The Best and Worst of Homesteading

If homesteading was a video game, I reached a level up. Then, as quickly as I reached the next level, my little homesteading Mario would be bit by a Goomba. Now, I have to start the level all over again.

How It Started…

We had two of our black australorp hens go broody. I wanted to see if we could, in fact, hatch our own chicks.

I took one of our chicken tractors and asked Hubs to put the tarp covering on it. After I fashioned two cardboard boxes into nesting boxes and moved the hens inside on some eggs.

The hens had to be moved because while they were still in the coop, they were “stealing” eggs other hens had laid, and we were getting very few for ourselves. Also, they were being picked on relentlessly by the other chickens.

After putting food and water inside the chicken tractor, I deemed it “The Hatching Spa”. I was not especially hopeful it would prove fruitful, but wanted to give it a fair shot.

A couple of weeks went by with nothing happening. The Friday before Memorial Day – the day we were to leave to go camping – Little Miss came inside and told me she saw an eggshell in The Hatching Spa.

Doubtful, I walked out to investigate. I saw it and thought it was just discolored pine shavings. When I picked it up, I realized it was, in fact, an eggshell. That’s the same moment I heard the cheeping.

We Have A Chick!

Gently wrestling with the broody hen, I lifted her up and saw the cutest, sweetest, tiniest little baby chick. It was black and yellow and a healthy little cheeper.

I was in total shock and disbelief. Picking it up and looking it over, I could not believe I was holding a Hilltop-Homestead-born chick.

As an additional bonus, I noted that my favorite vegetable in the world – the Honey Nut Squash – had sprouted up from the seeds I had planted several days prior. What a day!

It was hard to focus on leaving to go camping when we had our very first chick! I had leveled up in the homesteading world and had to sit down to let my mind reconcile the miracle of it all.

Situating everyone back in the nesting boxes, I departed, somewhat reluctantly, to go camping.

How It Ended

We had a glorious time camping. The site was right next to the lake, the sunsets were amazing, and despite the tent nearly being blown away and worrying we’d all be struck by lightning, we had a wonderful time.

Arriving home late Sunday, I was excited to peek in on our baby cheep-cheep.

Walking in the door of The Hatching Spa, I was a little surprised to note both hens were still sitting in their nesting boxes. I figured Mama One would be out showing Baby Cheep Cheep how to be a chicken.

Gently wrestling her up again I saw no chick. I lifted Mama Two up off her eggs and saw another eggshell, but no chick. This meant we had another chick hatch while we were gone. Where were they?

I lifted up the hens again. No chicks. Not a sign of one to be found. I frantically began looking around The Hatching Spa, and that’s when I saw something that made my stomach drop.

Before we left, I had placed barriers outside the chicken tractor where there may have been any gaps, to prevent the chicks from getting out. One of them was away from the edge of the tractor, and there was disturbed earth where there should have been grass.

Something, some low-life, predatory shmuck of an animal, moved the wooden block I had placed, dug its way into the pen, and took the chicks.

Homesteading: Emotional Rollercoaster

Initially, I was furious with nature. We had an exciting, miraculous event take place on our homestead and an opportunistic thief [of joy] helped itself to our baby birds.

Additionally, I was mad at myself for failing to make The Hatching Spa safer before we left. I placed barriers outside to keep curious chicks inside. I never once thought I would need to predator-proof a chicken tractor right near our house.

Too late to make a difference, I spent a good thirty minutes fortifying the chicken tractor. I moved all the barriers to the inside, using bricks and rocks to make anything too heavy for a hungry swearword predator to move and make its way in to steal its meal.

Reassuring the broody hens, who were still sitting on the remaining eggs, I told them it was my fault – not theirs – the chicks met their demise. I told them I was proud of them for being good mamas.

The Best and Worst

I went from being furious with nature to being upset about my own failures as a homesteader. Almost immediately after we had leveled up in our homesteading venture, we leveled down again. We lost ground instead of gaining any.

There are a few days left before a full incubating cycle are up. There’s still a chance we may get some baby birds, but I definitely feel like our window of opportunity has closed for this year.

Some lessons are harder than others. When life and death are involved, those lessons are the hardest for me to absorb.

We experienced the best part of homesteading: new life. In the course of the same weekend, we experienced the worst part of homesteading: loss of life.

Even still, while it’s a hard pill to swallow at times, there is no lifestyle I’d rather be living. Our homesteading life here on the hilltop is not a fancy one, but it is a favored one.

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