Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let It Strengthen You

After our horrible experience last weekend, we decided to remind ourselves why we chose to move out to the country and chase our dream of becoming self-sufficient. We walked around the property, breathed in the unusually warm March air, and let nature do the talking.

We know without a doubt that this is where we are meant to be. The sad times seem to reinforce our decision to move out here and pursue our goals, rather than have us question it. For that I am thankful! This quote (author unknown) pretty much sums it up - "When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you." It is a choice to be happy and strong. A choice we all have to make every day.

In moving forward, we decided to keep with our original plan of adding to our egg-laying flock and get some more baby chicks. Several stores around here sell chicks this time of year, so we got the new babies locally.


We have eight baby chicks total, so this is just a taste of the cuteness. Lots more to come on these sweeties!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Heartbreak on the Farm

Today we had a truly horrible day. Well, it's been a bad couple of days actually. Wednesday I noticed our chicken named Penguin (she looked like a cute little penguin when she was a chick) wasn't acting like her usual self. I'd been reading up on internal laying because one of our other chickens, Buttercup, seems to be suffering from this. Basically it's when a yolk is formed and travels from the oviduct into the abdomen instead of becoming a complete egg. The hen keeps producing yolks and they just get trapped in the abdomen. The abdomen gets very swollen because the yolks and other fluids are sort of festering inside. Eventually the hen will die from this. There is no way to prevent it and there is no cure.

Buttercup and Penguin hadn't started laying eggs yet after their winter molt (last year they had started back up before the end of February). All four of the other hens started laying again last month. We're watching Buttercup closely and as of now she seems ok. If she really is laying internally, unfortunately she will die from it.

I didn't even think to check Penguin for internal laying because she was acting totally normal up until Wednesday night. Before I put the chickens to bed I noticed she wasn't herself, so I inspected her and was shocked to feel her abdomen was completely huge and swollen. She roosted in the coop that night like normal, but the next day she wasn't doing well. She just stayed in one spot all day and when I got home from work I could tell she was slipping away.

Luckily I had time to spend with her. I held her on my lap and pet her and tried to make her as comfortable as I could. She was kind of the head honcho in the pecking order, so she normally wouldn't let me hold her because she had to seem tough in front of the other hens to keep her street cred :) But now she put up no struggle so I cuddled with her because I knew it would be the last time.

She couldn't walk, so I carried her into the coop with the other chickens and put her on the floor in a little nest of pine shavings and leaves and said good night. This morning at dawn David and I went to the coop. I couldn't look, so I asked David to peek inside. She was gone.

The other chickens knew something was awry (just as they had when Aster died back in June). It was heartbreaking to hear them whimper and sound mournful because I think they knew she was gone.

We buried her by the creek. The only thing worse than having a beloved pet die is knowing she is on her way and seeing her suffer. At the end I just hoped that she would pass overnight because her every breath seemed like such a struggle. When I was cuddling with her the night before she passed, I told her it was ok if she couldn't hang on and that she could go be with her sisters Raven and Aster. I think she understood.

Happier times.

The second part of our day only got worse. We have been waiting on eight baby chicks that we ordered online. They were supposed to be here on Wednesday and didn't make it. We didn't start to worry yet, because we thought surely they would arrive on Thursday. I talked to several different people at the post office to let them know the chicks were coming and that I needed them to call me as soon as they arrived so I could pick them up and get them under a heat lamp.

I got a call on Thursday around 2:00 pm, thinking it was time to head over and pick them up, but the man said the chicks did NOT arrive. At this point I was really getting worried. Baby chicks can only survive three possibly four days after hatching without food and water. They actually eat the yolk inside the egg before they hatch and that keeps them alive for a few days.

Our chicks were hatched on Monday, so getting them on Friday would surely mean trouble. And it did. Three of them were dead on arrival, and the other five were barely hanging on. We got them home and under the heat lamp and made each of them drink sugar water to try to bring them back. Two of them were acting really lively and actually drinking on their own, so we were optimistic about them. The other three still looked pretty bad, but we hoped there was a chance they'd pull through.

After making lunch I went to check on them to find three more dead. Only two left now. Time went on and I did everything I could, but one more passed away. The remaining live chick was laying on top of the poor dead one chirping and I almost lost it. I was about to head to Buchheit's and get some friends for the little gal so she wouldn't be lonely. I decided to wait, though, to see if she would make it through the night. I read online that putting a small stuffed animal and mirror in the brooder with a lonely chick can help because she could snuggle with the stuffed animal and the mirror might make her think there is another chick in there with her. I put a little beanie baby stuffed pelican (the first thing David ever gave me) and mirror in there for her but she's in such bad shape she didn't really notice.

It is now about 9:00 pm and the final survivor is almost gone. I don't think she'll make it much longer. And I hope she doesn't.

There really is no way to process losing this many animals in one day. I don't know if I've ever seen anything more sad than a dead baby chick. Of course the company we ordered from will refund our money, but that's not what it's about. I feel so much guilt and anger over the whole situation. It's too much for one day.

But tomorrow is a new day. A chance to start over. David says this will only make us stronger and tougher and I want to believe him. I feel like it's making me harder, though, and I don't want that. It will take a while to get past this, but I know I will. We knew when we followed our dreams to move out here there would be sad times. I don't regret it for a second.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Cleaning Up

We've had some really bad weather around this area over the past week or so. Luckily, we didn't get hit very hard. We did have some pretty strong winds that blew a lot of limbs out of our trees, so this weekend when we had the time, we played clean up.

Yes, that is ME driving the 4-wheeler! I have been pretty scared of these types of things ever since I was a kid and burned my leg pretty badly on the motor of a 3-wheeler while riding with my brother (still not exactly sure how it happened!). I was even scared to ride this with David driving it, but finally decided it was high time to get over my fear.

Of course, as most fears are, it was pretty silly because it's really easy to drive (and dare I say, fun!). My job was to gather all the limbs from the front and back yard while David worked on making a big pile to burn.

We're also working on clearing out what we have dubbed "Section A" which is basically around the chicken area over to the creek.

David gets the joy of cutting down small trees and cutting up larger ones that have already fallen down. He loves that chainsaw :)

The guineas were having fun playing in the piles of sticks!

I worked hard for about 2 hours, loading and unloading limbs and then I got tired. It was fun for awhile, but after a few hours I was so done! David was still hard at it, so I went to say hi to the chickens.

Tubs always jumps up on my back when I squat down! Mostly to escape the romantic advances of Cam I think, but I tell myself it's because she really likes me. :) She normally just stands on my back for a while, but this time she kind of nested in my hair and made herself comfortable! It was pretty cute.