August 2, 2009

just need to vent a little

Another crazy week gone by. We processed 240 chickens, had a health scare with our 'teenage' batch in the brooder which was easily remedied by administering garlic and vitamin E (no antibiotics here, thank you!), moved the teenage batch out to pasture to make room for new chicks, got 51 turkeys which arrived early and got a new batch of chicks. The new batch came with problems which 4 days later, we're still feeling the repercussions of...
I spent Wednesday at the farmers market selling while Nate spent the day cleaning out and setting up the brooder to get ready for the new chicks. It was a LONG day but we were all set up and ready to go. That night, knowing we would have an early wake up call from the post office telling us our chicks were there, we brought the phone into the bedroom.
So the phone rings sometime before 7am and we are utterly exhausted. Nate answers and of course, it's the post office. Unlike other times they've called, I hear Nate say "Oh No!" and "That's awful." Oh great, what now.
Ordering chicks through the mail can be a crap shoot. We are solely at the mercy of the postal service which is, to say the least, not a good feeling. Unless we have the set up needed to hatch our own chicks, which is something we're entirely not ready for, this is the way it has to be. When an egg hatches, the hatchery counts them out, puts them is a shipping box which is square with lots of holes and divided into 4 quadrants. They usually put about 100 to a box with 25 in each quadrant. This way the little guys keep each other nice and warm. The hatchery ships them Priority which takes 2 days. Once a chick hatches, it doesn't need any food or water for the first 48 hours because it's still living off of the inside of the egg.
These little puff balls are super susceptible to 2 things....stress and temperature. Both of which can make or break a life. So far, we have had very good experiences getting chicks with few weather-related exceptions.
So Nate hangs up the phone and says "A bunch of them are dead", "The post office just told me a bunch of bullshit, they're blaming it on the hatchery." Now, I'm sure I don't need to tell you how devastating this is. We feel a tremendous amount of guilt and sadness when something like this happens. Yes, these guys are going to eventually give their lives to become food but we love and respect all of our animals and work our butts of striving to give them the best lives possible. We can talk about eating food grown, raised and handled with good, loving energy as opposed to something treated inhumanely, infused with bad energy but that would be a whole separate post.
So off Nate goes to the post office, not knowing what he's going to find while I head up to the brooder to turn the heat lights on and get the feed ready. When he gets to the post office he sees 2 chick boxes in black garbage bags sitting outside. As he walks up to them, he can hear peeping coming from the bags. The post office had attempted to throw out the evidence, which was 2 boxes with the dead chicks and left some live ones in there! The remainder of the boxes were inside the building. He didn't say much to them because he was fuming. He grabbed the garbage bags, and the good boxes and headed back to the farm.
I start unloading and counting the chicks, dipping their beaks in water, trying to get them to eat and drink as soon as possible. We're still not sure what happened to cause the deaths or when in transit it occurred but somewhere along the way, the postal workers noticed that there many dead and proceeded to take out the lives ones and cram them all into one box. I unloaded 200 chicks from one box. Needless to say, that was way too many for one box. The chicks at the bottom were smashed and barely alive. We had to euthanize a few who were in really bad shape but I spent the morning feeding a bunch with a syringe trying to get them to pull through. So far, including the DOAs, we lost about 65 and amazingly, the ones who made it are doing really well.
We called the hatchery right away and while they know it's not theirs or our fault, they will compensate us for them. And the post office will have to answer to them as they try to track the chicks and attempt to find out what happened. Our guess is that they got left outside by some insensitive ass in the heat or something. I wont even describe the picture of what we saw in the boxes that were in the trash bags. It was awful.
We are more than grateful that the survivors are doing so well and hope that the cumulative stress of their journey doesn't claim any more lives from this batch. As I type this, they are running and jumping around as if they've already forgotten all about it.
And us? Well, we haven't forgotten. We're looking around for hatcheries that we can drive to, to pick up our chicks in the future.

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