Lesson 767 – One bird at a time

First of all, I want to say “thank you” to everyone who reached out to me on this blog and Facebook yesterday. The chicken community really does understand what these feathered critters mean to us and I have to tell you that every comforting word did its job. I still, and will always, carry the guilt for this one, but it was wonderful to be given so many hugs from fellow chicken owners.

One person, who hatched some chicks yesterday even named a chick “Violet” in honor of our little bird. How beautiful is that? Violet’s spirit lives on.

I did get one letter from a woman who has decided to not follow me anymore because of what happened to Violet. She raised some interesting points in her email (which is now a Facebook post.)

She chastised me and said that you should NEVER introduce less than 3 chicks into a flock and while this is ideal, it’s not going to happen with some backyard chicken owners. Concord NH, for example, allows you to have 5 hens in your flock. If one died over the winter, you can either wait until more die to replace them or try to replace that single bird. Most people go with replacing what was lost. Flocks simply come in all sizes.

I got Violet as a single chick, just like I had gotten Charlie as a single chick. Neither bird had been planned but I wasn’t going to say no to them. In Charlie’s case, she lived because I was willing to do her foot surgery. In Violet’s case, she died, not because she was a single bird, but because I didn’t recognize a danger in the coop.

Both were raised in the house because it was too cold (we live in NH) to put them outdoors, if I could have put them near my bed at night I would have, but I think my husband would have put his foot down on that one. I didn’t raise them indoors as pets and then throw them to the wolves as one poster suggested. I raised them indoors because that is what I always do with my chicks.

I have, in the past, successfully introduced one bird at a time to our flock. It can be done. With all but Charlie, my chicks get moved out to the hen house at around 6 weeks (as many of you know, Charlie lived indoors for 6 months but that’s what you get for adopting a newborn in January.) Violet had been old enough, had spent time in the flock (both caged and un-caged) and I had made sure there was a place for her to get away from the others. The first time I let her loose (after living caged in there for a week) in the hen house was in the evening, knowing that the birds would soon settle down to roost.

My mistake is that I didn’t realize Violet would hide and then get stuck inside the cinder block. It just never occurred to me that this could be a danger. I know differently now.

The name of this blog is Lessons Learned from the Flock, life is about learning and I learned a big one this week and you can be sure I’ll be passing it on.

When (not if) I get more chicks, you can bet that I will be more on top of the situation when it comes time to put them into the flock (if I have to sleep out in the hen house to keep them safe, I will.) Holes will be filled, the birds will be more supervised, and there will be more check-ins. 

I am also going to be warning everyone who uses cinder blocks (and I actually advise using cinder blocks as a base for your water feeder and for the water heater in the winter) to make sure the side holes are filled in. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things you don’t know about until you know about.

My chickens, like my children, teach me new lessons every day. I am not an expert on life, instead I am a listener. I could have said nothing about Violet, I could have simply dismissed her and pretended that all was fine. I could have let you believe that there was nothing but sunshine and rainbows in our flock.

But I am a storyteller and a teacher.  I see. I learn and I pass information on.Violet is a big part of our flock story, and it would have been easier to for me to stop breathing than it would have been to not tell her story.

That’s just who I am, warts and all.

Photo credit: Emily Bersin

Photo credit: Emily Bersin


On a somewhat related note, my heart goes out to a friend of mine who lost 31 chickens (including her beautiful Cuckoo) in the past 2 weeks due to predator invasion. Oh Linda, I’m so very sorry.

Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two. 


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, Charlie, Life Lessons, Personal, The Family, Uncategorized

30 responses to “Lesson 767 – One bird at a time

  1. All tough decisions to make and one take away is that we learn from experiences and then we share, this one being a perfect example. As I raise 4 “teenage chicks now and growing fast (Tetras, 2 1/2 month old and will begin laying by August) I am now dreading the intro to my other 8.
    I hear introduce them at night because it’s the time the “team up and bundle up for protection”… roger on the cinder block, I have 4 new vs. 8 pros so keep an eye, apple bitter spray the young hens (pecking by the older ones will be a bitch of a taste :-)), additional feeders and water stations (to prevent them from starving) and hope peace is restored shortly. Still worried.
    I would not have piled up this amount of information had it not been for the experiences many of you (and Wendy) have posted so lets look on the positive side of things.
    If in human life death is a celebration of life and everyone comes to earth with a purpose, then little Violet has indeed shown us a few things even at that young age.

