Blurring the line between livestock and pet

Discussion in 'Pets' started by Camelotsunrise, Jun 3, 2017.

  1. #1 Camelotsunrise, Jun 3, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
    Thought I would share with the group, my experience as a new homesteader dealing with livestock animals for the first time, so people considering this lifestyle, avoid the heartache I caused myself. My husband and I moved from Seattle to remote country late 2015 to homestead. 2016 was our first full year in this lifestyle. Last May, I bought 3 buff orpington pullets from a feedstore. I was so jazzed we were doing this grand adventure together and that these little chicks were our very first livestock animals. I decided to give them names and proclaimed that even after they were done laying eggs, these hens would get to live out their natural lives on our small farm. I allow my birds to free range; our property is a chicken's paradise. Free range makes for the healthiest, happiest birds, but it comes with risks. That summer we lost one hen to a coyote. I searched for her for two days before finding the blood trail and surmising her fate. Late February, we lost another one to Sour Crop. I tried best I could to save the second hen, following all the helpful advice I could find on the topic. She had bouts where it seemed like she was improving, only to fall even more ill a few days later. When it was crystal clear she was not going to be recovering, we euthanized her. Broke my heart because I blamed myself for her illness. I figured since I'm a novice chicken keeper, it must be my fault. I've since learned that disease tends to be genetic. I still blame myself because we should have put her down much sooner than we did. She suffered needlessly.

    So that left me with one hen. Hens are social creatures by nature. On weekdays, my husband works out of a home office doing B2B IT security until we get everything paid off and live debt free. During business hours, I do most of the *homesteading* type work: growing crops, tending to chickens, prepping sites for future out buildings & farm pond, etc. I spend the lion's share of my waking hours outdoors working in the dirt. It was a natural progression that my chicken and I started spending more and more time together. She liked eating the worms and bugs I dug up and I enjoyed her company. Before I even realized it happened, I stopped thinking of her as a livestock animal that I treat as a pet, and saw her only as a pet. She in turn, started treating me like a chicken (lol). I got to know her vocalizations so well, I always knew what her mood was just by listening to her talk. She went from being a stand offish chicken when she was in a flock of three, to being my constant companion. She would sometimes "knock" on the door with her beak to get me outside. She even began letting me pet her gently, something she never tolerated in the past. In April, I bought five more buff orp chicks and two weeks after that I received seven Chantecler chicks from a hatchery. Part of it was because we needed more laying hens and the chanteclers would be for meat (except the best four we will keep for breeding), but an even more important reason (in my mind) was to make my big chicken happy. Integrating new chickens into an existing flock (even if it is only a flock of one) has to be done over a period of time with constant supervision. We're repurposing an outdoor shower house on our property to be a much bigger, more expansive chicken coop for when all the birds were ready to be housed together. All these things we are doing/did are for the good of the homestead, but if I'm being completely honest with myself, I did these things for her, to make her happy. Emotionally, I couldn't have cared less about what was good for the homestead.

    A week ago, my girl began exhibiting symptoms of Egg Yolk Peritonitis (EYP). This condition causes the newly developed yolk to go into the abdominal cavity rather than the ovaduct. The yolk becomes infected with E. Coli which in turn, infects the intestinal walls, culminating in a slow, painful death for the animal. Like Sour Crop, EYP isn't necessarily preventable and there is no real cure for it. I learned this the hard way after driving an hour to town and begging two feedstores and a vet clinic to please sell me antibiotics. I didn't know new regulations had been passed banning feedstores from selling liquid antibiotics for chickens, so I went to the nearest vet clinic and begged. They told me I'd have to bring in a fecal sample for testing and that the results should be ready in one or two days. I was going out of my mind trying to find something to help her NOW. All my prudence went right out the window. I was spending money we don't have on treatments/supplements/remedies that didn't work, and investing precious time on saving a life that ultimately could not be saved. I did what no serious homesteader should do: I blurred the line between livestock animal and pet.

    Four days ago, we euthanized my beautiful girl. Putting her down was the hardest thing we've had to do since moving here. Living in remote country, when it is time to euthanize an animal, you are the one to do it. Even when it is the right, humane thing to do, it doesn't make it any easier to end the life of a creature you love. I almost did not go through with it. I wanted her to live so badly, I was half trying to convince myself that is what she wanted also. I read wise words from a chicken farmer when asked if it was possible for a chicken to feel love for their human owners. He said, "if you feel love from your chickens, then it is love......unless that feeling prevents you from doing the right thing."

    My selfish side wanted her to stay with me, but I could see in my baby girl's eyes, she suffered greatly. After my husband ended her pain, I wrapped her body in a blanket and gave her a proper burial in the wilderness part of our property. I prayed to God, in all His kindness and mercy, to bless this little creature with a human soul and another chance at life.

    I've been playing serious catch up around the homestead, trying to push my broken heart aside to get my work done. I'm late getting the asparagus field weeded. I'm late harvesting the rhubarb. I'm late planting my onions. I'm late on everything because I developed inappropriate feelings for a livestock animal, and I allowed it to cloud my judgement. I put her happiness before my responsibilities. I don't regret any of it. I should, but I don't.

    Yesterday, I sat on the porch step watching the new chickens play. The buff orps are in their teenage phase, zooming all over the yard, being crazy, having fun. One jumped in my lap and actually snuggled. Wow. I didn't even know chickens did that. My heart is so full of grief from losing my girl, there isn't room to love another one right now, thank god. My goal is to keep enough chickens so that we are never in a situation of having only one chicken again. Having gone through it once, I already know how the story ends. If I am to take homesteading seriously, there is no time for having a pet. This life may be simple, but I gotta tell ya.......the simple life isn't an easy life. It sometimes means making very difficult decisions you never want to make.

    RIP Ms. Boss: May God find it in His heart, to grant my wish for you.


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  2. If a guy keep a dog

    if a girl keep a horse

    just like weed growers, you do get attached to stuff,

    weedites groom and care for their plants as does homesteaders with their creatures

    putting names on these creatures is human,

    no biggy shrinks even call it anthropomorphism?

    in time to come you will easy give life to a creature care for it

    butcher it, then eat it

    its what is demanded from your lifestyle imo

    as reality can be shocking too

    good luck
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. Death is a part of life. There is beauty in it. Some stars shine brightly for only a little while and that "twinkle" sticks with us far longer than a constant light.

    My approach is to not intentionally attach myself to anything, and if it happens as a byproduct (and it will), then I was meant to experience that pain and heartache. You can't help but feel attached to certain things...but don't let it prevent you from pouring out your love due to loss. Life is about that loss. Without loss, we would not know what it is to cherish.

    Won't try and explain to you how this touched me, but it did. Chickens have brought so many smiles to my face over the years. Can't explain it. Won't try, cool to see someone else has this bond.
    • Friendly Friendly x 1

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