Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Cold Day All Around


I don't think I'll ever really like the idea of it, but there's something about growing older that makes it seem less scary or maybe less of a foreign concept. Perhaps it's because, as we age, we have more experience with it.

Today, I feel like an expert on the subject. 

And if you're not in the mood to read about the death of a chicken, then I kindly allow you to exit out of your screen.

For anyone else who wishes to continue on, I promise to leave out uncomfortable details. If you decide you'd like to read more about the down moments of caring for animals, just click on any of the words that are red, and they'll take you a previous post on the issue.

Let me start by giving you the weather report over here on the farm. 


The temperature is zero. 
The wind is blowing at 21 mph. 
The "feels like" temperature is recorded as -22.

Farm chores are never fun on days like today, but because the animals rely on me, I walked outside into the arctic hell wearing my son's winter boots (three or four sizes too big for me), a warm stocking hat that had been knit by a local grandmother as a gift to all children at the elementary school, and my favorite chore coat. 

"Red" eating his special grain to fatten him up.
I gave the steer his grain, checked the automatic waterers for the
cows and horses, gave hay and fresh water to the senior horses in the barn, 
and headed to the chicken coop.

The coop is typically a fun little place for me to hang out. The chickens are always referred to as "the ladies", and they are talked to and taken care of in return for their constant dedication to superior egg laying. I recently gifted them a good-looking rooster for some eye candy. At first, their attention was so focused on his handsome poultry-ness, egg production slowed down. The more they all got to know him, the more gracious they were of their gift, and eggs abounded.

So back to the weather. Remember, it was COLD! The eggs I collected were from this morning and yesterday morning. Needless to say, yesterday's had frozen and split open (dog food), but I shoved today's into my coat pocket and started to leave the coop and make a second cup of coffee for myself. 

That's when I saw her.

One of the ladies, a Barred Rock to be specific, was tucked into the corner on the ground of the coop. I knew it wasn't good. Fearful that she may have a disease that would spread to the rest of the ladies, I scooped her up into my arms. She was cold and limp but breathing. I immediately ruled out CRD (Chronic Respiratory Disease) because she wasn't gasping for air, her breath didn't smell, and her nasal passages weren't goopy. The second place I looked was her back end, and it was evident that she had been egg bound.

This has happened to her before, but she eventually pushed the egg out on her own. Because of the weather this week, I've been in such a hurry to finish chores, I neglected to check on each of the fifteen ladies in the coop. Had I caught it earlier, I could've helped her release the egg. Instead, the egg ruptured inside of her and froze as it was exiting her body. She contracted an infection.

These are Barred Rock chickens. Notice the rooster trying to get cozy with the ladies.
Yes, I did try to help her. I brought her inside the house, wrapped her in a warm towel, prayed for her, and thanked her for her gift of eggs that fed the elderly couple next door, my daughter's orchestra teacher, a local restaurant, and various friends. But in the end, I knew her suffering had to stop. In the end, I knew it would have to be me who stopped it.

I am a lover, a caretaker, a protector, and a killer all at the same time. It's part of my job as a hobby farmer, I guess. Although I have grown comfortable with the concept of death, I'll never grow used to the fact that sometimes I need to take away life with my own hands on occasion. 


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