Archive for June, 2012

Is it July yet?

Life around the Haugan farmstead has been all but normal lately.  May was a crazy month.  We paired fixing up an old planter, planting cotton, brooding baby chickens, and feeding more than 1000 chickens together, and life became a count-down to when the pace would slow down.  June was supposed to be that slow down.

We were supposed to be feeding chickens in the morning for an hour or two, and doing that same thing again in the evening for a few hours.  That would make the rest of our days pretty relaxed, right?  I wish.

The owl doing his dastardly deed.  Night cam is cool.

An owl doing his dastardly deed. Night cam is cool.

First we had an owl preying on our chickens, one each night.  He stopped after a week or so.  Then we started our weekly journey to the processor 2 1/2 hours north of here.  All Monday evenings have been spent chasing 200 chickens to put into transport cages.  Keith leaves at 4 am Tuesday to be there on time.  We were hanging in there with that routine, making a recovery the second half of the week.  Then a few weeks ago a big storm blew through here, sending us fleeing from our mobile home at 2 am.  3 hoop houses blew hundreds of yards away, and were flattened like pancakes, leaving hundreds of chickens without shelter.  The next 2 or 3 days were spent moving chickens into various makeshift shelters.  Three days later we took another 200 chickens to the processor, leaving 3 shelters empty, so we moved the chickens again into those shelters.  Have I mentioned that chasing and moving chickens is exhausting?

Having sort of recovered from the storm and making it through another week of catching chickens and taking them to the processor, our first month selling chicken on the Oklahoma Food Coop began.  Learning how to list products, write descriptions, figure out inventory and product weights, packaging, labeling, and delivering the chicken to the Coop in Oklahoma City took a good deal of effort that week.  We enjoyed the trip to the Coop though.  It was great to meet other farmers who raise local food, and to see first hand how the distribution system works for delivering local food all over the state of Oklahoma.

It was just days after that when the heat wave began to gather steam. Yesterday was the worst so far – we reached 105F.  Sadly we will reach 108 today and tomorrow, being over 100F for the entire 10 day forecast.  Two days ago we lost 10 chickens to the heat, and yesterday we lost more than 40.  We spent both days filling the 10+ water buckets every few hours, buying and putting bags of ice into the chicken cages to try anything to cool them down, spraying them with water, and putting fans near their cages.  Last night we gave them a few hours after sunset to de-stress and go to sleep before putting them in their transport pens.  Catching chickens in the dark at 11pm last night, after a full day/week/month of craziness… well, let’s just say it wasn’t a fun time.  Thankfully we had the help of my son, brother-in-law, and nephew.  Jeremiah and I made it to 11:30pm, and the three others finished the last shelter of chickens until 12:30 or 1am.  Keith was gone on his way to the processor by 7:30am this morning.

Needless to say, we are exhausted and weary.  I wish we had been able to take all the chickens in this week, but some of them were just too small to pay for processing them.  We will have to water and ice and spray and fan and feed these hot chickens for another week or two.  Then we’ll go on vacation.

We have learned a lot this year, just as one does the first year of any big new venture.  We have a list going of improvements that will greatly help in the coming broiler seasons.  We are still tinkering with the best chicken shelter design for our situation (high winds, big heat), and next year we will shoot to be finished by June 15 (hopefully before the intense heat).

It is known that many teachers quit after the first year of teaching.  I can sympathize with their struggle – a classroom full of other people’s children is not an easy work environment to face everyday.  Being a teacher for the long haul takes fortitude.  I would venture to say that if a new farmer can make it through the first year, and then not quit, they too will join a group of very few who make it for the long haul.  It’s been a rough few months.  The end of our first broiler season is coming, and things should be looking up.

Here’s to the seasons.