Rush and rescue

Between hosting a year-end function for 20+ people we had to manage the little chicks through a heat wave and on top of that our next batch of “animals” were scheduled to arrive. It is uncanny how some bird-related story always seem to muscle in on a bee story… it must be that birds and bees thing.

Only two weeks ago, we had a heat lamp express mailed as the chicks were hatching right before a freaky unseasonal wet cold spell. Last week Thursday it started off with a brisk 9⁰C, which eventually peaked at 38⁰C, while we nursed the chicks in the brooder with two fans blowing full blast. Friday started out with 28⁰C at 6:00am – now this never happens in Victoria! By midday it hit the 40s and the chicks started showing signs of serious heat exhaustion. The fans weren’t keeping them cool enough.

Mickey-D to the rescue

During our Permaculture Teachers Training in Ballarat, we had two Micks on course – Mick Donelly (Mickey-D as he was known on course) of DonellyVille Farm in Gippsland and Mick Crear (of Permaculture Pedals fame). During our micro-teaching Mickey-D gave such an insightful lesson on the REAL approach to free-ranging chooks, that I immediately, and without his consent, appointed him as my mentor for all things chook-related. Even during the course, his mentoring remote-guided Patricia through the hatching process. So when the temperatures started souring on the Friday and the chicks started gasping for air, I jumped on the messenger to Mickey-D. Graciously, as always, he fired off some good advice and his number in case things got worse. What a mate!

We gave the chicks some ice water, as per Mickey’s advice, which they seemed to enjoy – they gulped it down! So we kept adding ice, as it also brings the temperature down around the waterers. But the temperature on the patio and in the coop just kept increasing…

Desperate measures

Now, I still had a porta-coop in the shed, which I put together when we thought we were going to collect 2 or 3 point of lay hens for our chook tractor. Only problem, the sides were made from trellis wire, with quite large holes. With the poor chicks panting, I had to make haste to convert it to something suitable for two-week old petrified heat-exhausted chicks. I didn’t even care when the balau wood cracked as I screwed on edges to keep their hemp and sugar cane mulch litter in and again when I patched some fine chicken wire and fine trellis net over the existing net. Not a neat job by any standards, but the clock was ticking while the temperature was steadily increasing. As soon as it was ready, we dumped in whatever bedding we had available, rushed it into the house – placed it under the aircon vent – and medi-vacced the 15 chicks two-at-a-time to their new temporary rescue residence.

Rush - porta-coop to the rescue

The chicks settled calmly in the porta-coop – they must have sensed it was better than out in the baking heat

Even though it was a bit crowded, they stayed there quite calm and content under the vent until our guests arrived. Of course, food and the kids’ attention kept them well occupied. Thereafter they stayed in the laundry until 9:30pm, when it had cooled down enough for them to be returned to the brooder where they settled in for the night, both fans still going.

As you can imagine, we didn’t take many photos throughout this episode. (No-one wants to see hot breathless chicks anyway – well, I surely don’t want to see it again.) The photo at the top shows Fluffball enjoying some rare in-home privileges with Micaela. She is becoming quite the pet!

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

11 Comments on Rush and rescue

  1. Phew! Hope things cool down for you and your chicks!

  2. Kelly Milikins // December 10, 2018 at 6:34 pm // Reply

    What an awesome story, keep up the great work bringing awesome chicks into the world! Kelly:)

  3. Poor chicks! What is a normal summer temperature for you?

    • // December 11, 2018 at 8:41 pm // Reply

      Hi Helen, “normal” is a strange concept with respect to Victoria’s weather… it keeps changing. One December it hardly hit the 20s, another one was dry and high mostly around 26 – 29C. But generally “summer” varies between 20C and 30C, with maybe four of five 30+ days spread out over the summer. To have two in a row, especially so early already, is quite scarce.

  4. That temperature range is incredible – 30 degrees change in one day! Poor chicks! Will they be OK outside once adults at those temperatures?

    • // December 17, 2018 at 12:10 pm // Reply

      Yeah we are concerned about that, even though we don’t have many days over 30C, all you need is one too many…. So we’re putting shade nets over the coops, planting fast-growing shade treelets on the western side and so on. A mate just sent me a post about a simple evaporative cooler too – just hanging cloth in a bucket of water and the evaporation cools the air down around it. (But I can see them messing up the water!)

  5. Getting my southern hemisphere head on… shading from the east would reduce the afternoon sun after the heat of the day? Evaporative coolers like that were used as fridges before electricity, or off grid. Maybe you could set up one of your drip irrigation lines so that you don’t have standing water?

    • // December 20, 2018 at 11:04 am // Reply

      Oh you had me confused there for a minute or three! The shading tree-lets are on the western side, so it reduces the afternoon sun and heat. Our mornings are normally OK, but it stays warm late into the evening in summer.
      Mmmm, drip irrigation driven evaporative cooling – are you suggesting a new project? 🙂 I could enjoy doing that! It may be challenging though – even though most of the pipes are buried (not very deep) they still get very hot on those scorching days.

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