Clouds darkened in the late morning of August 10, 2020, as a thunderstorm warning was broadcast by radio stations. That’s common during Iowa summers, so we weren’t overly concerned. A half-hour later, a roaring wind engulfed Cedar Rapids. It was a derecho bearing winds up to 140 miles an hour.

We watched our young trees bend before the tempest. Then came the terrible part.

First, our black oaks tumbled down. Then, the black cherries and hackberries tumbled down before the wind. Our massive black walnut stood until a ferocious blast tore its branches and leaves off.

The derecho lasted longer than most – over 40 minutes – and left as quickly as it had arrived. The damage was mindboggling. We soon learned that Cedar Rapids lost 65% of its trees. A quick count showed that 47 of our 53 mature trees were either on the ground or stripped of leaves and branches. We lost privacy and shade and gained a view.

Free range chickens

For several days the chickens were truly “free-ranging.”

We worried about our 20 chickens. The storm came so quickly that we couldn’t lure them into the coop. The wind destroyed the chicken run’s fence. The birds were fine and, with the fence down, began their first neighborhood tour. Even before the rain stopped!

We couldn’t erect a temporary fence for several days, so the chickens were truly free-ranging. They roamed around, and we often didn’t even know where they were.

But, every once in a while, a hen returned to the coop to lay her egg in the nest.

Each sundown all the chicks came home for the night. All 20!

With power off and vast damage over a large area, we were fearful about food. Our freezer warmed and the wind damaged many of our garden crops. Would grocery stores reopen????. Could we even get through on the tree chocked roads???  We didn’t know. But it was soon obvious that our hens were nonplussed by the storm and kept giving us fresh eggs.

Eggs in bowl

The chickens kept on laying eggs.

Assuming a chicken flock survives an immediate disaster – flood, fire, or storm – they’ll continue laying nutritious eggs when other food may not be available. They are valuable disaster companions.

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