  2. The tough lesson for me were I in this situation, would be forgiving myself and getting the image of Violets last days out of my mind.I cried again. Wishing you peace

  3. mikki

    so sorry about Violet. things do happen! we are only human! 😦 hugs to you!

  4. Sorry about your loss , and I really appreciate the lesson learned that you have shared , it could of eventually very well happen to mine , I have now filled the holes in the blocks. Thank – you for your strength to share.

  5. Wendy, I have introduced one chick to my flock without incident as well. But we are here, learning lessons everyday of our lives, and sharing them with others as you do. I, for one, appreciate it. Violet is going to remain in all of our hearts and I say thank you for your open heart and your willingness to share from it. ♥

  6. Country Boy

    Thanks for the cinder block info. I will remove all of ours and use the pads instead. I am sitting here typing with a lone chick in my lap. Its name is Baby. We had 15 eggs and only 2 hatched, the first one acted like its neck was broke when hatched did not live long. Wife very upset. She loves her pets. Cats, Dog, Rabbits, Chickens, Fish, and wild birds too, event the Fox Squirrel. So here I sit with baby on my shoulder watching me type. She is spoiled and we take here to the big pen in a wire cage at let them do their thing without hurting her. When she is big enough we will let her move in. All our pets have name and all 3 of my kids love their pets. I feel sorry city people who do not slow down and enjoy the beauty of what God has given us. Give me the country life.

  7. What a shame that someone would put the blame on you for what happened. I’m very sorry for your loss, and I understand your feelings of guilt. Thank you for sharing your lesson with the rest of us. I will certainly make sure to fill the spaces in cinderblocks in the future!

  8. Sorry.:(.. I feel your pain. I have gone through same type of thing, but caught it before the chicken died. My chickens pecked her till she bled too. I happen to check on them at the right time..and saw the horrible mess. She came out good..Unfortunately, with animals, it is survival of the fittest. My picked on chicken Corky, is the runt, She looks it too, not as pretty, her comb is small…She also lays eggs but they are wrinkly, and sporadic. I do not have it in my heart to rid her..like they did in the old days btw. So now I have a special little coop for her and another one of the pretty birds, who for some reason took it upon herself to stick up for her. They all are let up to free range during the day, stay way apart from the two outcasts. I have tried and tried to get them all back together..no way. So, my point is we are def. a new breed of chicken raisers…we love our chickens..but that doesnt make us perfect in all ways with technique. I have dogs, cats, ferret, rabbits,,and now chickens.. Sometimes I think what the heck was I doing.. Now I stress over all of them like they are my own babies. Just like a kid, we sometimes have good intentions, loving intentions..but don’t know what to do and make a mistake.

  9. My gosh, I just put a cinder block in the new run. Thank you, thank you for sharing this tragic story. I can’t wait to get home and fix the hazzard.

  10. Sonja Linman

    You are a wonderful teacher- Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    The Cinder Block lesson was a great help to many of us who would have never seen it coming without your story. Thank you!!

  11. Crazy Chicken Lady

    Wow, I sure would like to meet the lady that unfollowed you. Imagine, someone who never made any chicken-raising mistakes, never makes any now,probably will never make any, and so can look down her nose at the rest of us chicken-raising fools. Just to be near her would be such a thrill.

