It’s cold in Phoenix! Okay, when we say “cold,” we mean it goes down to about 55 degrees at night. (We understand the rest of the world thinks we are big babies.) Still, even our version of cold can have an effect on both the crops and our many animals.
So what does it mean to the harvest when cold weather descends? First, let’s not forget: the colder season means shorter days, which means less sunshine, which means less photosynthesis. Less photosynthesis means the plants grow a bit slower. The plant metabolism slows down, the plants don’t take in as many nutrients, and the growth rate is slowed.
Don’t be worried! We are still growing healthy, thriving fresh produce! The produce is just taking its time to reach prime deliciousness. When it gets down to the 30 degrees or less, we do cover some crops to protect from frost.
For our egg-laying chickens, there are similar side effects. No, chickens do not perform photosynthesis. However, they do lay fewer eggs in the cold season. Much of their energy is expended throughout the night in an effort to keep warm, so they have less energy for egg-laying. (Good thing we have lots and lots of egg-laying chickens and ducks, right?)
For Jake, the consequences can be much more dire. Since he’s growing meat chickens, on a weekly basis he deals with a new shipment of baby chicks. For the first week of their lives, their body temperature needs to remain in the mid to low nineties.
Additional heat (heat lamps and space heaters) are provided to keep them at the proper temperature. If they’re too cold, they can get stressed, which is as bad for baby chickens as it can be for over-worked humans.
Another negative possibility: in a desperate attempt to keep warm, the baby chicks pile up on each other, but sometimes when they pile up, chicks on the bottom can end up crushed to death.
Warmth is obviously very important to the farm on the whole. The crops need it, the chickens need it, and hey, even staff have taken to wearing jackets. We’re ready to welcome desert winter, even down to 50 degrees at night! What can we say? We have thin blood in Phoenix.