May 24, 2010

Barnyard Antics

Or maybe they're Critter Capers. :) Either way.....

~ Here in the south, we are plagued with fire ants, known for their painful bites. About the chickens 2nd of 3rd day free ranging, DH reported that one of the Ameraucana cockerels had discovered a rather large ant hill. Mr. Roo stood on top of it, greedily devouring ants left and right. DH said after a moment, the roo paused, looked at his feet, picked up one, then the other, and then began to dance around a bit stamping his feet. Finally he squawked and ran off! Lesson learned? Never stand on top of a fire ant hill while you're having them for dinner.

~ One evening I was going to lock up the chickens, and as I approached the coop, I heard some very concerned clucking. Not an alarm, but definitely different from the other clucks and calls I'd been hearing. When I got there, most of the chickens were quietly on their roosts, except for one Welsummer cockerel, who wouldn't settle down. Puzzled, I spoke to him to calm him, but he wouldn't stop clucking. I followed his gaze and there on top of the feed cans was one of the Ameraucana pullets. She was on the outside trying to figure out how to get in! I wasn't sure how she got there, but she let me pick her up and pop her into the coop.

~ That particular pullet, pictured above, has managed to get out the most. Not that I actually expected the goat fencing to be chicken proof. The few times a chicken has gotten out though, they've spent their "freedom" worrying about how to get back to where the other chickens are. Anyway, the next time I found her out, it was late and the other chickens were putting themselves to roost. When I approached, she flew up to the top of the 48" fence cross member and clucked at me. So that's how she does it I thought. I didn't bother to try to catch her that time. I simply went over to the coop door and held it open for her. "Time to go to bed" I said. She flew down and walked right in. Good chicken.

~ I also had the Delaware pullet get out one evening. She wasn't quite so clever about it as the Ameraucana, and was running back and forth outside the chicken yard, frantically trying to figure out how to get back in. All the others had retired to the coop, except the Barred Holland cockerel. He was just as concerned about her situation as she was. She wouldn't let me catch her though, nor be herded toward the yard gate. Eventually I got her in, but when I followed, she ran through the yard and out the chicken gate on the other side. The Barred Holland followed. Now what. I called, "here chickens, here chick, chick, chick" until conditioning took over. She ran back into the yard and up the coop ramp, followed by the Barred Holland. The adventure was over and the chickens were in for the night.

~ One thing that's been interesting to me has to been to observe the personalities of the young roosters. I have way too many so we have started to cull them. We only need one. Even though we have a breed preference, I still need to make sure that he's the man for the job. A couple of the Ameraucanas have been are real bullies, always picking on everybody else , chasing the others away from the food, and rushing in to gobble down any and all goodies for themselves. Two of the Welsummer roos would rather hang out in the coop while the others go out to forage. These are also the first to run and hide if there's some frightening noise. I know they are roos because Welsummers have sex distinct coloring. At this point I'm pretty sure I have 12 cockerels out of 19 chickens. That's 11 that will need to go.

On to the goats.

~ The goats made their "great escape," their second day here. No, it wasn't out, out, it was through the chicken gate (click for pic) and into the chicken yard. You'd wonder why they'd be interested in leaving a lush green-growing, browsy field for a rather bare and brown chicken yard, but that's a goat for you. The first time I lured them out with feed and pondered how to deter them. I finally rigged up a low, narrow, chicken size tunnel from welded wire fencing, placed it on the chicken yard side, and hoped for the best. About an hour later I found both goats back in the chicken yard, having negotiated the tunnel without disturbing it. I got them out with feed again, thinking that all I was accomplishing was teaching them how to get a food reward for unwanted behavior! That wouldn't do!

~ Next goat deterrent was to drive three poles in front of the chicken gate on the goat side. I left enough room for the chickens to pass through, but hopefully not the goats. That worked for about half a day, when I discovered that I had two expectant goats in the chicken yard. This time I got out the hose and turned it on to a moderate blast. Goats hate to get wet and you never saw such a scramble to get out that chicken gate. My next deterrent was a board, nailed at a 45 degree angle to cover the chicken gate opening like a lean-to.

~ Goat deterrent #3 seemed to be working well. The next several times I went out to check, there were no goats in the chicken yard. At one check I didn't see them in the field, so I assumed they had gone back to their shed. They weren't there either. Chickens were fussing though, so decided to check on them. Inside the coop were the two goats, calmly helping themselves to the chicken feed, much to the distress of several chickens. To get there, they had to climb up the outside ramp, make a 90 degree turn into the coop, and down another ramp inside. I got the hose out again, which vacated the coop in a flurry of feathers, squawking, scrambling, and bleating. I added another board to widen the chicken gate lean-to entrance, and hoped for the best.

~ After that Bathsheba, the doeling, got into the chicken yard a couple more times. Her mother wasn't able to follow and put up quite a fuss. Each time, I turned on the hose, and after a couple of days she stopped trying. There have been no goats in the chicken yard since. I suppose though, that if they had to make a great escape, the chicken yard was certainly better than a neighbor's garden. Or my garden for that matter. Small blessings!

~ One thing I noticed in all this is that there seems to be a double standard in the barnyard. The chickens think nothing of running in to the goat shed and helping themselves to whatever's available, but oh what a fuss when the goats invaded their space!

~ Finally, to read about my Mother's Day surprise from Rascal, click here.

Barnyard Antics text & photos copyright May 2010 


  1. Goats, just mischief spelled differently.

  2. fun to read - but probably a bit annoying if you have to deal with it all the time! we went to our spinner's meeting on saturday and saw one adorable pygmy goat, who entertained the whole crowd:)) I wonder what she'd get up to in our garden....