  12. I totally agree with Crazy in the post above! None of are perfect and we learn by experience. As another small flock person who will be soon adding 2 more to the existing group of 4, I gain from your tragedy! But stuff happens and this could be any of us. Do I jail my other animals just in case a predator or car happens, do we forbid our kids to do what we did growing up? (yeah, well probably, but they won’t tell us anyway!) Do I stop driving our mountain roads in winter? Or skiing, or skating or riding even though I break bones? The best I can do is “Reasonable Precautions”. May the Queen of Judgment learn a little humanity soon!

  13. Alan Kemp

    Shoot, yeah, we never get to quit learining and improving in this life. Even after 50+ years of chickens, I just found out about the cinderblock thing. I flood irrigate so my coop is on blocks, and recently some of my girls decided that laying eggs underneath it was better than the nests. I had boarded it up, but they knocked one down and for several days we kept wondering where all the eggs were. By the time we figured it out and re-secured the boards solidly, they were so fixated on that being the place to lay that the next day I found one stuck in a cinderblock hole! So stuck, in fact, that it took me a while to get her out…
    but that ain’t gonna ever happen again.

  14. Alan Kemp

    I also had a predator rampage that broke my heart so much that it took me about five years to get over it. When I did, I built my coop like Fort Knox – another lesson learned, the really hard way.

  15. Thanks for sharing your successes and your fails. Your sharing has helped me learn to care for my own first flock. We have three chicks approx. 14 weeks old ready to be introduced to the big house. I’m all nervous and excited for them at the same time. I’ve seen my hens have each other by the neck one day and best friends the next. I buried one and even questioned if I am cut out for raising my own flock. Then I realize how rewarding the relationship with chickens can be and the eggs they kindly give me. Thank you!
    Thank you so very much!

  16. Sorry for your loss. Forgive yourself. The ugly comment is a reflection of the person that left it. Life is Life and things go in directions we don’t foresee. Violet had a good life full of love while she was with you.

  17. Susan

    I always tell my kids….”if we don’t make mistakes, we never learn”. Unfortunately, this mistake cost little Violet her life but she also saved many others both now and in your future flocks. So, as sad as it is for you as a chicken lover, you have learned a valuable lesson by a mistake that ANYBODY could have made! My heart goes out to you and I admire your strong love of your animals. I have 3 cochin hens that I adore. They are 2 yrs old and only one is laying right now but that is ok with me. I love them and am amazed at how they trust and love me. I am so sorry for your loss and like Mike said about “Forgive yourself”.

  18. Jane Taylor

    thank you for your honesty and clarity in your posts about this. I admire you for sharing this – yes, you are a teacher and this will no doubt help many flock owners and save many chickens !

  19. Susan Attwood

    a few years ago, the feed store gave me a deformed chick. The other chickens had nothing to do with her , so she was raised in the house till she got bigger. In the end, she thought she was a duck. But I could call her and she would come running to me. Had her for a long time and she was a favorite. Pippin would never had made it if I hadn’t run interference for her when she was little. She ignored the other hens and they finally left her alone.

  20. thanx for the info, I’ll certainly be double checking for cinder blocks in the old coop before moving my 3 newbies in sometime in the fall. Its a shame some folks can be so hateful when a person is grieving a beloved pet. We do learn from our mistakes and I have yet to meet the perfect human. PLENTY that think it though, LOL , take care!!!

  21. Debbie Niemeyer

    Yes, you could’ve never told anyone about Violet. Yes, you could’ve acted like everything was just fine…you could’ve deceived us all and nobody would’ve been the wiser. But that isn’t who you are or what your blog is about. If you loose followers because of your mishappen mistakes, I say, sorry you feel that way,and bye-bye! don’t judge yourself for their foolhardy comments. You’re a very kind person, lovingly sharing your experiences with us! Can you just imagine how many people have taken this lesson and learned from it? How many hens have been saved now? It’s the ones who don’t listen and learn that will suffer most, because they decide not to learn from other’s mistakes. I feel truly sad for those kind of folks, not only do they have to learn everything the hard way, but they also do it alone. And while they profess they would never have done such a thing, and judging you, The Lord will teach them their own follies. Let The Lord judge them, I will pray her lessons won’t cause her too much agony. We have all felt your pain WITH you, and all has learned the lesson. I, myself thank you for the lesson and for sharing your heartbreak and pain. I ask the Lord to show forgiveness to yourself first, and then to others as we all try to learn the lessons God has given us to learn. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 1:21 KJV

