Last week was like Christmas morning here on the farm. Once again Ryan brought a brown, peeping box home from the post office. The kids get so excited for “chick day.” Everyone gathers ’round the box and anxiously waits for Ryan to open it up, revealing little fuzzy yellow fluff balls within. Even though this is our third batch of chicks, we cannot believe how tiny and adorable they look.
We are not adding new laying hens to our flock this year, so these are all meat birds. We ordered 25 broilers, 5 white Pekin ducks, and a pair of white goslings.
Unfortunately, very soon after arrival, one of the goslings started exhibiting some troubling behavior, and within a few hours it was dead. Although we’ve only been farming for a year, we are no strangers to loss. It is always heartbreaking to watch something struggle for life. We feel helpless, not fully understanding the problem or solution, and questioning our level of intervention. Not only do I hate watching an animal suffer, I have to guide my kids through it, who are also watching and wondering. They have many questions and I do my best to answer them. My honest answer is usually “I don’t know.”
We made up a special box for the gosling in the house with a heat lamp, warm water and clean bedding, away from inconsiderate brood mates. Every few minutes we’d dip its beak in the water so it wouldn’t dehydrate. Elijah was monitoring the gosling and remarked, “I don’t like watching it suffer. It would be better if it just died.” Indeed, I felt relief when we peered into the box for the last time and found the gosling had finally died.
On a more positive note, I am amazed how resilient and hardy 99% of the chicks and ducklings are when we receive them. They arrive hungry, happy and healthy. They immediately begin eating, drinking and growing. Besides the unfortunate gosling, we have not lost a single animal in this batch. We have never had sickness or disease go through our free-ranging flock.
The chicks, ducklings and remaining gosling continue to grow every day. These are all “commercial” breeds that grow large quickly. In two more weeks we’ll release them from the brooder to begin grazing and free ranging on the farm!
Although we just experienced some snow here, new chicks in the brooder is a sure sign of a long-awaited spring.