It’s Chick Days here on the QuackaDoodle Farm. We just picked up a new batch of Barred Rock hatchlings and the start of their journey seems to fit the parameters of new beginnings, such as this blog.
We normally hatch eggs laid by our own birds but the flock has grown a bit mongrel over the past two years and it was time to bring in some new blood. As well as Barred Rocks we also have a few Leghorns who I think are more attractive, in a quintessential chicken kind of way, but these particular birds don’t seem to be laying as well as they might. And it is all about the eggs. We keep our chickens specifically for that purpose as neither breed are noted as meat birds.For anyone who thought a chicken was a chicken was a chicken . . . Not so! There are so many breeds to chose from and they range in appearance from the sublime (and this from someone who was never much into chickens) to the truly ridiculous. We knew we wanted good layers that were heritage breeds. This reduced our choices but there were still many breeds to chose from.
It’s really tempting to get a few each of several breeds. Initially this facilitates the decision making but leads to near impossible situations when trying to keep the breeds pure. Roosters are definitely not monogamous! I wanted to begin this, my first post, with an egg/bird connection because eggs and birds have become somewhat iconic to my work as a writer and a painter* but in fact the more exciting recent arrival is our first baby goat. He was born to Queen Sabine a couple of weeks ago.
He arrived exactly when expected, one hundred and fifty days after impregnation. Mom was pretty cool about the whole event but I was a wreck! Having spent the previous couple of weeks studying up on possible complications and packing the recommended ‘birthing bag’ with items such as elbow length latex gloves and syringes I think I had a right to be.
On The Day I was sitting inside, by a blazing fire as we were experiencing a bitterly cold snap, scouring the internet for videos on goats in labour. (Does that sound weird or what?) My ‘little voice’, which over the years I’ve learnt to pay immediate attention to, said “Why not just go out and see the real thing?” It was lucky I went out right then because there in the hay, shivering like crazy, was a little heap of wet fur.
The Birthing Bag did come in useful as it contained a couple of big clean towels that I wrapped the baby in before snuggling him against me under my not so clean barn coat. It was an amazing moment, but very scary as I really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it or not, it was so very cold that day. I think there was quite a bit of bonding went on during those first few hours as he still likes to snuggle up on my knee and chew on my hair. Not sure how that’s going to work as he continues to grow.
His aunts, Princess Julie and Rosabella were only mildly curious at the birthing. ( Don’t worry girls, your time is coming!) Now they’re trying to figure out where the new arrival, Stanley, is going to fit within their family. Unfortunately Princess Julie is very domineering and jealous of my affections so she’s determined to make it clear that he fits at the bottom of the heap.
By the time they have figured it all out Stanley will have been weaned and hopefully moved on to be best friend to a lonely horse somewhere. With his future in mind we had Stanley de-horned and also neutered. Both processes need to be done within the first week and believe me, it hurt me more than it did him. Some people start university funds when their kids are born, I guess there are ways, and then there are ways to plan a kid’s future.
Once Stanley has been weaned my next challenge will be to learn how to milk a goat. Not sure how that is going to go. After the birth I spent a fair bit of time scrutinizing Sabine’s udder trying to determine if her baby was getting enough to eat and whether she was at risk of developing ‘milk fever’. I even tried to milk her on about day three of my (unfounded but extreme) anxiety. She gave me a baleful, enough-already look and I had the distinct sense I had not passed the Milking 101 part of this course!
- Life is a never ending learning process, especially around QuackaDoodle Farm. That’s what makes it so much fun, right? My husband studies any challenge from every angle, I jump in feet first and learn by my mistakes. Works for me! My plan is to share our combined learning and hopefully lure others along the Permaculture Path to more sustainable living and better husbandry of this, our most amazingly beautiful planet.
*Some of my book titles:
Gully Goes to Halifax Just newly released! A fully illustrated children’s book about a young gull.
Counting Crows A collection of short fiction and poetry.
The Moon Egg Fully illustrated with a series of oil paintings, this children’s book is about a magical egg.
Magic Eggs and Moon Beams A child’s fable about change and growth.