Monday, April 18, 2011

Pansies, Cry-Babies and Sympathetic Tender-hearts Need Not Apply

Let me warn you if you are a pansy, cry baby, sympathetic, tender hearted, pantywaist, weakling, namby-pamby or lightweight, you might not want to read this post.

Wow, that title certainly tells it like it is. No sugar-coating it around here today.

We had a rough weekend here at the ranch and I've decided to share it with you.

Most businesses don't care to share their failures and hard times with their customers. We all like to share the good stuff in life and quietly speak about our failures to only our closest confidants.

I've decided to give it to you like it is. That's ranching... there are good times, and yet as hard as we try, we also have bad times.

Our first batch of chicks this year will be remembered as one of those bad times.

Our first batch of chicks, all 400 of them, were to arrive on Friday morning. The chicks were hatched on Wednesday morning in Iowa. They are packaged and shipped via the USPS and guaranteed to be delivered within 48 hours. I don't necessarily like the idea of shipping chicks in the mail, but since we have no local hatcheries I have no choice but to have them shipped to us.

The hatchery sends them in very sturdy cardboard boxes, with several air-holes. Ours come 100 chicks per box. The box is divided into 4 compartments with 25 chicks in each compartment. The chicks are packed nice and cozy so that they can keep each other warm during their trip to our ranch. I'd show you a picture, but I don't have one. I'll post one I'm sure in later posts or you can check out this POST from last year to see what I am talking about. As you read the post, you'll understand why picture-taking was not on the agenda when the chicks came.

Like I said, the chicks were suppose to arrive on Friday morning, but on Thursday night, Central Nebraska had a spring blizzard that dumped several inches of snow causing I-80 to close for over 16 hours. I had been tracking the storm on Thursday night, via facebook friends that lived in Central Nebraska and one friend in particular that was actually stranded on the interstate for about 5 hours. I was worried about the chicks when I went to bed, but figured the interstate would be open come morning time. We didn't get any of the snow, just some rain.

When I woke in the morning, I checked the road conditions and found out that the interstate was still closed! I called our post office and asked if they knew anything about my chicks and they told me I should "backtrack" their route by calling the post offices where the mail stops. I was thinking that if they made it to at least Alliance which is 60 miles from here, I would go pick them up myself. So I called Alliance and they told me that they would actually be coming from North Platte straight into Scottsbluff which is only 20 miles from here. So I called Scottsbluff and they couldn't really tell me anything except that the interstate was closed and the truck had not left North Platte. I told the guy I was really concerned about my chicks and he told me that someone else also had chicks on that truck and had already inquired about it. Then I told him I had 400 chicks on that truck. "Oh, geez..." is what he said. Now THAT was comforting.

Well, there wasn't much for me to do except to stand by and wait for good news about the road. So wait I did... and wait... and wait... and worry... and worry...

I checked the internet every hour to see if the interstate was open yet.

I called the post office in Scottsbluff again around 1 pm and asked if they had heard anything at all. He said that they hadn't. He also said that if it got too late in the day, they would not send the truck even if the interstate opened. It was beginning to look more and more like I would not be getting the chicks until Saturday morning. I should have asked the guy at the post office what time "too late" was.

We had planned on going to Skyler's school play that night which started at 7:30 pm. I figured the chicks would come while we were at the play. Finally around 3 pm, the interstate was opened. Hallelujah! Now the question was... was it "too late" or would the truck still come. I made Dan the Man call the post office this time, since I figured the man there was getting tired of me asking him questions he didn't have the answers for.

When Dan called, the guy said that yes, the truck had left and would arrive in Scottsbluff around 7 pm and we could come pickup the chicks at the post office if we wanted to, otherwise, they would be delivered to the Lyman post office in the morning. Dan told him we would be there to meet the truck. For the health of the chicks we knew we couldn't wait until morning. Besides, we had the Scottsbluff Winter Farmers Market to get ready for in the morning.

So we anxiously awaited the chicks arrival. We showed up at the post office at 6:30 pm. We wanted to make sure we were there when the truck got there because the guy at the post office said they would not wait for us if we weren't there. I noticed another vehicle sitting in the "back lot" of the post office and it appeared as if they were waiting too. Must have been the other person who also had chicks on that truck.

