I recently returned from an RV trip to Montana, which left me away from my homestead for almost a month. It's always a challenge managing this time away when it comes to my crops, and this year was no exception with the addition of my 9 chickens. I enlisted my neighbor, who has been learning along with me about the chickens. She has three daughters who were willing to chip in as well with the food and water. My parents, sister and friend all signed on board (or were persuaded!) to visit every other day to check in on my two cats. My sister said she would help in any way possible, but would not be on chicken duty. Clear enough, right?
I hit the road and almost instantly, a heat wave struck. High 90's into the 100's and high humidity. Not even a week into the trip, monsoon season seemed to strike at home. Rain was entering the coop sideways, and the girls would not go outside because of the torrential downpour. Instead, they pecked at the low girl on the totem pole and ate. The food I stocked so diligently prior to leaving was now disappearing (they also seemed to have a growth spurt). The fly strips I put into the coop were melting off with the heat. Their bedding was getting soaked. And I was 1,000 miles away.
Whats that quote again? The one about the best laid plans? They go totally out the window? Thats pretty much what happened.
Let me preface this next paragraph by explaining my sister and I: black and white. Light and dark. Hot and cold. Real Housewives and Little House on the Prairie. Manicures and dirt under the nails. Following me? She is lovely, smells pretty and has never set foot in a feed mill. Until three weeks ago.
Three weeks ago I got the most hilarious text I ever read and it consisted of her stating that she was sweating her butt off in my coop, had carried a 50 pound sack of chicken feed over her shoulder and was desperately trying to find "chicken toys" to entertain them so they would stop pecking at their sister. I'm fairly certain that had I been in front of her, she would've happily pecked me to death.
Add to that the torrential downpours and manic weeding I'd done the week prior had driven about a million ants into my kitchen, leading my dreaded space "under the sink" needing to be cleaned out. Additionally, somewhere across the country the man and I discovered that neither of us had cleaned out the fridge. We thought the other had done it. So that dreaded space had to be cleaned out as well.
So what did I learn on my trip to Montana?
1) Glacier is quite possibly the most gorgeous place on earth
2) Family will do things for you that they will never want to speak of again. You owe them, be grateful for them.
3) Entering a feed mill in "strappy wedges", fancy clothes and asking about chicken toys may draw odd looks and some giggles
4) Clean your "dreaded spaces" before you leave for vacation. Even if you think no one would need to go near them. Trust me on this.
5) Enlist a local agricultural student or chicken lover to care for your chickens while you're gone. It's the fair thing to do for all involved.
6) Hope that your helpers have a sense of humor. They're going to need it.
7) Buy extra feed. You can't predict a growth spurt.
8) Make sure the chicks have a high enough calcium level while you're away, especially if you normally feed them a ton of kitchen scraps. They're not getting that nutrition while you're away.
9) Chickens are a full-time committment, even if they're easy most of the time. Consider this before you buy.
10) You will find yourself missing your chickens when you're away and when you return, they will be huge.
11) On a gardening note, trellis your tomatoes etc before you leave. If not, your garden will resemble the Little Shop of Horrors upon your return.
Those are my lessons. Do you have some of your own? I'd love to hear them!