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Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass

Polar Vortex
Well, the weather has been pretty unpredictable since my last post. Extremely cold temperatures along with blizzard conditions kept me busy with freezing water bowls, shoveling snow and trying to keep the birds as warm as possible. The past few days have been taxing for all here on the farm. But there were no deaths due to the cold, just cold feet and hands (mine!).

Jan. 2, it started to snow flurry. The temps were pretty low in the AM, but by evening temp was 31.
The wind came up about 10 PM and temps dropped during the night. Jan. 3, temps were below freezing by a long shot. The storm had dumped a lot of snow during the night and wind-chill temps were about zero. I waited till 1 PM when the wind stopped gusting 50 mph before venturing out to the birds. Drifts were everywhere, some about three feet tall. There was a lot of shoveling to do before I could let the birds out. By 2:30, the layers and pullets were out but very dismayed at the snow. Most sat in the doorway, searching for bare ground. There was none in sight except for where I pushed snow. The young males stayed in their condos. I gave them fresh water, whole corn for scratch and fresh food.

Saturday I spent most of the morning shoveling more paths and laying down hay so the chickens would think it was ground. The young males made their way to the feeding stations and began to terrorize the layers and pullets (normal behavior). It was warmer than Friday but still below freezing. As the day progressed, the sun came out but offered little warmth. By late-day feeding time (about 3:30 PM), water bowls were full of ice. Fresh, hot water was dragged in jugs on a sled to be sure all had what they needed before the night came on.

On Sunday, temperatures began to rise and by dark were in the 40's. A break, but I shoveled more snow for fear the predicted rain would turn any snow to ice. The ice from the previous snow storm had melted a few days before the blizzard and I was not excited about the prospect of having to strap on the cramp-ons again. After locking up the birds, I checked the temperature, it was 48 degrees. The wind was blowing from the SW.

Monday morning it was cloudy and some rain had fallen during the night. I was amazed at the lack of snow on the ground! At 51 degrees, I discovered the hoses were thawed, hooked them up and cleaned off the feeding stations in the duck yard. I filled a small duck pool and immediately, the ducks were splashing. I scrubbed out the water bowls, inside and out with soapy water. I don't know if the birds appreciate this cleanliness, but I know it keeps disease down and my conscience clear. Late that day it rained some, but not as much or as hard as the weather predicted.

Tuesday morning the thermometer read 11 degrees! Wind direction was from the west and chill factors were -15 degrees. It was deep freeze again. At least I had cleaned up some of the messes in the yards while the weather was warm enough to do so. The wind was relentless all day, water in the bowls froze in short order.

After morning chores and walking my dog, I went to pick up layer pellets. This is a bi-monthly ritual. The drive to the grain store is 43+ miles, but this is the closest place where I can get quality, fresh layer pellets for my poultry. Just part of the job of organic farming.

I change water bowls twice daily, more often in the heat of summer. During the coldest weather, I haul water out in 3 gallon jugs in a wagon or sled, depending on ground cover. I take hot water so the birds can have some relief from the extreme cold when they drink. This is good cardio exercise on a regular basis during the coldest months when I am not working out in the yards several hours a day.

Well, it is Wednesday and the temps were 11 degrees again this morning. Wind is still strong from the west. Chill factors are in the single digits.

Fresh, hot water will be offered twice today as well as whole corn and sprouted whole grains for energy to keep the birds warm in the extreme cold. They have good shelters with solar gain to hang around in or they can go into their coops or condos as they desire. I do the best I can with what I have.

Time to go for today.