Homesteading shows on television give you a glimpse into the reality of life on the homestead. There are trials and tribulations along the way and the don’t always work themselves out. The reality of living this life style is that animals and plants must give their lives to allow us to live. Nature can be cruel and everything does not go as planned all the time. When our pigs go to the butcher we are thankful but a little sad. When we come out in the morning to do chores and a predator has taken one of our flock we are angry and sad. And when we have to cull an injured animal we are just plain sad. It is not a lifestyle for the faint of heart. Things die and that’s the way it is. So last week when we had a chick born with what looked to be a birth defect we knew what the outcome could be. Its leg was twisted and he couldn’t walk. It flopped around and couldn’t stand at all.
We searched the internet for answers. Chick leg problems are common, but this was not the typical problem. We decided to put it in a separate incubator to stay warm while we made a plan. This was a normal homestead situation, often you have to come up with a remedy to a problem that is unique. Whether it is fitting plants into a garden or building that pasture fence in your special location, you have to make the decision because you are your own boss. So we decided to set the chick up in the incubator with a towel on the bottom so it was soft and it wouldn’t hurt itself, and could also get footing if it tried to walk. We gave it a very shallow water dish so it wouldn’t drown, and a bit of food. The poor thing would just flop all over the incubator. Tracy decided it would need food and her motherly instincts took over. She mixed some food with water and fed it with a medicine dropper. She would hold it to make it comfortable and feed it several times a day. Just like a newborn baby, the chick would let us know when it was hungry or needed something. Things did not look good so we tried to splint the bad leg but that made it worse. At one point, we even found the chick soaking wet and cold from falling in its water and used a hair dryer to warm it up and dry its feathers. Every morning we would check on it, expecting the inevitable. After a few days we looked into the incubator and noticed it was standing braced up against the wall. We were so happy to see this progress. The problem was as soon as it was away from the wall it would tumble over. We kept up with the feeding and watering, we even named it little foot. The next day we were holding it and noticed it was using the injured leg to push down. We saw this as a great sign. The chick was also eating and drinking so we became optimistic. The next day it ran across the incubator and stood up on its own. It was still wobbly, but was actually standing. By the next day it was running around in its space and chirping. The chick wanted out. We moved it to a small brooder and it seemed to be doing well. It could hear the other chickens, and would call to them. So finally we put it with the other birds.
The other chicks were a little bigger, but it began nipping tails and pushing his way into the food. We hope that the little one will continue to improve but we know that life is very fragile. We love to see it running with the big boys and girls and can’t wait to see what a pretty bird it will become. Life on the homestead or anywhere else is never guaranteed. Living this life style brings that fact home to us time and again. It makes us appreciate our life and it makes us appreciate where our food comes from and the animals that provide it for us. You can never take things for granted and it really makes us understand how delicate the original homesteader life was. One bad crop or a sickness going through their animals could also spell death for the original homesteaders. We learn so many lessons from our homestead life style and we even come out on top once in a while. Little foot is a great reminder that sometimes prayers are answered, and there never is a good time to give up.