Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Starting Over

Have you ever worked hard on something only to lose it in a flash?

In May I bought some hatching eggs and babysat them for 21 days in the incubator, turning them at least 3 times per day and watching that the temperature and humidity stayed just right. I ended up have around a 80% hatch, which is great for 1) a first-time hatcher and 2) for shipped eggs.

One of the eggs was this guy. He was an egg from my own flock--father, Romeo, and mother Chantel--but not a true pure breed. He was the first egg to hatch and displayed all the marking of a boy from day one, even though I don't know how to sex chicks.

I kept the chicks in a brooder in the basement for about 3 weeks, until they feathered. Then I moved them to an outside pen, where I kept a heat light on during the night and let them get some time on grass. Finally, I moved them to my new coop, where all 20 chicks had lots of space to move and a low perch to rest on.

Only a few days later, I came into the coop one morning to find 18 dead chicks and a raccoon sitting in the rafters gloating at me. The coon got away (I had no gun) and came back the very next night (really morning around 6 am) to finish off the 2 that escaped the first massacre.

Finally after several nights and lots of fighting, we caught the coon and sent it to eternal sleep, but the chicks I put so much money and effort into were gone.

Have you ever had something like that happen? I know I've heard of authors finishing a whole book only to lose it in a hard drive crash. What did you learn from the loss? Were you able to start over and do better the second time around?

I'm starting over. I now have 30 chicks brooding with another 18 eggs incubating. I've learned more about protecting against predators, but I've also learned that sometimes no matter what you do, trouble will find its way through. Then you just have to learn to go with the punches and start over.


Pepper Basham said...

Oh Becky, how very sad.
During our move 3 years ago, our desktop became damaged in the move - I lost 2 novels.

Even greater than that, I've watched all the effort I've placed in my kids at work (who have Autism), diminish when they had to transfer somewhere else. One thing I had to keep reminding myself was that God used the process to teach me.

Lauralee Bliss said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. I remember once losing all my tropical fish to a malfunctioning tank heater. Yes, they were fish, but some we'd have for years, caring for them, and I was deeply saddened over the loss. But I realized too it was okay to grieve and that God understood.

Debby Mayne said...

I'm sorry to hear about your chicks, Becky. I know how heartbreaking that must have been. My grandparents had chickens, cows, goats, and a mule, so I know how much work goes into the care of farm animals.

You mentioned hard drive crashes. I've lost work on a computer that crashed, and I had to start over. Although it was upsetting when it happened, I think the second time I wrote it was better. But now I do several things to protect my work. I back everything up in at least 2 places.

Erica Vetsch said...

:( Poor chicks. Poor chick-hatcher. I'm glad you got the raccoon.

Janet Lee Barton said...

So sorry about your chicks, Becky. I'm sure that broke your heart. Glad you got that raccoon!

I lost a weeks work last year. It just disappeared. No hard drive crash--but the work was gone. Unlike Debby, I'm not sure the second version was better, but I learned much. I now back up on the computer, on an external hard drive, and online. But what I really learned was to look to the Lord to help me get it back.

I pray your new chicks will stay safe.

Edna said...

my husband has hatched baby chicks in an incubator before and raised them to be laying hens, I think when you do it at home this way there are not many of them will hatch, He not has 6 hens and we furnish 3 family with all the eggs they can use and I even pickle them for my grandaughter and freeze some sometimes, eggs that is.


Lynette Sowell said...

Oh, your poor chicks. I would love to start some, but we live in town so that's out of the question. Love the fresh eggs, and the chicks are precious. That was one of my favorite and most memorable class projects from elementary school, hatching chicks...

I've learned to e-mail myself a copy of my WIP at the end of each writing session. That way I have a copy, wherever I am. And if my computer fizzles, I have a backup.

Becky said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Lynette, many town people are starting to keep a small backyard flock (say 4 hens). Many towns allow it. NYC and Chicago do. :)

Lisa Faye Harman said...

My heart just broke after reading about your little chicks. I love chickens. I think they're adorable! I love your determination and spunk to learn from the situation and begin again. What a great methaphor for the writing life. I think many of us who pursue the dream of writing are on a journey with much time spent in the incubator only to find sorrow in the coop. What a blessing it is when we can find joy in both the incubator and the coop.

Mary Connealy said...

Becky, I think you'd better get tougher egg layers.

Think Alligators next time.

Sorry. The best example I've got isn't life and death like your chicks. It sounds like you were doing great with them.

You should talk to Shelly Bates. She's a chicken-meistro. She could probably tell you just what to do.

Ninja chicks maybe?

Becky said...

That is a great way of putting it, Lisa.

I've got 2 eggs hatching today! :)

Ann said...

I can sure sympathize with the raccoon scenario. With all of the predators out here we have had to start over with poultry a couple of times.

It's been a learning experience for us. We can see how our enemy prowls like a lion (raccoon, possum, bobcat, coyote, owl, hawk, skunk, rat) seeking someone (or some hen) to devour.

Some of our hens determined to set on their eggs this year. Only a few hatched.

One ended up with one chick but she watched over it so well, hiding it under her wings. She would also scratch around and find chick-sized bits of food for it. When the chick was old enough to roost, it sat on the mom's feet and hid under there.

Our kids loved watching those two. The hen and chick helped illustrate how the Lord watches over us.

PamelaTracy said...

Years ago I read a book that said if you held the chick upside-down and it tried to peck at you, it was male. If it hung there all limp, it was female (Hmmm). So, one year I took my first graders to a farm and, yup, there were baby chicks. The dad (field trip to a student's home) caught me picking up his chickens (they all just hung there) and asked me waht I was doing. He laughed and laughed. He'd never heard of anything so silly. I've never tried again.
Sorry about your chicks, Becky.