Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

Will We Have A Winter?

December 22, 2014

Usually a common sight in the winter.

Usually a common sight in the winter.


While so many parts of the lower 48 are having a colder than ‘normal’ winter most of Alaska has been basking in temperatures that resemble fall more than winter!

In Bristol Bay much of the area remains less than fully frozen, causing many to be watchful. Other areas of the state share many of the same concerns.

The winter activities so many of us not only enjoy but count on cannot happen with these many days above freezing temperatures. Our rivers are not fully frozen over, the creeks are dangerously open in many places and lakes still have only a thin coat of ice.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

Travel to accomplish things like setting and checking winter trap lines, a source of income for some and hunting for winter meat are hampered. For those who do ice fishing, it is very dangerous without a nice thick layer of ice.

Being able to visit with others, important to so many in the winter, has been slowed to include the only more expensive methods, such as using an airline. If this keeps up many winter festivals will have to be rearranged and different activities thought of.

Without a nice layer of snow to insulate things the frost level will go deeper into the soil, causing more winter loss on such things as native berries, trees and of course all those beautiful peonies our state is becoming well known for.

Wildlife surveys that are accomplished during the winter months have been put on hold too, waiting for a good snow covering so tracking is easier.

While these warmer temperatures are nice in that we are not using up our winter budget as quickly on heating fuel, it does make most wonder if that will be offset by some really long, cold snap later this winter. The lack of wind, that often comes with winter weather, or even strong sun is cutting into the renewable energy output for some communities.

For those of us who either farm or garden it has allowed for more fresh winter produce to survive than might normally be possible. (this news has traveled around the state with much excitement!) Many of us are also seeing our chickens continue to lay eggs at a higher level, due to less feed needed to just stay warm.

Long term forecasts call for this weather pattern to continue into late summer of 2015. We could well move into still another summer of almost ‘hot’ weather, more forest fires, lots of bugs and winters that leave us wondering if this is going to be more the norm than not.

So for those in the Lower 48 that are dealing with still another winter of tough temperatures and travel conditions, know many are wishing the weather pattern would send the snow and icy temperatures north again!

Advertisements

A Wednesday Moment

September 10, 2014

mama chicken and babes 004

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

One Small Step At A Time

January 20, 2013

chicken_grazing_squares_build

The number of households that are keeping poultry has skyrocketed in the last 5 years. You hear all the time about cities changing their zoning and animal laws to allow for small numbers in a ‘backyard’ flock.

Zoning laws are seldom the reason chickens are not raised here in rural Alaska. Three issues affect our ability to raise chickens out here in Western Alaska: Getting the chicks out here alive in the first place, keeping predators at bay, and, of course, keeping them warm enough in the winter.

Most of us bring the chicks in via mail in the spring. You order weeks in advance and try to guess when the temperatures will be mild enough not to kill them off in transit.

It is most important that you  keep them at 90+ degrees for the first 3-5 weeks, as they feather out and can then regulate their body temperature.

Yes, heat lamps can help but I have found if the general room temperature is not at least 75 degrees they will just pile up on top of each other, under the heat lamps, to get warm and your losses will be huge.

When you run your household and business off as much as 70% renewable energy, wind in our case, loading on a few 250W  heat bulbs or a 1300-1500 W heat lamp the costs start to rise quickly, making the project less sustainable.

This year we decided to try something a little different, starting the process in the fall.

We got chicks the week before Thanksgiving, during one of the few weeks that had negative temperatures. The pilot on the mail plane was kind enough to make sure the box of babies was kept away from drafts, covered with a blanket and in the warmer area of the plane. As things went a couple, originally from Texas, that were on their way out of the area sat next to the box of chicks coming  IN from a Texas hatchery!!

They arrived quickly (less than 4 days) from the hatchery which greatly improves the chances of getting them off to a good start.

The first 2-3 days are the toughest so I have found if I keep them in a box or tub in our house, with a heat lamp or two, we can keep the rate of death to almost nothing. One small complication we found this time is that one of our (new at the time) kitties is a very determined hunter. Now the box or tub must have a screen or metal rack of some type over it at all times or we will find the count down and  stray feathers showing up here and there.

Into this adventure almost two months now, all seems to be working well. We have found  that our brooder, located in an outbuilding that has electricity but not heat,  works well down into the single digits for temperature. It is insulated between the concrete floor and bottom of the chicks, has some insulation on the top and sides and a couple of places for lights, heat or otherwise. We did not hook our 1500W infrared heater up this time and have not used the thermostat to turn off one of the heat lamps just yet.

Given our success this time we hope to use this same method through the summer and into the fall to try to raise more meat birds. They  are harder to raise than these replacement layers  but we are hopeful we can do it and have another source of meat.

There are number of other issues to consider -like figuring out alternative food sources for the frozen times of the year and housing so they can ‘free range’ once they are feathered out.

A chicken 'tractor' that allow poultry to be move around safely outside.

A chicken ‘tractor’ that allow poultry to be move around safely outside.

The possibilities for having local and ‘fresh’ sources of food seem to be possible, just working to figure out the details to make sure they are sustainable too!!