This weekend we lost a couple of fixtures on the farm. It’s always difficult to lose an animal, but it’s even more difficult to lose one with a name. Although livestock aren’t my pets, that’s not to say they are not loved. Just as birth is a part of life, so is death.
Friday morning when I let the chickens out, everyone came out tumbling, flying, or running, except Molly the goose. She sauntered out quietly, which was highly unusual. Geese can have a knob on the top of their head, and hers looked scuffed. Not scratched, not poked, just scraped. As far as I could remember, she was fine the evening before. I didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she obviously wasn’t having a good day.
I made note to check on her that evening, and give her a good look over. That evening all the birds were in the coop, except Molly. She was sitting by herself, under the large wooden spool we have. Molly was having some issues breathing, and was cold. I checked on the goats quickly, and brought her inside to a laundry basket and a nice big comforter. She had a few more scratches that I hadn’t noticed that morning. Other than her breathing, and obvious lethargy, she seemed ok. I couldn’t identify any big, glaring issues. We put a warm corn bag over her, and turned off the light. I wanted her to heat up a bit, calm down and relax. I decided the only thing I could try was to start a course of antibiotics. I searched high and low for a syringe and needle, but of course couldn’t find one. I decided to check down at the goat barn. By the time I got down there, found one, and got back, Molly was gone. I still don’t know what exactly happened. She had been healthy as could be, and most evenings was taking a bath when I came to do evening chores. As much as I hated losing Molly, we weren’t extremely close. As I mentioned most of our livestock aren’t pets, and Molly and I (just like with the other geese) had an understanding. I feed them, toss them treats, but no touching. I steered clear of them as I never wanted to stress them out if I didn’t have too. Regardless, I will miss her honking, and the barnyard is much quieter without her.
The second loss was much harder. If you’ve followed my instagram or my facebook page you may have heard me mention Edward Scissor Beak. He was a buff orpington rooster I got with a batch of chicks about 3 years ago. I never noticed he had a beak problem until he was a few months old. All of a sudden he started following me around, and I got a good look and realized he had scissor beak. Scissor beak is a beak deformity where the top beak and bottom beak don’t line up properly. He loved the feed we gave to the meat chicks, and I would always put a pile out for him. He loved to follow us around, and did so frequently. Over the summer he had a little flock of hens that would follow him around. Although Edward had problems eating, he had great health. He was a bit smaller than our big rooster, but had gorgeous feathers. Last weekend my husband held him so I could trim his top beak as it was getting too long. I noticed all last week that he followed me more than usual. Thursday evening I picked him up, something I normally don’t do with the poultry, and he was extremely thin. I felt bad because I hadn’t noticed he was struggling that much. I decided to start feeding him moistened food, with added protein every morning. The worst thing about Edward is he had that, “the grass is greener on the other side” mentality when it came to food. I’d put him at his bowl, he would chow down, but see the other hens eating and leave his bowl to share theirs. His special food was available, so I hoped he would come back and continue eating. Saturday night, I noticed Edward trying to get on the roost. All the geese, turkeys and ducks were coming in so I figured everyone was getting in his way. I picked him up and tried to put him on a roost, but for some reason he couldn’t grab on to the bar. The chickens do this sometimes if I have to move them, in the dark it’s hard to find their footing. I decided to put him in one of the nest boxes as it had lots of hay, and would actually be a cozy place for him to spend the night. This morning I watched all the birds come out, and was concerned not to see Edward. Then I thought I saw him come out. As I put out feed I realized I just saw Rudy (our big buff orpington rooster) come out, not Edward. I went into the coop and found Edward still in the nest box, obviously struggling. There are a few details I’ll leave out of the story, as there’s no reason to recount them, but I knew it was time. There was no coming back, and if I left him I knew he would die alone, and cold. I made the decision to put Edward out of his misery, and I held him while he died.
Farming is not easy. It’s made up of hard choices. Some days you do all you can, and try your hardest, but you’re still left with an aching heart. That’s ok, that’s just life, you love and lose, and start all over. In a few days and weeks fresh, new life will be born on the farm. A perfect reminder of the circle of life.
“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under the heaven;”
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