April 09, 2014

Lesson 184: Life and Death on the Farm

I know you've been waiting with bated breath for me to confirm your suspicions, revealing the secret of Saturday's post. I've been excited right along with you and have only been keeping the suspense going until I could get some awesome photo documentation.

Sadly friends, today, as I reveal the good news of Saturday's post, I bring bad news as well. And I still have no photos.

The announcement first. On Saturday, the Ashbaugh's and the Milks' (our neighbors) became the proud guardians of 12 baby chickens. Squawking, chattering, tottering, hopping, busy, busy baby chickens. We're keeping six and returning six to our friend, who built our coop.

What am I hoping will show up this summer? Fresh eggs. Brown and delicious, delivered daily to our hay, full of healthy fat and other nutrients for my babies! What homesteading goodness!

All along, as I've posted about our attempts at homesteading, it has been a little tongue and cheek. I mean, last summer I devoted an entire blog post to growing one cherry tomato and one cucumber. I even entitled the post, "The Harvest is In." More than a little embellishing! (The lesson learned from that post turned out to be prophetic.)

But y'all, chickens? Chickens make us legit!

Oh, you should have heard us on Saturday. Question, after question, none of us with any more experience or knowledge than the next, all very innocent in our understanding of farm life, all enamoured with the novelty of live animals in our possession and care.

We drifted to sleep with rosy visions of summer sunshine, laughing little ones, and chubby chickens! Heaven in Clover.

Sunday morning reality set in when Samara and I realized we still hadn't let them out of their box for the day. It wouldn't have been a big deal had we not already dressed for church. Time to prove our homesteadness, so there we were, two farm girls, doing what had to be done, picking up poopy chicks in patent leather shoes and smocked dresses.

It was pretty funny. Made a good before-Sunday-school-small-talk story, but friends, that was nothing compared to what I did in the name of homesteading today!

Deep breath.

I was returning with the kids from picking Samara up from school. I noticed a commotion over in the distance near the coop and sped over to see what the issue was.

Try to imagine all of these images at once.

First, most pressing, image. Our coop ... had caught ... an owl!

A really big, mean looking, possessing a super sharp beak, owl. It stood staring at me, mocking my homesteading resolve, tauntingly flapping one wing in my direction, signaling it was coming for me next.

I say next, because the second image to take in is the sight of two mangled, baby chicken bodies. My baby chickens. One had lost its head. The other its innards.

Yes graphic details are necessary, because friends, unlike in sweet children's books or in my aforementioned visions, life, and especially death, on the farm is graphic.

No one was more surprised by that fact than me!

The third image is of the rest of the dear chickies, huddled together in the far, back corner of the pen, scared as you know what. And looking to me, their farming mama, for rescue.

You know what? Turns out all that homesteading nonsense wasn't a complete facade. Real, pet-ernal instinct kicked in, as I saw my precious future eggs cracking before my very eyes. I know, I feel really bad that my first thoughts were selfishly about the eggs.


I screamed at the top of my lungs (because for some reason, screaming helps me act brave), "I'm soooooooooo scared." And, before I could think any more, I launched to open the coop door, yelled at the evil owl, and ducked out of the way, praying that it wouldn't attack me.

Thankfully, he flapped away, leaving a frazzled group of people (the kids still in the car) and chickens. Though relieved, my sorrow was not complete. Unfortunately, the remaining live babies were hiding another dead one.

Three down. We lost three.

After returning the frightened live chickens to their box (where they remain, shivering in a fearful pile), I went back with a shovel. And somewhere, deep within my clearly-hardened farm self, I found the stomach to scoop out those dead chickies and toss them to their graves in a thicket of bushes.

I moaned and groaned the entire time.

Seriously, do y'all know me? Can you imagine me shoveling dead chickens? I grew up in the suburbs, playing tennis and swimming at the country club. I have no training in this area, practical or emotional. In fact, I've never even lost a pet before. My childhood cat from 7th grade is still living.


And so, this post is a real, true example of a life experience. One in which I genuinely did not have a clue, but today, I found out.

Those poor chicks.

Lesson Learned: Our coop needs a roof ... and I wish Mark was home during the day.


  1. Oh man....what a disaster, what a story. Get that roof!!!

  2. This made my morning! What a great story. I'm sad for your little chicklets, but you'll be telling this story for years to your kids and grandkids! My dad was a large animal veterinarian for most of my childhood (he switched to small animal late in my teenage years) and we often went along on farm calls to watch him care for farm animals. My mom loved animals and our house was (and still is) a zoo. We always had guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, birds, cats, dogs, lizards, rabbits, fish, and whatever else we could find. We even bred pure-bred dogs and cats. Between my dad's work and our pets, we always had a lot of crazy animal stories! I would love to try chickens in our city backyard, so I'll be taking notes from you. :)

  3. I think this is my favorite blog post ever!! Or maybe it's because I read it as if I was sitting next to you. I died of laughter!


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