Yes, I would very much like to beat the heat, preferably with a big stick. It’s been over 100 degrees F for days and days now, and I’m pretty much over it. My new drip system is struggling to keep up, and The Girls are lying on the porch in the “shade” (where it’s still 100 degrees, only slightly darker), panting. Have you ever seen a chicken pant? It’s weird.
The biggest problem with addressing a heat wave is that I have to go outside and be in said heat wave. In my corner of the woods, heat like this is rare, so no one has air conditioning, but by closing and covering all the windows and limiting activity to rolling over on the couch, one can stay relatively cool. But someone has to deal with the seven panting chickens and all those wilting plants, so out into the blast furnace I go. At least I have an excuse to wear my new gigantic gardening hat.
The Girls are my first priority. Heat is rough for chickens. By letting them out of their coop, they can seek shady, cooler spots, like the garage or up under the deck. But if I need to keep them confined, I have a couple of tricks that seem to help them keep their cool.
- The swamp cooler. I hang a big white bedsheet on the sunny side of the run and give it a good soaking. In addition to shading the run and deflecting heat due to the whiteness, the wet sheet also helps cool things down.
- The mister. I got this (pictured above) for about 13 bucks at the local hardware store, but you can get them for even less on Amazon. They screw into a garden hose sit up about three feet high and spray a fine mist at a flow rate that is minimal enough to not make me feel guilty about using it during our drought. Bonus: if the girls are loose, I can set it up next to my deck chair. It’s a win-win!
The garden is a bit easier. The drip system seems to be giving a fine, early morning soak (Mr. Drippy gets up at 5:30 a.m., well before the sun is fully up), but, especially in the raised beds, by midafternoon things are already pretty dry. So as soon as the sun dips enough so it’s not blasting down, I give everything another round of watering by hand. I didn’t use mulch this year, as last year it served as a hiding place for all kinds of critters I didn’t want around. However, if I lived in an area where extreme summer heat was a constant, I would definitely be mulching to keep things cool and moist.
In my garden, there’s a big apple tree just outside the fence, and I plant the veggies with lower heat tolerance in its shade. If I didn’t have the apple tree, I could use the same “old white sheet” technique (without wetting it) to create a shade canopy for the most sensitive plants.
Luckily, after three or maybe four days of 100-degree-plus weather, the good ol’ coastal fog rolls in and cools everything down, sometimes by 30 degrees or more. This is excellent, as I can rest easy knowing my plants and chickens are not overheating, and it allows me to complain about something new: It’s too cloudy! It’s too cold! I have no excuse to wear my new gigantic hat!