Thursday, June 14

Reminders of Reponsibility and Lessons Learned

I have always had semi-romantic notions concerning the whole homesteading idea. Reading a canning book in the slowly fading mid-summer daylight at the kitchen table while sipping home made lemonade. Curling up in front of a wood burning stove in hand knit wool socks on a frigid night in January. Chickens pecking at the grass as they free-range around the yard and tomatoes growing in the garden as big as softballs.

Not to say that i am ignorant as to the hard work involved. I have a very up close and personal relationship with chicken poo, sweltering summer days spent over a hot stove canning and very, very dirty fingernails. I make choices that may seem strange to others and I worry about things like Miracle Grow in my salad. I like hauling firewood. And I know the responsibility that I take on by keeping chickens.

Most farms have much more than chickens by way of animals - goats, cows, pigs, sheep - and maybe we will some day. But for now, we have a great flock of girls and I am fully aware that they are not just fun lawn decorations.

But I do get used to having them around. I don't take them for granted, but I do relax and let my guard down on occasion. I am not so nervous about monitoring their every movement like I was when we first got them. And 99% of the time there is nothing wrong with this. But it is that 1% that is on my mind today.

And I am sick about it.

I made a huge mistake that cost me one of my new Red Sex Link chicks. My favorite one. The one with the most snowy white feathers mixed with the light brown.

The chicken tractor needed to be moved to fresh grass so I asked Roy to pull it for me since the wheel system is not working properly and I can not move it. Moving it right now basically consists of pulling the frame along the ground since the wheels won't turn. Many factors converged to cause the following incident. Roy had started to pull the tractor slowly and carefully while the little man and I watched the chicks to make sure they were away from the sides. They got scared when one of the ladies in the main pen flapped her wings and made a loud noise and ran to the back of the tractor. At that moment as Roy was trying to pull the tractor forward slowly, it lunged ahead on accident catching the chicks leg under the frame.

Her leg and possibly her hip were broken. She was in pain and as much as I want to be able to heal my animals, I would just have caused her more suffering in wasted time looking up solutions in books or trying to find an open vet.

Roy took care of the chick swiftly and humanely which was the best thing we could have done for her. I feel desperately guilty over this. My lack of understanding on construction caused this and it was a painful lesson.

The tractor is too heavy. As I added the roosting box and the ramp, the weight increased overall and I should have anticipated this when I chose the wheels. I also should have done more research on the proper installation of wheels on a chicken tractor. This coming weekend Roy and I are going to fix the wheels properly.

I have also installed and hinge on the ramp that leads to the roosting box. From now on I will only move the tractor, bad wheels or good wheels, when all the chicks are in the roosting box with the ramp raised and secured by a hook I installed.

The shame I feel in having to have learned a lesson at the expense of a chick is deep. I am again reminded of the responsibility I have taken on in raising animals. I get used to having the chickens around, learn their needs and schedules, and caring for them becomes less stressful. But I have to keep reminding myself that just because the nervous fretting stage of caring for animals has passed, there is no room to lax in safety and common sense.


  1. Awwww, so sorry that happened. I would be feeling the guilt too, I think most people would. But don't beat yourself up too badly; it was an accident after all.

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying it!

  2. Thanks for reading Karen! I'm glad you are enjoying the blog.