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Hobby Farm Life: When Livestock Die

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

The bond between owners and animals kept for farming is different to the bond people form with household pets. However, there is often a deep emotional investment for the owners of livestock. Naming your farm animals suggests you are a caring and observant farmer, and it gives the animals a feeling of being loved, of being one in a million. All our animals have a name and are deeply cared for. Some of them know their names and probably more do than we realize. I am the one who named 95% of them and know each and every one of them. The loss of a pet or farm animal can be devastating. We who love animals deeply enough to grieve their loss are not alone. People who surround themselves with animals are always saying goodbye. No matter the species, loss can leave a gaping crater in your heart. Heart-wrenching sadness, tear bursts, numbness, anger, frustration and sometimes guilt are all parts of the package that comes with pet loss. “It was only an animal,” or, “You can get another one” isn’t what you want to hear when you have lost your pet and that includes your farm animals. Farmers lose animals on their farms due to various reasons, from harsh weather conditions, diseases, and predators. Farmers face a constant battle to keep their livestock safe and healthy. Losing animals can be devastating both emotionally and financially. One of the major reasons why farms lose animals is due to predatory animals wild or domesticated including wolves, foxes, and even dogs from nearby households. They will prey on vulnerable animals such as chickens, sheep, and goats.

On our homestead Big City Little Farm, we have had a few losses. Our first loss was little Buddy. My grandson got him from our Cowboy Church’s Easter event. Buddy was a two or maybe four-day old chick. We had only had our homestead for two months. We had just begun to bring animals home to live on our farm. The goats were our first addition to our farm in March 2022. Then we brought home ducks, rabbits, donkeys and more. We had no idea what we were doing. I bought books and read everything I could to learn our new way of life. I joined social media groups and learned from everyone I could. I have made great friendships and mentors along the way. With all my knowledge I failed little Buddy. I didn’t put him under a heat lamp. I left him in the cage outside with my grand daughters Easter bunny. She didn’t get a bunny at church, so I bought her one on the way home. I hear poor Buddy chirping outside all night. The poor thing was probably freezing. Then the chirping stopped and when I woke up Buddy was on the ground dead. How was I going to tell my grandson I killed his little Buddy?

I replaced Buddy with two new bigger chicks that were supposed to be hens. A few months later they started crowing. At this time, we were growing our farm and decided to get two new bunnies for Daisy to have friends. We started buying hens from farms downsizing. We had a whirlwind of additions to the farm. We went from two roosters to a flock of hens for them. Everyone was happy. I decided to make a run for the rabbits to live outside with everyone else. They could run, dig, do bunny stuff and play to their hearts content. Everything was perfect until I noticed Daisy wasn’t moving. She had succumbed to heat stroke. My heart was broken into pieces. I had killed another one of our beloved farm pets. Another lesson learned on our new hobby farm journey. This happened just a couple months after we lost Buddy. We have lost two of our dogs along the way to old age.

The guilt that comes with making mistakes that take the life of your precious animals is strong. Sadly, mistakes are made on the farm, but you learn from them. Our farm has grown bigger day by day as we bring more animals home to live on the farm. I never intended to raise chickens and be a chicken momma, but I have become quite good at it. We got two baby chicks for Easter this year and we put them under the heat lamp in the tack shed. They are now three months old and thriving. We got two baby geese at the same time and they too are thriving. We have now added two baby turkeys to our hobby farm who are growing and thriving. Things have been going great. Farm life is the best life. We got two new dogs. I have a LGD in training and my grandkids got a Husky pup. We have been starting our business sharing our precious livestock with anyone who wants to come live the farm life for the day or week. Life is good and then tragedy struck our farm again. The Husky pup who has grown up with the chickens preyed on one of our chickens and we lost Sandy on Saturday. Another lesson learned the hard way. Again, my heart is broken. Again, I have let down one of our animals. Again, we have suffered a preventable loss.

Farm life is hard life. It is a wonderful life. It is a sad life sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We have learned so much as we have gone through this new journey of 16 months. Some lessons were quite painful and never to be repeated. I know we have so much more to learn. We had a baby donkey born in March this year and we now suspect our mini cow is pregnant. New life being born on our farm. How awesome is that? I don’t know what else life will bring to our farm, but we will get through it. At the moment our well isn’t working and getting that fixed is life or death for us. When you have over 50 heads of livestock depending on you there is no time for problems or mistakes. They count on us for their life. They are more than “just an animal”. They are our family and are loved just the same as a pet. When we lose one, they take a piece of us with them. This is the hardest part of farm life. A part I will never get used to or be prepared for.

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