We have had our share of losses this year on our little farm. We buried one of our favorite ducks today. He was a Muscovy named Whale, and he died of unknown causes. He seemed a little sad and slow for the last few days, but I couldn’t figure out if he was truly sick or just lonely because his mate was busy nesting in an effort to finally hatch some eggs this year. He was still eating, drinking, and bathing as of yesterday, but this morning we walked outside and found him dead. I’m sad both because I really liked him and because we were relying on him to fertilize the eggs of our female Muscovy, Pepper. Poor Pepper has lost 3 different nests full of eggs this year to hungry snakes, and today my husband caught a snake eating some of the eggs she is currently trying to hatch.
While I was visiting my family, 23 of our young hens were slaughtered by some predator in one night. Nine ducks were picked off, 1-2 at a time in the following nights. All this while having a livestock guardian dog living with the birds. After I returned home, we divided our fenced pasture into smaller paddocks so that Buddy will have to stay closer to the birds, and we put our other dog, Jezebel, in the section of pasture next to the birds with the hope that she will clear out any possums, raccoon, or other vermin that would enjoy killing our flock.
Throughout the last year we have also lost our beloved goose, Ruby, our Muscovy Donkey, our original 3 male Mallards, 3 turkeys, our beloved rooster Dragonfly, two of our original laying hens, 6 young laying hens we got in the winter, and numerous chicks, ducklings, goslings, and baby turkeys.
While it’s hard to butcher our own birds, I console myself with the thought of the happy life and quick death for the bird, and the quality meat for us. This senseless killing by predators or unknown disease is really hard to deal with!
There are times when the discouragement feels so heavy, it’s almost debilitating. Almost. But one of the best things about living on a farm is that I simply do not have time to wallow in self-pity and despondency. As we tighten up fences, research diseases, and shore up housing for the animals, I do my best to be thankful for the lessons learned and try not to repeat the mistakes I have made, holding on to the hope that one day we have true abundance here.
It brings to mind one of my favorite verses from the Bible:
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14
I know this verse is talking about much greater things than farming and chickens, but in all things I want to strive to do my best and bring glory to God, so why not learn this lesson of endurance from our birds? It may well prepare us for much greater challenges in the future.