Where did 2017 go?? We find it difficult to believe we are already closing out the year. It's been a whirlwind to say the least. We've experienced highs and lows and everything in between. We are closing out the year with 47 chickens and 2 turkeys!
Let's start with the bad news first. We had a really rough Spring and Summer, I'll be honest. We said goodbye to so many friends. We were physically, mentally and emotionally at our breaking point, it seemed like it was one after another. We lost 11 feathered friends this year, averaging almost one per month. Five of those deaths were leghorns that had barely gotten a glimpse of freedom from the factory farm; RIP Hope, Joy, Betty, Blossom & Pearl. We also lost two boys in the Spring, as well; RIP Drago & Snickerdoodle. From the main flock we said goodbye to Midnight, Cookie, Gingersnap & Oreo. It's never easy having to bury your friends, but Oreo was a particularly tough loss. In March, we almost lost her to cancer. CBD oil brought her back to life and kept her around for 5 months, until we lost her to fly-strike in August. When it was discovered, she was rushed to the vet that same day and the vet left her untreated for 7 hours. Reliving it, even now, brings me to tears. We loved her so much and she didn't deserve that treatment. The investigation into her course of treatment at that vet is still on-going. We will never take another animal to All Creatures Animal Hospital in Bremerton, and highly suggest no one else does either. Something good did come from it, however, and that is we have found a much better vet! We now see board-certified, avian vet, Dr. James Onorati in Seattle, and he has taken much better care of our animals.
Along with the bad, there's always some good. In 2017, we took in and saved a total of 30 lives! Among those are; 5 stray roosters, 6 ex-fighting roosters, the Tacoma Crew, the Enumclaw babies, 8 hens (6 of which arrive tomorrow!), 2 turkeys and 1 special-needs rooster. YIKES! It's pretty heartwarming to be able to quantify the impact Sky's is having like that. These animals would have had a very questionable future if we hadn't offered them sanctuary to live out their lives in peace. We can only take animals in if we have the space for them to be properly quarantined and coops for them to reside in without being over-crowded. It does no good to take an animal in, if you cannot afford to care for them properly and give them the life they deserve.
We also went out on 3 catch/rescue excursions. Two were on the same property in Tacoma, about a week apart, at the end of March. In that catch, we wrangled 4 roosters and 6 hens. Two went to Graham, 4 went to Winlock and 4 stayed with us. Then just before Thanksgiving, we caught a stray rooster in someone's backyard (Sriracha), who is now settling into our bachelor flock quite nicely.
This year was a big growing year for Sky's the Limit. We worked a lot on infrastructure. We built a total of NINE coops; four large, four individual (for the fighters) and one hotel (for sick/injured birds)! Not only that, but we built 3 picnic tables to use for events, and installed 4 permanent, self-closing gates. Our board member, Dominic Greco, also designed, built and painted our welcome sign! It now welcomes people to the entrance of our main pasture and stands out waiting to be admired by all. Thanks, Dom! We also added lots of enrichment this year. We built a climbing pyramid with a mixture of recycled materials and natural branches. Two 4x4 posts were also installed, one with platforms to climb on and the other with pegs to perch on. Lastly, our son Tim built 3 benches out of scrap wood for visitors to relax on and watch the birds play and interact together. Our coops are incredibly sturdy, insulated and easy to clean. They also all have heaters to keep our residents warm in the winter. With all that building, it's no wonder we found time to sleep!
Catching strays and building coops isn't all we do, either. Sky's the Limit also facilitated adoptions, and transported and fostered several birds this year, too. We fostered 2 roosters and 1 hen, transported 7 chickens to new homes, and facilitated the adoption of 2 more roosters.
We had a busy year with events, as well. We hosted several game nights, a garage/bake sale, multiple Hug-A-Rooster events, Memorial Day potluck, Chili Cook-off Holiday Bazaar, Tofurky Trot, Donor Day celebration, a Veggie Grill day, created a calendar, and two online sock fundraisers that each sold 50+ pairs of socks featuring two of our residents. We also tabled at several events, including Seattle VegFest, the Tacoma Sustainability event, and we did a Meet & Greet at 701 Coffee, too. Sky's was also lucky enough to be selected as the non-profit of the month at both Drizzle & Shine and No Bones Beach Club this year! Running these events and fundraisers is no easy task and is incredibly time-consuming. Luckily, we have built an amazing team and added two additional board members this year. Thank you Audra, Selena & Dom, we couldn't have done it without you!
