Hard Lessons In Little Time

Honestly, I have started about 5 blog posts since I last published a post. Between yesterday and this morning, I need to unpack my heavy heart.

Having a homestead came with lessons. We knew this, we just didn't know how hard those lessons would hit us. For the past week, we have kept Prince Charming, our Black Australorp rooster, isolated in the garage as he appeared droopy and sickly. Wednesday morning, I had to pull Big Red out of his coop so we decided to isolate him in the garage as well. Both roosters seemed dull and droopy but showed no outer sign of infection or illness. Another important note to add is that we were, at this time, also awaiting the arrival of our first batch of meat chicks for 2020.

Yesterday morning, we awoke early to allow ourselves more time to accomplish everything we needed to. Josh went to try and hand feed Prince and Big Red as I worked on completing the other chores. It was absolutely downpouring as I quickly was soaked while feeding the chickens outside and running the dogs out to use the bathroom. Around 7:30, Josh came in and announced Big Red had passed and that Prince wasn't doing much better. We sat down for coffee and to eat some breakfast - I sent a message to their breeder, a wonderful lady in Apex, NC. She asked if she could call - she was able to offer some guidance and suggested taking Big Red to NC State for a necropsy for some answers.

After calling their office, we bagged him up in a cooler and headed to Raleigh, about an hour away. After returning back to Dunn, I called the local post office for an update on the arrival of the chicks. Sure enough, they were waiting for us. The rain had eased to a sprinkle, not foretelling of the weather to come. We set the brooder up and unboxed the 55 chicks into their new home. All seemed well as we headed to work. The rain began again around 5:15, several hours later.

We arrived home just in time for the downpour to begin again, around 5:45pm. The greens seemed fine in their tractor and we closed up our black flock and red flock for the night. Josh announced that Prince had passed and must have gone shortly after we left for work. The ease turned to panic as we hadn't thought about the tin roof on the brooder with the heavy rain beating against it scaring the chicks.

As Josh went to raise the door he built on the brooder, cold rain water hit the hot brooder bulb, exploding it. We rushed to grab the babies as we were both soaked pulling them out of the brooder as they panicked, trying to huddle as close as they could together. Instantly, three were gone, trampled to death. Josh ran out to get another bulb and I tried my best to warm the soaked babies who at this point were all screaming.

I turned the oven on, plugged in two space heaters and tried to use a blow dryer to dry them and warm them up. For three hours we tried our best to save them all... but alas six left us before the night was over. We held each other last night, I cried more than I want to admit. We prayed the morning would bring sunshine and a better day; the wind had other plans.

A seventh little chick took it's last breath this morning and all outside seemed well when we fed and watered. Sitting down for coffee, a lady from church sent me a message about the tarp being off and chickens out as she drove by our house on her way to work. I rushed my boots on and yelled for Josh. Sure enough the tarp had ripped off the chicken tractor and 7 chickens were out from our green flock. As I talked them back into the enclosure, Josh spotted one laying down between the trees. She wouldn't walk so we brought her into the garage where she passed shortly after. The best we can figure is that the tractor was lifted off of the ground and landed on the poor girl.

Lord, when it rains it pours and the wind sure blows in our case. From a financial point, the loss of ten birds, chicks and adults, totaled in around $60 not counting the time and feed invested in these birds. At the end of the day, they are replaceable, however, it's not the same. I had never experienced little lives leaving from my hands as I held them and from that, my heart truly hurts.

We don't homestead because it is easier. We homestead because even though it is harder, we know the value and worth of raising our own food. Those chicks were meant to grow up and nourish our bodies, though some may see that as cruel, the best description I have heard was spoken by Justin Rhodes. He said {not word for word} that you know from raising these animals that when you go to process, you know in your heart, that this will be the animal's absolute worst day of their life and they won't ever remember it. Our first processing two months ago was hard to process mentally for Josh and I as we had raised those chickens for 3 months. At the end of the day, we knew that it would be the worst day those chickens had ever had and they wouldn't even remember it.

Josh said to me this morning, "If we were called to do it, He {God} wouldn't let us fail." So, here's the reality of homesteading; we aren't going to throw in the towel as we dry our tears and move on. Just another reason to keep going, learn from our mistakes and try to do better tomorrow.

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