Photo by Kristy Rammel
What do you do with bad advice? How do you handle an “expert’s” opinion that varies drastically from your own? What type of teacher are you? Do you listen, or do you judge? Do you encourage or do you hold back?
As homesteaders, we have a unique opportunity to inspire and teach those wanting to start a self-sustaining lifestyle. We also have opportunities to learn from those that went before us. Either way, we have to be able to listen.
Several years ago, my first broody hen was hatching out her very first clutch. I’d known my Henney was going to be a fantastic mother months before she ever laid her first egg, so when she reached the point she would no longer leave her nest, I happily waited on her hand and foot.
Sadly, her clutch was viciously attacked by a predator two days before it was due to hatch. Something had managed to climb the fence around the chicken yard and get into the locked nursery area, where she nested. I found her trying to roll broken eggs back underneath her. Only one egg survived the attack, but died shortly after hatch.
Henney mourned for days. Refusing to eat or drink, she spent all of her time “calling” her babies. Because I was the one who removed the egg shells and dead chick, she was convinced I had her babies and demanded them back anytime I tried to get near her. I frantically searched for any information I could find that would help my poor girl out.
Henney had no interest in setting again, so I sought the help of a local expert, an experienced breeder who was published and well-respected in the community both locally and nationally. I felt fortunate to have someone so close that possessed such wealth of knowledge.
Luckily, she would be present at the open chicken swap that weekend, a mere four days after the attack. My thought was to purchase a few day-old chicks and try to get Henney to adopt them. However, when I proposed this idea to my chicken guru, I was vehemently told no. After attempting to explain the nurturing nature of my girl, as well as several ideas I had read about how to introduce chicks to a flock, I was still made out to be a fool.
Now, as a newbie I had two options: 1) tuck my tail and go home to my poor little hen or 2) find a way to help my girl regardless of the “expert advice.” Have I mentioned I’m red-headed? Yeah, there’s a reason we have a reputation!
More determined than ever, I promptly purchased three chicks and took them home. I followed my gut, knowing I might need to take care of them myself if this didn’t work. I set up the new babies in a small, dark room off my bedroom, using an old 10-gallon aquarium as their temporary home.
Once the babies were all tucked in, I brought momma hen in. Keeping her in a wire cage slightly larger than the aquarium, I covered her. The rest of the night I let her just listen to the babies, and by morning time she was happily cooing right back. The remaining part of the day and night, I inched the cages closer together, and after removing the blanket, allowed Henney to get used to her new babies, with wire and glass still separating them for protection.
Needless to say, Henney did adopt those babies and was a fantastic mother—she still is actually! She was given the opportunity in spite of the expert advice. She was given the opportunity because other people, nameless faceless amateurs, took the time to share their own stories of failure and success. To them, I say thank you for taking the time to teach me.
As we emerge from our winter seclusion looking to barter, trade, sell or adopt, let us remember we are all part of the same community. We are all teachers and we are all students; and the answers are rarely black and white. Of course, when you are met with extreme opposition you could always go with my motto: “My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts!”