Almost five years back, after a couple absolutely crazy months, I finished work at the dairy and moved over 500 miles away to start running a chicken farm on my own. An experience that I will never forget and one that I learned so much from. I grew up on a farm and was used to animals of all kinds but had never raised chickens or completely run a farm so it was a steep learning curve.
A year-and-a-half in, I started managing my neighbour's farm as well so that was another challenge as the barns were older, run with different systems, and there were a whole lot more numbers to deal with. :)
Raising around 80,000 birds in 8 week cycles never left me with any dull moments. Birds would arrive and the next five days would be spent checking the barns fives times a day. Then I'd continue to do chores and check them three times a day until the end of five weeks. Shipping was crazy since I'd be up all night for usually two nights in a row. Then it was time for barn clean out which I started on right away since there were four barn to pressure wash. There was a little time for the barns to sit between cycles and then a few days before placing, it was time to start getting the barns ready again. Getting good results from the plant, it made me feel like all the effort and work was worth it. When I had raised the last cycle of birds, I figured out that I had raised 6.5 million LB of chicken!
So many memories of the days when things ran smoothly and the days when everything would go wrong. The first chicken cycle shortly after moving there, the area had record rain and my yard had record flooding. :p I remember bucketing out water for hours, building gravel dams inside, checking the pump throughout the night, and thinking, "What did I get myself into??" And, it didn't end up being the only time to happen.There were stretches it seemed the alarms wouldn't stop between the barns, feeders, and coal boilers...around 2 AM at night when it was -30* or colder seemed to the most ideal time. Or, when the feed tube would get pushed out of place and there would be a couple tons of feed to bucket out. Or, when the pressure washer hose had to burst three times when I was trying to get the barns cleaned out quick. And, the list could go on for quite a while... But, I did manage to gain some trouble shooting skills and at the end felt like I could handle almost anything that came my way.
Though overwhelmed often, looking back I see it as a good experience. It helped push me out of my comfort zone and I learned that I could handle work that seemed intimidating or daunting at times. These past years were probably some of the busiest and hardest of my life and at the same time some of my best.
One of the biggest blessings was finding a great church to attend. I won't forget the awesome group there and the friends I made during that time. So many genuine and thoughtful people who really cared. Many great memories: helping out at camp, Ladies Time Out, helping a friend with her restaurant, friends always making sure that I had a happy birthday, hot dog roasts, kind and generous neighbours, dinner invites, spontaneous get-togethers, Ladies Nights. and so many more.
It has been one of those chapters in life that will always stick close to me. One that has had an impact I won't forget. I'm thankful the ones who were apart of my life then (both far and near.)