It's taken me a while to write this
When something like this happens at the Sanctuary I become overwhelmed with grief, guilt and doubt. While in no way a burden, I do feel the weight and responsibility of so many lives counting on me and the Coppershell team.
That said, transparency is so important and we owe it to our supporters to remain honest about the highs, lows and learning curves of running an animal rescue sanctuary.
We have lived onsite at the Sanctuary for over a year now and have experienced adverse weather in the past, but we were naive as to how Storm Ciara could take hold. The field shelters we built in the summer are strong enough against high winds, but our bird sheds are in the process of being replaced. With the barn taking priority, we are sad to say this has been a slow process.
Preparing for the Storm
We had spent the day before the storm making a ‘test’ pig-pen cosier, and spending four hours on the paddocks removing horse manure – a now lengthy task due to the recent intake of six horses.
As the warnings for high winds rolled in and a gentle breeze began, we completed our usual shelter checks. Before bed we moved Lou Lou the Shetland pony into a field shelter, she is not well and we wanted her warm. We did a final check on the horses, knowing that the field shelter would protect them from the wind and rain and they were all wearing the recently donated rugs. We gave extra water and feed in the bird houses to make sure they would have food and drink if it was too windy to go out.
The next morning, we woke to some strong gales but nothing that we hadn’t seen before. It was too windy to do any building work outside and at about 2pm the storm really started to take grip of the Sanctuary.
With large windows and a 360 view of the farm, we watched in horror as darkness fell over the Sanctuary.
Suddenly the wind hit with such intensity I was gripped with panic.
We watched as the horse’s field shelter roof was ripped off causing the whole thing to collapse, the horses found shelter in a tiny trailer. The duck house was being moved around like it was in a washing machine and the birds sat lower to the ground than I had seen before. The goats, safely tucked away in the barn, were frozen in place watching the storm take hold.
The lights started flickering and we lost all power.
This video was shot during the ‘calmer’ parts of the storm.
Over in a Heartbeat
The ordeal was over in about seven minutes, but the damage it left behind was huge.
When the winds calmed down, we set out immediately to sweeping the now flooded yard. The goats and pig shelters were unscathed and Billy’s snoring could still be heard over the gusts of wind. The sheep and alpacas were tucked away in the winter stable, but the upper section of the barn wall had blown away leaving the cows exposed to the elements. The horses were content, but the field shelter was destroyed and beyond a quick repair.
We checked over the chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys and turned the duck house back over, fixing a loose panel.
Heavy rain on the yard
With no power, our lovely volunteers sprang into actions to bring over hot water bottles to keep the new born lambs warm and cosy.
When we had done everything we could in the now increasing winds. We gave out extra hay and the Residents were safe and sound – we felt like we were winning this battle.
With no gas or electricity and content we’d done all we could, we called it a night.
The next morning was a different story.
We knew something was wrong immediately. Dave the call duck was not only out, but he was in a different field. As I called for Matt to bring down pet carriers, I surveyed the area and noticed that Theo and Django were nowhere to be seen and Pea and Rupert were sat in different ends of the field and in the distance we saw the lifeless body of little Herbert.
I frantically checked the shed and to my relief Huey was taking shelter, he was shaking but unharmed. We loaded the remaining birds into the crates to do a visual diagnosis of each. Pea and Rupert were not in good condition so we whisked them off for immediate medical attention. The injuries were too severe and they were in a lot of pain. It broke my heart but the kindest thing to do was to end their pain and send them over the rainbow bridge.
Huey, Dave and Derek have been moved into a secure stable with a heat lamp and with vitamins to help with their stress – they all seem to be doing well.
We can only presume the hungry foxes managed to get to the ducks due to the structural damage caused by the storm. We empathise with hungry foxes, they are just trying to survive and do what comes natural.
But we have made a vow to keep our residents safe, so as the second storm rolls in we have taken no chances and safely tucked all the birds away. We are researching 6ft weatherproof bird paddocks and electric facing that can withstand harsh storms; expensive but essential.
Pea, Django, Theo, Rupert and Herbert you little guys have left a massive hole and we are sorry we couldn’t protect you.
It’s hard to put a number against the devastation and loss that Storm Ciara caused.