Today has been a difficult day. A deeply sad and heart wrenching day.
Last night, we finished driving home from Nova Scotia. It was late when we came home, about 1 am. We knew that our farm help had been around to close up at about 6 pm, so we decided not to go see the animals. I also knew, from my farm help, that we had lost some chickens. I didn't want to go face that at 1 am. Selfishly, I wanted to go to bed, because 1 am Iowa time was 3 am Nova Scotia time and we had been driving for about 18 hours.
This morning, I went out to the chicken coops, sadly, to face more lost friends. Then I went inside the barn to check on the brooder. We left with about 60 or so chicks of various ages in the brooder. We had come home to 8 remaining. I lost penedesencas, light brahmas, bantam Sicilian buttercups, cuckoo marans, nankins, mille fleurs, porcelain millies, silkies, mottled javas, ameraucanas, frizzles, cochins, orpingtons, australorps...the list goes on and on.
Worst of all of this, was the loss of my dear, sweet Rosie. My rescued chicken, who followed me like a pup and always wanted to be with me when I was outside. She was gone, along with so many other adult hens. I was devastated at the losses. I did not count, but it was at least 30 hens, at least 6 roosters, and so many chicks I could not even begin to contemplate the losses. Rosie will be missed most of all. She was a treasure.
I suspect a number of factors combined to cause this sad result. Most likely the bitter cold combined with IB. I fear that our coop is not sufficiently insulated, even with the heat lamps in it. And meanwhile, I was at home in Nova Scotia, loving every minute of it, soaking up hugs and love from my parents, wonderful home cooked meals, the joys of the holiday. All the while, my chickens were dying and I was oblivious to the gravity of the situation. Our farm help did their best, but the conditions were bad. I cannot begin to express the guilt and shame I feel for having abandoned my flock in their time of need. It just makes my soul shrivel.
Then, I went into the goat barn. Two perfect, beautiful, babies -- pale grey and pale brown -- borne by dear Muffin, were lying dead in the corner of the barn. Frozen. I wept. When we bought her, we had been told her due date was November 27. I believe a mistake was made, and that in fact, it was December 27. We would never have gone if we had known. We thought she was just looking pudgy because we'd been giving her the extra grain, expecting babies in November. But no, she bore beautiful twins, most likely last night, while I selfishly trudged off to bed. Our farm help assured me he was in the barn around 6 pm and no babies were there at that time. Our sweet Muffin gave us our first baby goats, and all we cared about was falling asleep. We did not check on her before we went to bed, assuming she was well and warm, in with the other goats and the llamas.
So now, I try to face tomorrow, and the fact that life will go on on our farm, but the horror of this morning will live long in my memory, and the guilt that I feel will be hard to overcome.
The one saving moment today - we went to the Animal Rescue League and adopted two Sicilian donkeys. They are very small - smaller than our largest Nubians. There is a mother donkey, maybe 4 or 5 years old they estimated, and her son, about a year old. He is gelded. She is grey-brown with the classic donkey cross on her back. He is all dark brown and smaller than her. They are lovely. I will do my best to give them the home they deserve. We have named them Willow and Springfield. Springfield was a famous racehorse in England and has special significance in our family. Willow is named after the beautiful, graceful tree of the same name. I will blog about them more in the near future.
Today, I pray to Mother Earth to gently hold the souls of those animals that I have loved, and those that I never had a chance to know. May they rest at peace in her arms.