MAINTENANCE AROUND THE RANCH
It will soon be the time of year one must be concerned with a properly cooled unit, adequate fresh air or ventilation and high humidity.
With a separate unit as an outside structure, the color of the outside walls and roof (regardless of type of construction) has a lot to do with being able to have a cool unit. Remember, dark colors absorb heat and sun. The most effective color for radiating off the heat and sun is a brilliant white. Anyone doubting this can test for himself on a warm sunshiny day by feeling the surfaces of a bright white area and a dark area. Try different color cars in a parking lot. On metal, the white will rarely be warmer than the outside temperature. Touch a dark surface and you cannot hold your hand on it for long.
Summer time is the best time of year when cages can be removed and thoroughly cleaned. With solid bottom cages, at least the pans should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. To make the pans, feeders and dust baths last longer follow the cleaning with a coat of good quality rust proof aluminum paint. It will help keep rust from eating away at the metal parts. On wire bottom cages, frequent dusting is even more of a necessity and the spring or summertime cleaning is a must. After thorough cleaning of a wire bottom cage, which can sometimes be difficult, it can also be painted. Complete removal of the entire cage outside to be cleaned with a high pressure sprayer or steam cleaner would be ideal, however, cleaning and repainting cage bottoms or pans would be a good intermediate step.
Summertime with higher than normal humidity is the time of year when extra dusting is needed. Some ranchers have referred to dust bathing in times past as a ‘sand bath’. This surely must be a misnomer as sand will do absolutely no good. The point is dust baths are only good if they are dusty. When the fine dust has been consumed, as it will be after faithful use, the balance should be thrown away. Chinchilla fur fibers are very fine and soak up moisture quite readily. The function of the dust is to soak up the accumulated moisture in the fur.
Many people ask how often they should dust their animals. The best answer would probably be to dust according to humidity conditions. The hot summer weather generally contains high humidity. An air conditioner dehumidifies or condenses moisture from the air and as it cools we have a situation of moisture and dust as well as some fur floating around. This can and will gum up an air conditioner.
First of all, when you do dust, turn off the air conditioner during the time needed to dust. All that is needed is a quick flip or two in the dust by the animal. Leaving dusters in for long periods of time wastes dust as animals will tend to dig it out or wet in it.
By all means put adequate filters on the return air of the air conditioner. These should be removed and cleaned every day or so. If an air conditioner or filters are allowed to get plugged up they will restrict the flow of air across the coils and cause it to freeze up.
In our part of the country air conditioning is generally recommended in above ground rooms or buildings. Air conditioners should be thoroughly checked out before hot weather sets in. Don’t wait until the repair shops are busy to find you need work done.
It would be well to completely clean the coils inside and out of window air conditioners. Remember, an air conditioner in a Chinchilla unit is operating under more hazardous conditions than in most applications. We give dust baths to the animals and dust particles in the air are picked up and sucked into the air conditioner. When air conditioners are operating under our hot humid summers, moisture on the coils combine with the dust and forms mud which can plug up and interfere with air flowing thru the coils. Several thicknesses of a good filter are desired and regular daily cleaning of these filters will help.
When buying a new air conditioner be sure to get one that takes the return air through the coils first and then back out thru the blower. Not vice versa. Flowing of the air backwards thru the coils causes plugging of the backside, which is impossible to clean without tearing the unit completely apart.
Periodically it is well to use a compressor or some other source for blowing air thru the coil – the blower side of a sweeper will help. When building a new unit where a window air conditioner will be used place it high on the wall and put an extra window underneath it. Besides providing much needed fresh air it can allow one to use a water hose periodically to spray a lot of water thru the coils to clean them. By putting a piece of plastic under the air conditioner and funneled out the window excess water can be gotten rid of.
We have set up our units to have identical sized windows for the air conditioners to fit into. We keep on hand several extra air conditioners at times. Throughout the summer when an air conditioner starts to get dirty we can take it out and replace with another one. We then completely tear apart and wash out the air conditioner with a water hose. This makes them last much longer and work more efficiently.
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