It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the day that we pack up our first big batch of meat chickens to carry to be processed. This has been an amazing experience, filled with joy and many major lessons. On March 2nd, we got 550 baby chickens. Prior to that, the most chickens we have raised at a time was fifty. We decided at the beginning of the year that we were going “all in” on chickens. And through this experience, we have had the opportunity to learn so much as we have raised these babies from day old chicks. I’m excited about applying all the lessons with our next batch and I know we will continue to grow and get better with time. Through this, we have learned how to build a 600 square-foot brooder and keep it heated to a constant 95 degrees (that’s more challenging that I expected) We’ve learned how to successfully feed and water 550 very hungry chickens. These chicks survived through two floods, one of which resulted in a catastrophic loss of more than 40 chickens. That was a night that the three of us will certainly never forget. A few weeks ago, one of our water lines broke in the brooder and by the time we got there, we had a giant mess on our hands. We were almost finished with t he assembly of the schooner but we hadn’t gotten the tarp on it. Steve, Grace and I, along with some help from the John Deere, successfully (well almost) installed an 800 pound tarp on a 48 x 20 schooner in the dark. We finally got the chickens safely moved about 10:30 and then had the job of sadly evaluating the damage. We lost more than 40 birds and have spent weeks cleaning to prepare for the next round of chicks. I’m sure that someday we will look back on that night fondly, but right now, I still can’t believe that the three of us moved 500 chickens in the dark and installed a gigantic tarp just in the nick of time before a big storm. It’s a bit overwhelming as I look back at that night. Through the crazy times and the daily tasks, I’ve fallen in the love with these chickens. Tonight, we face another big storm and I’m prayerful that they will all be safe. We went out a few minutes ago to check everything and I teared up as we were looking at them all piled up like a giant blanket of chickens. I’m proud of them and I’m proud of us. As we began the process of raising chickens, we really debated about whether or not to share so much about their daily progress. We know it’s difficult for some people to know their food that well. But our philosophy is, and will always be, that it’s better to know your farmer and know your food. We are proud of how we raise our birds. We give them the very best quality food available. We are proud that they are able to live on pasture and have fresh grass to find bugs and other goodies to eat. We do our best to protect them from predators and disease. We are very fortunate that outside of the flood catastrophe, we lost very few birds. We (OK, I….) talk to them everyday. Every night before bed, we check on them; I give them the nightly weather report so they know what to expect and I tell them I love them. So tomorrow, as we pack them up and get them ready for their final day, I will be sad. I know that they were raised for a greater purpose, to fulfill and sustain our family and the families who support us. It is a beautiful circle of life, but it does make it challenging on days like this when we know we have to say goodbye. Some have told me not to get too attached, but I think that birds that are loved are just better birds. As I’ve said before, my mama once told me that our job is to give our animals the best life we can while we have them. That’s what we do here on the farm and we are thankful for their sacrifice and for everything that they teach us every day. We are thankful to all of you for your support and most of all we are thankful to our Maker for this beautiful opportunity. We pray that we will be able to make a living doing what we love and that we can provide a service that will be of value to the community. And we hope that we will spread a little joy throughout the process. Thanks for sharing in our journey.
Great blog, straight from your heart. You gave your chickens a great life. How wonderful it would be if all animals knew the love that yours do.
Just like your Mom you have “The Gift” of sharing your heart in very moving words!
I love y’all & I’m proud of the work you’re doing.