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…
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.
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!