When you get baby chicks, they are cute and fluffy. Last May, we got 4 of the most adorable yellow chicks. They lived in a tub in our bathroom for about a month. During the summer, we moved them out to an outdoor space and when they were big enough, out to what is now the chicken coop. 200 sq ft of space, completely fenced and safe for our girls. Later in the summer, we added two laying hens, Rhonda and Kris, to the flock. It was perfect. My six, happy girls. I knew I had so much to learn, but I was so excited for the adventure ahead.
How little our girls were when they came home with us!
Being so very new to raising and keeping chickens, I never thought about the day that we would have to put one of them down. I mean, I knew it would happen eventually, but not this early in the game. My heart breaks to say that Tuesday was that day. One of our girls, Pam, who we got as a week-old chick just a year ago, began to have difficulty walking a couple months ago. I researched every diagnosis it could be but nothing I read, matched her symptoms. She appeared to be getting better, until this weekend. I let the girls out of the coop to free range for a bit in the grass and I noticed Pam wasn’t coming out, so I went in to check on her. When I picked her up, I noticed a large pressure sore on her abdomen (I apologize to anyone with a weak stomach). I immediately took her over to Dylan to show him and after we talked about it, we decided it would be best for her to be put down. I immediately looked at him and said, “I can’t do it. I know this is part of having a farm, but I just can’t”. He was gracious, compassionate and understand how much the animal-lover heart inside of me was already starting to shatter. He looked at me with such kindness and said he would take care of it. I am so thankful for a husband who knows just when to push me to do hard things and when to be strong for me. That day, I needed him to be the strong one.
Our girls, as pullets last fall!
I think the hardest part was not knowing what was wrong with her… not knowing if it was something that could have been prevented had I taken better care of her. But it was just her… our other 5 chickens, 3 of which were her siblings from birth, were perfectly healthy (other than Rhonda molting…. Sigh, a story for another day).
There’s a mixed variety of emotions that comes along with something like this. Of course, there’s plenty of sadness, but in a weird way, there’s an incredible amount of motivation. Motivation to be better. To do as much research and learn as much as I can about making sure my chickens not only healthy, but also happy. To put in the work every day, even if it seems inconvenient. It might sound silly, but I want my chickens to enjoy their life. Even on Sunday night, after I noticed Pam’s situation, I brought her out to the grass to enjoy some snacks. That’s how I’m going to remember her... happily pecking away at the grass.
The life of a farmer is one of the sweetest and most difficult there is. But to me, it is one of the biggest blessings I have gotten to experience.