Wednesday's heat has certainly taken a toll on everyone around here, not just here on the Cluckin' "A" Critter Farm, but every farmer and many other local families alike. The scorching temperatures and humidity were such that you could not attain significant relief. Usually you can soak things down and turn a fan on them to create evaporative cooling, but the humidity was such here, that the air would not hold any more moisture and evaporative cooling wasn't real effective.
We had two intact male alpacas that were so stubborn, hot and miserable that they became short tempered and blamed their discomfort on each other, then started fighting. We heard the screaming as they fought and Vick went to check on them as I continued to work on the porch wiring. Vick separated them with a stick because they appeared to be fighting to the death. Once she separated them, they both immediately collapsed, suffering from heat distress. She called Isabelle and asked her what to do. Isabelle told Vick to start hosing each of them down to cool them and that she was on the way. I stopped working on the wiring when she called me to say what was happening and I immediately went to aid Vick in cooling Luke and Bollero down, They were both panting and restless, as if wanting to be in a different place, but couldn't get up. They were definitely struggling to survive and we were vigilantly flooding them with cold water. I went and got a spray nozzle for on the water wand, which we screwed on and started dousing them with a spray, which mixed with the air to cool better. Their condition was reversing when Isabelle rolled into the driveway. We kept at it until they both seemed be calm and rested. We then placed a fan in the end of their stall, which would blow across the entire stall area. They went into the cooler area and cushed down there, just as Vicks parents arrived from her Dad's physical therapy in town. Isabelle left and we stopped for a needed breather and to visit a bit with Vick's parents. When they departed, we decided to check on the alpaca's progress, first stopping at the brooding house to check the chicks and incubators. All was well there and the alpacas seemed to be doing much better. We then went to the bunny brothel, which had four fans, plus the wall exhaust fan running all along. We found the temperature in there to be spiking at about 110°! The bunnies were lethargic and panting severely. BG was giving birth pre-maturely, with two stillborn bunnies. Vick immediately took her and headed to the basement where it remains 60° all summer, hoping to drop her temperature before she lost all of her babies or died herself. I immediately began shaving bunnies, shearing to the skin to allow cooling for them. I discarded handfuls of expensive fiber all over the straw covered floor, as fast as it peeled from their heat ravaged bodies in an attempt to provide relief from the grueling temperatures. We had removed BG's cage to the outside, in the shady breeze flowing through the barn, and now I used this pen to hold bare naked bunnies as I sheared them. Andrea went limp as I sheared her, so I grabbed her and the shear and headed for the basement too. When I got there, Vick soaked her with cold water in front of a fan, while I continued to shear fiber from her. Finally we got her shaved and I took off for the bunny house again, leaving Vick to deal with BG and Andrea. I finished shearing the last two bunnies and they were all looking pretty good considering... at least they were calm and looked normal as they could now exchange heat without all the fiber insulation.
It's funny and usually unknown that their fiber actually insulates and prevents the heat of summer from entering their bodies, as well as the cold in the winter, but rapidly becomes a negative benefit if they do experience heat distress, because then the overheated body cannot get rid of the overheated condition and that was where we were. BG and Andrea both recovered rather quickly, and were resting in the cool basement. Once everything was under control, then both Vick and I collapsed. We ate a bite and went to the shower and air conditioned bedroom, hoping everything would be back to normal the next morning before we had to leave form Massachusetts to pick up the sheep.
In the morning, I got up and went to leave everyone out for the day, starting with the small barn and duck house. All was well there and everyone greeted me as usual. I then went to the brooding house where I found the Cornish Cross meat birds and young chickens doing fine. We were experiencing a few ducks starting to hatch, which wasn't a problem, because once they hatch, we want them to stay in the incubator for a full day to dry off and grow strong before putting them under a light to drink and feed. We would check their progress after returning with the sheep. Then I went to the big barn and checked the alpacas and let the chicken's free to roam. All was well there and then I headed for the bunny house. There I was dismayed to see that Andrea had succumbed to the trauma of her experience from the day before. We hoped both she and BG would do fine considering they were both eating and drinking the night before, but it was not to be and Andrea suffered some type of irreversible damage from the heat stroke she experienced. I had just disposed of her body when Dawna arrived, ready to head for Pittsfield for the sheep.
We took off for Massachusetts and the day went as expected, until we saw the size of the lambs Dawna was getting. They were LITTLE!! So cute...but little and I saw the lady had woven wire fencing inside her wooden board fence. This is what we have, less the woven wire fence, so I asked her if she thought the lambs would step through the fence that we have. Her answer was what I feared. She said, "Sheep have an extremely strong herding instinct and they will group and stay together no matter what. The problem would be as the group nears the fence to feed, a lamb might be tempted to reach through the fence for grass which the older sheep can't reach and as the lamb reaches further and further, it simply steps through the railings and then realizes that it has escaped accidentally. They usually panic then, trying to get back to the herd."
SHOOT! Something more to worry about! Now we are heading home with three sheep....one too big to escape the fence, but two who can browse and step through the fence anywhere they want to. With much discussion, we decided we had to drop the sheep at home, locked inside the barn and go to Tractor Supply for fencing to place inside the existing fence. So.........off we went, after insuring the sheep were in the barn and everything else checked out ok, with one duck born and two more working their way out of the shell.
We got 350' of four foot fence, headed home and went to work installing it in the blazing sun. Once the outside fence was done, we decided to hang it up for the day and install the inside fencing in the morning. Upon doing that, we could allow the sheep to go outside and graze with the alpacas, knowing they could not escape the fence, while we installed the fencing inside.
We ate and I collapsed....Vicki continued on.....taking care of the animals and closing for the evening as she constantly checked back on me, to make sure I was okay. She is such a trooper... just marching on when I'm kaput, never stopping, but staying the course like a vigilant soldier, until everything is as it should be. How lucky I am to have a wife and soulmate so loving and considerate!!!!!
So, this was simply an account of the last two days in the miserable heat...can I recount the happenings of the previous Monday and Tuesday? Hell no.....I forget both of those days and what happened, but it wasn't any less grueling, I can assure you.
Today, we are hoping to finish the fencing in the barn, go pick up lumber from the sawmill. (That call came amid yesterday's excitement) The 2x4's for the turkey house are ready to pick up, so I will be able to finish that. We need to order the turkeys, the beginning of June so they will be ready for sale in mid October or November for the holiday seasons. I might work on that today if I feel up to it and it doesn't rain or get hot. Otherwise, we need to rest a day....... Maybe.....