Friday, July 8, 2011

It is a Rough World

It is not a good week on the homestead.

Last Friday, we had a flock of laying hens, a beloved rooster, a pen full of meat birds, eight week old future hens, and a hen setting on eggs.

A week later, we have basically nothing left. The meat birds are in the freezer, thankfully. The hens that have survived the predator attack are at my parent's farm. Everything else is dead.

I've dreamed for years of hatching our own chicks. It was one of the main reasons I chose to get some heritage breed chickens. But last year, though a few attempted, none of the hens successfully hatched. When we got new layers last year, I saved my two favorite heritage hens even though they were not laying well.

This spring, the speckled sussex hen began setting. I didn't even know if her eggs were fertile. But yesterday the four eggs began to hatch.

We watched them all day and last evening, two chicks hatched. But when we found them, one was dead and the hen pecked at the other chick. Was the hen rejecting her own chicks? Hopes of the hen caring for her chicks were dashed. We would get out the brooder lamp.

We brought the live chick inside and the children enjoyed playing with it.

Soon another chick hatched. He was still partly attached to his shell and wet.

The last egg was partly cracked so we brought it in under the brooder light and were able to watch it hatch.

What fun! I think I enjoyed it as much as the children. It was amazing to see it emerge from the shell and then turn fluffy. Three chicks wasn't many but I was excited about building a new flock, especially since they were the descendents of our favorite rooster.

The chicks were chirpy and active last night, but this morning they were all dead. Were they too warm? Or too cold? Or are we just doomed to kill things this week?

I know others have much bigger problems than I. But it doesn't take away the disappointment.


  1. I'm sorry for your loss. That is hard, to lose chickens you are counting on for laying and such.

    What a beautiful gift, though, to watch (and the children too) the egg hatch! I would love to watch that, sometime, too! (like you, I would probably be more excited than the children!)

  2. I'm so sorry, how disappointing. I'm so glad your meat chickens are safely tucked away.

  3. Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear the awful news. Did you ever find the critter that was responsible for taking out your flock?

    I hope your weekend turns around for you and your family.


  4. How frustrating! Sometimes homesteading can be rather disappointing and brutal. I hope you can figure out what predator is that was killing your layers. Did you try a live trap?

  5. Oh, I am so sorry. I can't tell you why but I can tell you that we have been raising chicks now for several years. We got a shipment of 26 day olds last Nov. and ended up raising 21 to layers. That was the best luck we have had so far. We have had the same thing of them being fine one minute and dead the next and have no idea why. We tend to always do the same thing. So I am thinking some are just weaker than others. Hopefully, it will work out better next time. Your speckled sussex is beautiful!!!

  6. Goodness, Gina! That IS disappointing! So sorry about all your chicken mishaps. And to all happen within a week... Here's hoping things get better on the homestead. :)

  7. Gina, I'm so sorry! Even a bit teary as I know what a loss like that feels like and what it means. Your speckled hen is beautiful - I hope she survived.

    We lost 4 hens this spring alone, although one was due to natural causes. We had to shoot the coyote that was coming back for dinner daily.

    As hard as all this is, I'm even grateful for the lessons my girls are learning about life and death through animals, that our time on earth is fleeting, and we must trust God to provide in all things.

  8. Dear Gina,
    What an awful thing, losing all those chickens. I suspect this hit you especially hard because you're grieving the loss of Ed's brother-in-law. That loss magnifies the loss of the chickens.
    I didn't get the chance to offer you my sympathies sooner, but I am sorry about the sudden, sad death of Jason. The loss of a good, Christian man diminishes the world.
    Please know that my prayers are with his family and with you and yours.

  9. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this! I wonder if they were somehow stressed while in the egg?

    I hope you're able to catch the wily whatever...

  10. Thanks so much for all your kind words. I do have much to be thankful for. For one, we were home last night and took the time, even Ed, to sit and watch the chicks. They were so funny as they learned to walk and would fall on their backs with their feet thrashing! So often, I put things off saying, I'll do it tomorrow. Glad that this one time we enjoyed the moment!


  11. Hi Gina! I am so sorry about your week. It is so hard when you put your time and love into something and it does not go according to our desires. I am glad you did get to sit and watch that great example of creation. I know it is not the same, but it seems like everything I do in the garden this year is going wrong. I do have to keep focused on what is good, that I am learning more about gardening and also the Lord can use it to sharpen my character. I will be praying for you.

  12. Oh, Gina!

    I am sorry that you have lost so many of your chickens!

    So sad...


  13. Oh I am so sorry to hear this. A sad day I am sure I hope you find the culprit. Raccoon or skunk probably. I seen your blog on Heritage's side board.B

  14. I'm sorry you've lost so many birds this week. The fox is our main predator but he has only succeeded once. However these are the first chicks that we have succeeded in getting to a week old. Like you, I've no idea why they suddenly seem to go but it is so disappointing.

    Hope it goes better for you next time.

  15. Wow that is so sad. My goodness, your poor children. Watching life begin and in the morning seeing the poor little ones robbed of it. :(

  16. Oh my goodness- how awful to happen in all one week! So sorry. You're making me nervous as I research converting a shed to a chicken coop! I hope you'll share with us your critter-proofing as you look to rebuilding your flock eventually- I hope to learn from your experiences- thanks for sharing your ups and downs with us.

  17. Well that was just sad. And a crummy life lesson for the children. So sorry honey. Start over next spring is all I can say.

  18. oh I'm so sorry! I want something good and nice to happen to balance out all this. I know we're not guaranteed a balance, but really, I hope blessings rain down on you.

  19. I know exactly how you are feeling. We just had our flock get hit by a bobcat! Very sad.

    My husband is a walking encyclopedia of chickens (my personal opinion) and he said that some breeds are just better than others when it comes to brooding and hatching out chicks. We keep so bantams around (mainly silkies) specifically for brooding. Ours will sit on a golf ball if we let them. You may want to do that next year. You simply put your choice eggs under the hen and she will do the rest. Basically, she will be a surrogate mother, but they are very good at that. Hope this helps.


  20. If you have a larger box the chicks will regulate the temperature themselves by how close they are to the heat lamp.

    Also you will lose some if you are not feeding medicated chic feed.

    Make sure the chicks aren't getting wet. If water spills, clean it up and remove the litter that got wet.

  21. I just happen to drop in on this post, having originally come looking for some info on buckwheat green manure crops.
    I have raised chicks/chickens up here in AK for going on 8 years, through cold weather, bear attacks and plenty of fox taking more than their fair share.
    On your babies....I would let them mom's hatch them and take them as soon as they are up and mostly out of the shell. Get a good batch going and then allow the moms to try to fully raise some. The hatching hen USUALLY does better if she is off somewhat at least by herself so the other hens don't attack her chicks.
    I also, as soon as the chicks are dry or a day old make sure they get nothing but heavily sugared water for their drink. I do this for at least the first week. I also dip each beak, careful not to get up to far and drown them, in the water to encourage them to it. It helps give them the extra energy they many times need. Also a place to get out from directly under the brood lamp. Mine end up in the house the first week so I can keep a general temp of 75 or so and up to 95 under the light. They REALLY do need that option of 95 heat.
    Don't give up ...I KNOW how hard it is to watch such little things die but you will work a system out and make it work.
    I have much better luck with laying hens than meat chicks if that gives you any encouragement:-)


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