Its a word that gets used by tiny hobby folks, small farmers and big, its something the vets say.. fading
Its something that is muttered with a scowl by those that have been working this life for years.. we say it with a low voice, a tightening in our eyes and a sound of defeat mixed with a edge of anger
Those that are newer, they say it with wider eyes, with heartbreak in their voices and often with tears in their eyes as they share about the “one”
If you are new to homesteading or livestock, Fading is when the baby is born (sometimes in a hard birth, or sometimes in a normal one) and they latch, or drink, they get up on their shaky feet and you get a few hours, a few days or sometimes even a few weeks and then suddenly..
Its all downhill.. a slow, steady downhill slide..
This is all to fresh for me.. you see I had a fading chick in my hatch.. one of my little wee blue chicks, it hatched like normal, it drank and eat, it slept in the normal way.. then I started watching it.. I started picking it up more.. looking at eyes (clear and bright) I started checking its bottom, clean and dry, I started watching its placement under the heat lamp.. lots of room for it in the sleep circle , I held it while it drank and it helpfully poo’d in my hand.. normal..
And yet, I knew that it was going to be a fading chick, I knew that it was going to die.. because it was not growing.. as the other chicks shot up in size, as they starting their wing tip feathers coming in, as they all made happy chick sounds..
This wee tike was still pretty much the size of a newly hatched, no feathering out.. something in its system was not quite right.. I gave it med drops in its special water, I ground up its feed even finer for ease of eating. It slept hard and for longer, I took it out and made sure it got extra water and soft feedings X times a day with no siblings.. and then after three days of watching it slow down..
I watched it change the way it lay, no longer in the happy chick way but in the I don’t feel well way.
I put it down. I could have waited for it.. but that’s not me.. I will not allow a baby to suffer when I know what is coming.. It could have hung on for a few more days at most. I was soft and gentle with that chick (as was its due and right) cooing words and soft hands and extra care
But when after the chick went into its soft bed, up came the hard eyed farmgal.. the one that growled to her husband.. I don’t think that chick is going to make it..
The one that wrote notes in her book and then stared at the data on the page and the truth it told.. the most telling of all.. the Fading chicks weight vs the healthy chicks weights..
Data does not lie.. its just letters and numbers and there is a truth in them. Its part of the reason that I will start hard tracking when something is having a issue, when I look, I see it with my eyes, when I touch I feel it with my hands and when I am with it, I feel the emotions that go with it all.. the hope’s I have, the desire to make it all better, the drive to just fine a way that correct whatever it is. The urge to say.. I am sure its just a little better.
I am not sure how to end this post.. So I will go with this..
Keep the hope..
Learn how to do support, how to do the medical help you are legally allowed, always feel like you can consult your vet or if in doubt on what it is, bring in the vet (if you have a vet that will do so and its reasonable to do so)
Track your data, it will show you the answer and the patterns and give you hard facts for your vet (and they will love you for it)
Learn where that line is between working to keep alive to get better and working to keep them alive for just another few hours, or a few days.. Don’t let them linger..
Don’t beat yourself up about it.. if you have done the above.. you did your job.. shelter, warmth, bedding, food, water, proper medication and so forth.
Afterwards, take the time to sit with the healthy.. soak it in as a balm.. A reminder of the joy of it going right..
I’ve a fairly extensive livestock first aid ‘kit’ on the farm. I can quickly bandage a large wound until the vet arrives, I can ‘dose’ with a selection of meds if needed, and so on. My best purchase was a stethoscope – when our house cow had an issue a couple of years ago, I was able to have a listen to her rumen and describe exactly what I was hearing and simply drop by the vet office to pick up the meds that we’re waiting for me. Any vet appreciates as much information as you can provide – even if they’re on their way out already. My cell phone is part of my kit as well – when my gelding cut himself on a broken bale feeder, I simply messaged the vet a quick pic and she knew immediately it would need stitching.
And yes you did the right (but hard) thing. We’ve had to make those decisions as well – not pleasant, but proper.
Well said, and great point about the phone, makes things very helpful when you can send a photo and a med kit for the critters to me is a must.
Sorry about your little chick. I agree about not dragging it out when you know it is going to end the same no matter what you do. It is hard, but part of the life. Until we started raising livestock I didn’t really realize how many babies die. Some of them just aren’t able to survive outside the womb/egg. A hard fact of farm life. But soaking in the life and the joy does help with the loss.
Thanks for your kind words, and I think its something that is very hard for new folks, because its true, you can do everything right and you are still going to lose babies. Indeed a hard fact of farm life.
Bon Voyage, Little Spark.