  22. We all learn lessons. Sometimes in time, sometimes not. When I was a child, we had a duck who hatched a chick among the ducklings. (Our chickens often escaped our poorly fenced chicken run and laid eggs here and there.) As an eleven year old or so boy (naughty by definition), I waited with curiosity and anticipation to see what happened the first time mama duck too her “ducklings’ for a swim, but as the duck had put her next into our half basement, a weasel or other predator go to the nest and devoured mama duck, baby ducks, and baby chick.

    As I grew up, did I learn from that experience? Your guess is as good as mine.

  23. “tooK her ducklings for a swim, but as the duck had put her NEST …” Usual dyslexic sputtering.

  24. Michelle Pekrol

    I’m really sorry about your baby. I read the FB post and had to come over and read your blog. I understand your heartbreak.

  25. Holly

    Well some people can be pretty judgemental when it comes to raising animals. Along the lines of not thinking about filling in the holes of cinderblocks (who would, unless you’ve had an issue?), horse hay racks can be deadly too, had a hen fly in the top of one and end up caught between the bars and it essentially crushed her before I realized she was even in there. Did I have guilt? You bet I did, but not one thing in the world would of made me think that a hay rack could be deadly. I put those kind of people on the back burner…eventually some freak thing will happen to one of their animals and then they will feel guilty for trying to shame you for whatever they think you were not doing right. Bet most of them would never say it to your face, but it’s easy to say all kinds of things on a forum like this. Keep blogging and keepin’ it real.

  26. Katy Turman

    Wendy, I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you have had to bear such pain in losing Violet.  I so enjoyed following her growth and experiences.  Thank you so much for sharing her with us as you did and know that in this situation as in all situations we can trust that good will come from Violet’s life.  Yes, her spirit shall surely live on as you said.  And know also that there are many of us who will need to thank you again sometime in the future when we are spared  pain and suffering because we can remember the lessons you taught us through Violet’s life and death.  There are many people out there like myself who need you and I will pray for strength to bear this loss and courage for you to continue.  The sunshine will return and you will enjoy the many rainbows that are headed your way.  Be blessed and thanks again. A follower and friend in Heflin, Al., Katy


  27. Paula Johnson

    The lessons we learn from our mistakes usually make life better for the ones that follow. You could never have predicted that Violet would hide where she did. You honor her memory by removing the cinder block problem from your coop and by sharing the story so others can keep their birds safer as well. Thank you.

  28. Kim

    😦 I just read your post about what happened to Violet. I just wanted to let you know that I, too, have successfully introduced a single bird into my flock. Of course you wouldn’t have done it if you’d even imagined that Violet could be so harmed. I’m so sorry you lost her and even more sorry that someone felt criticism of your actions would in any way help the situation. We live and we learn – all that we can do is try to learn from the mistakes we make. I lost a chick that same day to a sudden, unknown illness and I’m consumed with guilt and sorrow for my poor broody hen who is without a chick. Too much sadness for one week, says I.

  29. Candace Lebel

    I started following your blog just before you got Violet. I so enjoyed all your posts on her progress, and I was saddened to hear of her death. I appreciate that you are willing to share all that you learn (good and bad). Sometimes accidents happen.

  30. Karen

    You’re right, it would have been easier to just pretend that Violet was living happily ever after in the flock, but it was brave of you to hold your hand up and tell what had happened. I dont believe that you or anyone that keeps chickens would wilfully leave them in danger. It’s all a learning curve and things need to be done, just as I am leaving my three, seven week old chicks outside hoping it wont be too cold for them tonight, so it was with Violet. Our decisions are made for what we percieve to be the right reasons – sometimes they are not, sometimes they are. We just have to wait and see and learn from our mishaps or enjoy our successes

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