by John Paul Keller
(Anderson, SC, USA)
In the summer of 2016, I decided I would try to start raising birds for the first time. Due to the nature of my living situation I was a little limited on options. Chickens were too loud, ducks wouldn't have open access to water, and turkeys would just be too big.
After some research I came across coturnix quail for the first time. I wanted to make sure I was absolutely, 100% ready for them. I talked to an past professor of mine who has experience raising poultry. He helped me get on the right path, getting an incubator, getting some eggs, getting the brooder ready. I was so excited. Over the next 3 weeks I was just so excited for hatching day to come.
But when it happened, things took a bit of a bad turn.
I started out with a total of 24 eggs. At the end of the first week I candled them and found the majority had not developed a chick. I was left with potentially 9 eggs that could hatch. When hatching day came, to my shock, only 1 hatched. I waited for the next few days for the others to hatch but nothing happened.
So one out of 24, the second to worst hatch rate a person could have. However, that one chick was special to me. A small, beautiful Rosetta colored quail. She was perfect to me.
Everyone in my family was excited to see the tiny chick. Eventually, after everyone kept calling it "that one chick" I quickly decided on a name, "One". We all immediately fell in love with One, and to my shock One fell in love with me. The baby must have thought I was "mom" because I'm told whenever I wasn't in the house where she could see me, she would call for me constantly. Unlike the quail I raised after her, One wanted to follow me whenever she could. We had a bond.
However when One turned 4 weeks old, she suddenly started acting odd. She was shaking, and she wasn't able to breathe properly either. It was hard to watch. I took her to a vet in hopes that I could find out what was going on but all the vet told me was that she'd get better.
Unfortunately that didn't happen.
It was Thanksgiving when it happened. I was over at my step mom's parents' home, when I got a call. One had passed away at my birth mother's house.
I was wracked with grief. I became as emotional as one would if they'd lost a family member. No one could console me, there words could not reach me. I had gone through so much with One, trying so hard to help her.
There were nights where I had to feed her and give her water with a syringe because she was so weak she couldn't move. I'd done everything I could to save her. It was looking as though she was going to make a full recovery. Sometimes I wish I could have been there. Perhaps I could have saved her. But there was nothing I could do, and that was what hurt me the most.
The consensus on what happened was that whatever killed her was whatever killed the other chicks before they were born. Was it a disease? Bad genes? Bad incubator? That we couldn't determine.
What matters most to me isn't how she died, but how she lived and impacted my life. I'd have never known that I could have such compassion for any bird if it wasn't for her, and I would only learn the value of their lives through her.
I still miss her, but since she passed on I have raised many different quails, and have shared that love with others.
If I could teach anything to others based on this experience, it would be never to underestimate what another living creature is capable of. There are certain creatures that are just as capable of love as we are. I would also say, never give up even in the face of tragedy.
If I had I would never have been able to start over, and since I did my life has improved thanks to the beautiful birds that I have in my life now.
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