Chickens vs. Derecho: who’s the winner? July 13, 2012

Chickens vs. Derecho: who’s the winner? We were eleven days without power as a result of the recent derecho, and as of Friday, July 13 2012, there are people here in my state without power still, although it is finally looking as if the number of people without is shrinking. (The power company, rather cruelly, keeps moving the estimated restoration dates further and further out, rather than providing an honest, up front estimate of how long it will take to restore power. Jerks.) At least it’s a little cooler, now, for those still without power.

But to start out our score card, I have to grant the initial point to the derecho, for knocking out the power to begin with. One for you, derecho. Thanks for picking this fight, you philistine.

derecho over the coop

The derecho storm rolls in over the chicken coop. The stage is set for an epic battle.

For people who lost power for only a short time, one of the worst aspects of losing power from the June 2012 derecho was the boredom factor: no TV. Since we don’t do a lot of TV, anyway, so this wasn’t much of a problem for us. At our house, we read and played chess. We looked at some of our favorite old Morphy games and rifled through our chess books trying to determine which was our favorite Botvinnik game. We played some board games. And, naturally, we watched the chickens. Even when we have power, we often find it more entertaining to watch the chickens than the boob tube, anyway.

So, score one for the chickens for entertainment value.

We’re lucky that our biggest personal losses from the storm were in our freezer and refrigerator. (Incidentally, I wonder how much venison went to waste in our state in the past couple of weeks?). More than losing groceries, however, we also missed ice and cold water. When you’re enduring sauna-like temperatures, drinking cold water can help cool you down. Instead, though, our drinking water was higher than body temperature, stored in the sauna-like temperatures right along with us. That is not refreshing, I can assure you, and it was difficult to choke down enough fluids when drinking seemed to heat you up even further. On the hottest days, we could do little more than sit shakily in a pool of sweat, trying to endure until it was cool enough to lose consciousness for a few hours at night. I really felt for my chickens, too. It’s not as if they missed watching TV or playing video games–they’re spoiled, but not that spoiled! However, normally when it’s this hot outside, there are a few ways I help the chickens to cool off. I treat them with frozen peas, refrigerated watermelon, ice in their water. This time, nada. However, I do make sure to keep breeds that are hardy. They were probably miserable in the heat, just like we were, but they dealt with it well.

before the storm

Contrary to popular belief, chickens do know enough to come in out of the rain. However, they sure pushed it. This photo shows them shortly before our rooster herded the girls into the coop before the storm hit.

Score another point for the chickens for knowing what to do in the storm.

Naturally, no refrigeration also meant we were limited in what we could eat. We had staples from the pantry, supplemented with anything we had fresh. Since I’m something of a food hoarder, we had plenty of foods to choose from. In fact we have so many dried beans, we might be able to eat that and nothing else for two years, not even including canned foods and dried fruits! Plus, thanks to the chickens, this relatively boring diet could be broken up by fresh eggs. Cooking was not a problem for us, other than who wants to cook when it’s so hot out? But the stove is gas, so scrambling an egg or two was not a problem.

Normally, of course, we store our eggs in the refrigerator. Eggs originating from factory farms and bought from the grocery store NEED refrigeration, since they have to be washed and sanitized due to the horrific conditions they’re produced in. However, washing the eggs removes the bloom, which is a natural coating that protects fresh eggs from spoilage. In this emergency, and with no power, there was “nothin fer it,” as we say here colloquially. The eggs sat on our counter, and we were thankful to have them! At this time of year, we also were able to supplement with wild blackberries, ripe plums,  and veggies from the garden. Squash. We ate a lot of squash. Squash and eggs. And more squash. Then more eggs.

Scrambled egg sandwich and sauteed squash

Scrambled egg sandwich and sauteed squash

Score a point for the chickens for feeding us!

Luckily we had plenty of bottled drinking water on hand after the loss of power, warm though it was; we always keep some on hand, since the running water at our house is not potable. For the house, we collect rainwater from the roofs and store it in cisterns for use flushing, showering, washing dishes, watering the animals, etc. But the running water was gone. When you live in the country and the power goes out, there’s no water pump to get the water into your house. Instead, for the first few days, we trudged out to the upper cistern, lowered and raised buckets by hand so we could give the chickens water (and so we could occasionally flush the toilets).

And I guess what it comes down to is that we’re not the best doomsday preppers, although we probably do better than most. We have a back up DC system to run a small, back up water pump as well as some emergency lighting (in addition to oil lamps, battery powered head lamps, candles and a even a hand-crank-powered flashlight). However, as it turned out, we had let our backup battery run down, so my poor husband had to arm himself with a chainsaw in the back of his Subaru to get out  our “road,” past downed trees, and into town so he could brave the aftermath of the storm to find us another battery, and enough gas to get home again with it. Still, by the first Sunday evening, we had running water again.

Since we were able to take care of the problem, that may make this round a sort of stand off in the end, but I still think  the point goes to the derecho this round.

… so where does that leave us as far as the score goes? I count Chickens – 3, Derecho – 2. Chickens win! (Well, what did you expect?)

Have your chickens helped you out in an emergency situation?  Do you want to add chickens to your life so you will be more prepared in a disaster? In the comments, please share your thoughts about why–or why not–you think keeping chickens can help your family be prepared for emergency situations.



Nicole July 13th, 2012

Sounds like power outages are another good reason for keeping chickens! Can’t wait to get some!

Brandy July 19th, 2012

Entertainment value for sure!

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