At just a few minutes after 7 pm, the truck rolled in. Ah... relief, but what kind of condition would the chicks be in? It took them several minutes, probably 20 or so, to unload the truck which gave us sometime to talk with the other gal waiting for her chicks. She had 25 egg layers, her children's 4-H projects, on the truck and her children were anxiously awaiting in her van. I was really hoping that her chicks were all okay. What a disappointment for the kids if they weren't. Hers were also coming from Iowa, so they had been hatched on Wednesday as well.

When we finally got the chicks, we loaded them all up in the back seat of the truck. It was going to be a noisy drive back home, the 20 miles with 400 chicks peeping at the tops of their lungs. But I didn't mind, at least there was some peeping going on.

We got home around 8 pm and took them straight into the brooder and began taking them out one by one and dipping each beak into the water to get them to drink right away. Dan did 200 and I did 200. It was amazing that only 8 had perished during the trip, but it was also apparent that several of them were very stressed. I suspect that they spent the majority of their down time in North Platte on the truck in the freezing cold. Poor babies.

After we had all the beaks dipped we continued to stay with them in the brooder to see how they were going to do. It was going to be a long night. After the first hour we had lost about 20. I couldn't take it any longer, it was breaking my heart, and left Dan the Man and came into the house. There isn't anything worse than watching them die and not being able to do anything for them. We were doing all we could do, but it just wasn't enough.

Dan came in about 45 minutes later. Wasn't much we could do, but pray and hope for the best come morning.

Morning came and I dreadfully went out to the brooder to check on the chicks. I really didn't want to face what I knew was inevitable. 60 dead and a few more that I knew were not strong enough to make it. I felt like puking. We have never experienced a death loss like this. I am not cut out for this. My heart was aching deep within.

I wasn't worried so much about the financial loss, or production loss, but the senselessness of the situation and my helplessness. And to put more agony on the situation, we had to go to the winter farmers market and would not be able to monitor their condition for a good part of the day. Ugh... but I guess that wouldn't have mattered. The ones that were stressed were going to die regardless if I was there to watch them or not.

We did have one ray of sunshine Saturday morning. The first calf of the season was born during the night and was up and nursing on his mama! A healthy little bull calf!!

The lil' guy

Mama and baby with another cow coming
to check out the new addition to the herd.

Lil' guy feeling a little spunky
and running away from mama.
Mama running after him!

As of Monday morning it would appear that the death loss had pretty much evened out. Those who were too stressed to make it have perished. We've lost a total of 133 chicks. The hatchery is refunding us the cost of those chicks which we have lost, but we will not be able to replace that number into our production this year. Since we are on such a tight schedule and limited on the number of chicks that we can brood at one time, we are not able to re-order that number. Do you know what I mean? We'll just be out that many.

But, that is the way the ball rolls out here. Life goes on. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. It's not the first "disaster" we've had and it won't be the last. When you are dealing with life, anything can happen and does. But knowing that in my heart, doesn't make it any easier to deal with the loss of a life. The only thing that keeps me going is that I know that my God is in control, not me.

He Maketh No Mistake

My Father's way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I'm glad I know
He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I'll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.

Though night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I'll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There's so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight's far too dim;
But come what may, I'll surely trust
And leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift
And plain it all He'll make;
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

(A. M. Overton)


  1. That is such a huge loss. I guess 400 was not your number. I am like you, I hate loss of life, even if it is just a creature so small.

  2. OMG Kathi..I was in tears reading your posting. It didn't help that I came home tonight and my youngest, weakest guinea pig had passed away either. I, like you, think that each and every life, no matter how small is precious. I would have been bawling my eyes out!

  3. I had no idea we would be guests in your post. Thank you. I wondered how bad your losses totaled out to. You both looked so down that day at the Market. I'm so sorry about your baby chickies! We still would like to come see your operations some day.

    Sincerely, the other chicken lady from the post office parking lot, Laura

    Ps: don't feel badly that you called the postmaster so often. I bugged him even more. LOL

  4. Laura, You are welcome to come out any time! Give us a call. Also be sure to "Like" Open A Bar 2 Ranch on Facebook!