Now it's time to crunch some numbers. When Ryan and I set our goals for 2017, he thought our fundraising goal should be $10,000. I literally laughed out loud thinking that would never happen! We are so new and that is quite a lofty goal. I personally didn't believe there were that many people out there that would give to animals and people they had never met at that time. I thought we should consider ourselves lucky if we raised $5,000! Well, not only did we reach Ryan's goal, we BLEW IT OUT OF THE WATER!!! For 2017, Sky's the Limit brought in $27,795.21 in donations! This came from grants (totaling $3500 - thank you, Microsanctuary Movement & A Well Fed World), business fundraisers, online fundraisers, crowd-funding, promotional sales, and PayPal donations. Of that nearly $28,000, Ryan and I personally contributed $4,300 for the year. Our total expenses were almost $26,000, and you can see the break-down below. We are 100% volunteer-run, and as you can see, no one gets paid a salary. We strive to be completely transparent with where your money goes, so if you ever have any questions regarding where the money is spent, please call/email us! Better yet, come out for a visit and see directly where your money goes.
Ryan and I also use our personal vehicle for Sky's travel and the wear and tear on it and the gas used for it, is NOT included in the $4300 total. We did have a lot of maintenance that was required on our Honda this year, including oil changes, transmission flush, new rear brakes, and a set of new tires. We started keeping track of our mileage for Sky's in the second quarter - boo! So for 3/4 of the year, we traveled a total of 3,888 miles for vet visits and transporting/rescuing birds.
As we look forward to 2018, and considering all that needs to be done, with a 25% increase, we want to set our fundraising goal for next year at $35,000. We think it can be reached with YOUR help! If you haven't already, please 'Like' our Facebook page and 'Follow' our Instagram account, and share our posts. That way we can reach more potential donors and it doesn't cost you ANYTHING! We have also launched a Patreon account!! You can also sign up to be a patron for as little as $1/month. You won't even notice that amount and if you get your friends and family to sign up too, it all adds up! There are some awesome perks and you get to find out sanctuary news before anyone else and get behind-the-scenes footage of sanctuary life! We will no longer be sending out newsletters or have PayPal sponsorships. We are working on transitioning everything over to Patreon to streamline things and share the social media responsibilities, as this will be run by volunteers on the property.
Some of our most recent news involves humans! In December, board member, Dominic Greco and his wife moved onto the property. They will be helping us run the day-to-day at the sanctuary, hopefully allowing us a bit more time to spend with our kids and on much needed self-care. Join us in welcoming Dom & Netty to Sky's the Limit! We make a great team and we will do some amazing things in 2018!
Speaking of which, what are our plans for 2018? Is there anything left to do? The work is NEVER done here at the sanctuary, with nearly 50 residents relying on us every day. So for next year, we will have weekly work parties every Wednesday, from 10am-Noon, rain or shine. If you're unable to make it out for a weekday work party, the last Saturday of each month, we'll hold another work party! Our hope is that knowing exactly when work days are, this will help volunteers be able to plan accordingly. For all work parties, please wear clothes and shoes that you don't mind getting dirty, and bring work gloves if you have them. Volunteers will help clean coops, clean and fill waterers and feeders, and any other general maintenance around the sanctuary.
Believe it or not, there are still things that need built around here. We will be starting a permanent Turkey Coop this weekend, as the current one has been leaking. This will be built large enough to house the turkeys and all 11 birds in the main flock until Spring, when we can demo and rebuild their coop! Then we also have plans to build four of our fighters a permanent, more secure, more enriching compound. This will have hardware cloth surrounding it and a corrugated roof for proper drainage. We will then build them some additional things to climb and perch on, and plant some grapevines in each enclosure, along with laying down an area of sod.
We will also be doing a bit of additional demo around here, tearing down an old dilapidated tree-house and and old leaky shed.
As you may know, we have partnered in the past with other organizations, such as Cupid's Landing and Tacoma Humane Society. For 2018, we have plans to work with another local non-profit, where we make visits to a home where our special-needs rooster, Casper, gets to interact with disabled adults. We hope that people can connect with him on a deeper level and allow them to see how Casper doesn't let his disability slow him down, and bust more myths and stereotypes about roosters!
Last, but certainly not least, we want to thank all of YOU, our amazing supporters and donors. You've donated time, skills, supplies, and financially, towards building this sanctuary, and keeping it running. We cannot say it enough -- we couldn't do this without you! Your kindness, your generosity, your willingness to help the abandoned, neglected birds, astounds us and we are insanely humbled and grateful to all of you. Sometimes, doing this work can be isolating and depressing, because there is SO much heartache. It's truly uplifting to hear your kind words of support of our mission and seeing you travel so far to visit us. We've learned a lot this year about ourselves; our limits, our strengths and our weaknesses, and we will constantly strive to better ourselves as care-takers and improve the lives of the animals we care for. 'Thank You' doesn't quite seem like enough to show our appreciation, but we hope you see it, in the way you help us care for the birds we take in (ie: Before & After photos), the updates we share, the cards we send, and the happiness in the eyes of our residents. Thanks for helping to make 2017 great, and here's to an even better 2018!
Best wishes from all of us, here at Sky's the Limit Sanctuary. Happy New Year!