My kids have grown up on the farm and have seen the good, bad, and very ugly side of this industry. Despite this turbulent lifestyle, my 16-year-old daughter dreams of a future as an ag teacher, and my 11-year-old-son …well, he just wants to be like his daddy. Caden, my littlest farmer, has embraced his father’s entrepreneurial spirit and is constantly brainstorming ways to improve and expand our family farm. Most recently this involved forming “Robinette Poultry Farm”.
While we have ventured into backyard chickens in the past, it was Caden who saw the demand for pasture-raised eggs and began researching this business. He scoured the internet for the best breeds, evaluated them for our climate, and selected his top choices for purchase. Without any input from his father or I, Caden emailed the supplier – and then followed up with a phone call when that email was not immediately returned. Caden budgeted his earnings from the sale of his most recent show pig and calculated exactly how many chickens he could safely afford, and, with this money, he became the proud owner of 13 heritage breed chickens.
While I will admit I was very skeptical of this business endeavor, Caden proved me wrong at every opportunity. He never had to be reminded to care for these chickens…they were his first stop every morning when rising and his last visit before retiring to the house each evening. To say that Caden loved these chickens is an understatement!The power of his love was demonstrated once again at Christmas when Caden chose not to ask for a new electronic or trendy toy from Santa…all Caden wanted was a new chicken coop! His dad and I discussed with the elves how best to deliver such a huge gift, and we formulated a plan that Santa would bring the supplies on the sleigh and Caden and his dad would later build the coop after the holidays. For two weeks, my guys pounded and sawed…drilled and measured…until finally the perfect home was built for The Robinette Poultry Farm chicks.
The girls loved their new home, and Caden loved hanging out there. An exceptionally wet winter had delayed their laying, so Caden was over-the-moon when he saw the first egg in his laying box earlier this week. His poultry business was on his way…
And, then Mother Nature hit. Winter Storm Jonas hit Eastern NC this weekend and blanketed our area with sleet and ice. Despite his best efforts, somehow a predator found their way into the coop and Caden woke up yesterday to find he had lost 7 chickens…over half his flock! Devastated doesn’t even begin to explain the emotions our family experienced in that moment…our heart was broken and our son’s dreams were shattered. While Patrick and I have experienced our own farming setbacks, none of these compared to knowing that our child’s hard work and financial investments were now destroyed…and there was nothing we could do to fix it.
However, the true character of my little farmer was revealed less than 24 hours later. Once all the tears had been shed and the coop repaired, Caden approached his dad and I with his plan for rebuilding the flock. Caden recognized improvements that need to be made and shared with us how he plans to finance the replacement birds. The conversation was full of sorrow for the past but also very hopeful for the future.
As a mama, my heart breaks for the loss of these animals and knowing that I can’t fix this for my baby. However, through all the sadness and heartache, I was able to see a glimpse of the man that Caden is becoming, and, I must say, I like it. Farming is a tough life, and it takes tough men and women to endure the challenges that come with it. Each new day is an opportunity for successes…and failures…and how we handle those says more about our farm than any production method or commodity group. While Caden may not be the best or the biggest poultry farmer, I was reminded yesterday that he’s a good egg…and that’s worth clucking about!