with cool water. Our chickens don't seem to really enjoy this process when it's happening, but they get over it quickly as they realize they're not quite as hot.
  • We took them out for a few hours into a much more shaded area of our lawn. This seemed to actually be the pivotal moment for them today as they eventually settled down to rest in some random spots of sand.
The chickens cannot be left to fend for themselves on days like these. Depending on their breeds, it is dangerous to leave them to their own devices. We have Easter Eggers and Barred Rocks, which are both heavily feathered birds, suitable for winter climates such as ours. In the midst of a seven-day heat wave, however, all their hardiness is a call to action for us. Here are some pics from our Sunday afternoon spent with them under the trees.

Notice Rocky's gaping beak: a sure sign your chickens are HOT!
About an hour into the Sunday afternoon respite under the trees, the chickens seem a bit more comfortable.
Even Franklin, the dog (under EXTREME supervision) got to hang with the chickens.

Prudence is contemplating whether to make the trek over to the sand. She ponders that the sand bath idea is a good one indeed.

As for the humans, we picked raspberries and spearmint and made and enjoyed what we're happily naming "Spearjitos." This drink is adapted from the commonly known Mojitos, but why spend money on mint when you have spearmint growing in your own backyard, right? Over the last week, we've experimented with the best recipe for these, using club soda or tonic water and varying amounts of the other ingredients. By far, last night's version was the best. To make your own "Spearjitos", try this:

white rum
tonic water

1. Inside serving glass, muddle together spearmint (around 1/4 cup per glass) and limes (around 1/4 of a lime per glass) and a Tbs of sugar.
2. Fill glass with ice (on top of muddled mixture).
3. Add two shots (or more!) of white rum.
4. Top off with tonic water. Club soda works too, but the drink isn't as tasty (in our humble opinions).
5. If you have them, top with fresh berries.

..and, of course, the doggie got lots of water and attention all day as did the kitties.

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