  3. They are so cute! They are going to keep you on the move!

  4. You've illustrated perfectly why animals (including birds) are so entertaining and absorbing; who needs TV?

  5. Two words for goat deterent: Hot Wire! The hotter the better... Goats are the weenies of the animal world, and don't like getting shocked, either... They will carry on like you're skinning them alive. However, once trained to avoid it (doesn't take long), they are very respectful of it. You might consider a hot wire along the top of your fence, as well, to help keep dogs, coyotes, etc., out.

    As for the double standard, if you have goats, they are the queens of all they survey!!

  6. Theresa, well put!

    Bettina, agreed. That's why I had to nip this one in the bud. I hear pygmys are especially good escape artists. Not to mention good jumpers. I've considered getting one or two,but maybe not.

    Julie, that is so true! The funny thing is, Dan commented the other day how quickly animals become a part of one's life. When we didn't have them, we didn't give it a second thought. But now we'd be lost without them.

    Michelle, that is so true. The best part is that this is true "reality" as opposed to what they put on TV. It's no wonder so many folks are out of touch with the real world.

    Laura, we've definitely considered that. So far, no real break-outs, now that the chicken yard has lost it's appeal. Still, new goats will mean new problems .....

  7. Well, I think all your critter are keeping you busy! and exercised chasing after them.

  8. Your post reminded me of this by Sara Bredesen of The Country Today newspaper (Wisconsin):

    Honeybees and goats are some of the hardest creatures to keep inside a fence. I heard a specialist explain his method of testing a goat-worthy fence: If you toss a bucket of water at a fence and the water goes through it, so will a goat.

  9. And another that sums up goat logic:

    Goats have distinct personalities. It's like living with a whole lot of teenagers. You don't know what's going to happen next, except you know they're going to get out of their pen. They are looking for a chance to explore and prove they can do it. They won't run away but stand just 6 inches out of reach. But once you grab their collars, they amble back to the enclosure. It's all just a game with them. ~ Larry Hedrich, president, Wisconsin Dairy Goat Association

  10. Deep End, it's funny, because what you say is so true, but now we just can't imagine life without them!

    Karen, those are too funny. Thanks for sharing! It's true though, it is all a game as far as they're concerned. :)

  11. Isn't it just amazing the LIFE that animals add to a homestead? You never know what's going to happen . . . good or bad(!) . . . but there's rarely a dull moment.

    It's true what they say about we being healthier (physically and mentally) if we have a reason to get up, get out and be active every day. With animals, you can hardly avoid that!

    As you've said, once you have them, it's almost impossible to think how sterile life would be without them!

    So enjoy reading your blog.

  12. Fun with critters!! What a hoot, but it sure brings back memories of growing up on a dairy farm. At least they are making your life more interesting. :)

  13. I had to laugh at your stories, as we've had variants of all of them. I gave up on keeping our goats out of the coops, but do put the chicken feeders out of reach before opening things up and letting the chickens out (and the goats in). However, the funniest part was the first story about the fire ants. We have them in spades here in Texas and one occasion the DW was standing on the compos pile and got several bites from unseen ants and she fled, but just moments later I watched a hen stand in the same spot, pecking away with ants crawling all over her legs and not even acknowledging them! Anyway, thanks for sharing. Ken and Mary of Fancy Fibers Farm, Texas

  14. Hello there. I have just stumbled upon your blog and am so thrilled. I have learned a lot already just by reading over your goals, recipes, harvests, and doings in general. I have been frustrated lately, and feeling rather let down working everyday and giving my life to that. The fellow and I want nothing more than land and a place which we can sustain and thrive and not clock in and out each morning. It seems hopeless sometimes, debt, the monetary system...but, people like you remind me what I want. If you have any time to answer a few questions I have (mainly regarding start-up), will you please email me: ? I would be forever grateful. Thank you for y our inspiration this afternoon :]

  15. My dad used to clip our chickens' wings so that "over" wasn't an option. He also kept the goats apart from the chickens where my brother always let them run together. I guess its different strokes...

  16. I came home one day about 8 or 10 years ago (when I was still taking care of my chickens) and opened up the chicken house door, astonished, to find Rob, our young ram in there - I don't know how he managed to get his skinny butt (and fully horned head) through that chicken door - (a chicken sized hole anyhow) - but we figured he had to go in one horn at a time and then one leg at a time - I think he had just been sheared so that was why his wool didn't hang up - we still laugh at that. Good idea to squirt them with the hose - the sheep don't like that either.

    Also about that time we had the most splendiferous Americauna rooster - he would take all the girls out on a trip around the pasture - clucking and stomping his feet when he found something particularly tasty. I love watching chickens (and slipping their wings will stop that over the fence trick!) T.

  17. I meant clipping their wings. T.

  18. Mama Pea, thank you. I agree that having animals and chores and plans really helps keep old age syndrome from setting in!

    Benita, you got that right. Never a dull moment!

    Ken & Mary, thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment. I've appreciated your comments on Rascal's blog. Interesting about your goats and chickens. Fortunately, we've had no more goats in the chicken coop. For us at least, water seems to have done the trick!

    Runic Rhyme, welcome! I fully understand everything you're feeling, because I've experienced that as well. I feel fortunate that we've been able to get a place, though we are still caught up in the money system with our mortgage. I'll be happy to offer whatever encouragement I can.

    Sharon, I reckon you're right. Mostly I don't want the goats eating up all the chicken feed, which they get free choice. The goats have access to hay, but during the day they're supposed to be out eating down that overgrown field!

    Tina, that's too funny about your ram in the chicken coop. Not too sure about clipping their wings though. At least not unless flying over the fence becomes a real problem!

  19. How funny. I liked reading all your animal stories. I love having our chickens and watching all the things that they do. You are right about how once you have animals they really become a part of your life.


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