August 9, 2022

Barnyard Babies: Goat Kids

They aren't babies anymore! 

L →R: Jack (12 wks old), Rain (8 mos old), Piedy (15 wks old),
and Ursa on the right, who was one of last year's keeper kids.

We had four kids born this spring, all of them little bucks. That was somewhat disappointing, except that I had people wanting bucks, so perhaps it was actually providential. Three of them have gone to their new homes, and the remaining buckling we've decided to keep, because he's the best buckling we've ever produced. He has qualities I want to pass keep in my little herd.

I don't consider myself a serious Kinder breeder, but I do enjoy choosing matches to work toward our breed standard. Kinder goats (in my not so humble opinion!) are the perfect homestead goat breed. They are midsize, dual-purpose, ample producers, and have the best personalities. Of all the goat breeds I've had over the years, I love my Kinders best.

Of course, nothing is predictable about genetics, so the results of my matches are never predictable! The idea is to pair the conformation weaknesses of one parent with strengths in the other. For example, a level topline (straight back) is a desirable trait. Sometimes, however, a goat may have longer back legs than front legs (hip high), or may have a weak chine (slightly swaybacked). So, I wouldn't pair two goats with the same weakness. I'd pair the swayback goat with one that has a straight back. Hopefully, the strengths are passed on for improvement in the offspring. 

Herd improvement is achieved by keeping the kids that best conform to the breed standard and not keeping those with the least desirable traits. Piedmont is one of the best kids we've produced so far.

Piedy

He's muscular, well-proportioned, level, has excellent skeletal width in the shoulders and hips, isn't leggy, and has a decent brisket. 

Piedy on the left (almost 4 months), Jingo on the right (8 months).

Weaning is a sad day in a little buck's life, and Piedy wasn't happy about being moved to the boys' side. We put him with Jingo, last year's fall buckling and herd sire hopeful. Piedy and Jingo are half-brothers by the same sire. Their sire was sold and Jingo was meant to be his replacement. I like to keep three unrelated bucks, so that I don't have to breed daughters to their sires or grandsires, or sisters to their brothers. But I only need one buck of this genetic line, so I'll only keep one of them. Right now, I think Piedy is the more promising of the two.

Getting acquainted. Jonah and Magnus looking on.




The sparring only distracts Piedy for a little while. Then he remembers that where he really wants to be is back with his mom. Then he cries until he's hoarse. I go and comfort him a couple times a day. I always hope that helps the adjustment period, but I don't know. I'm not exactly what he wants! Such is growing up in the life of a little buck.

August 5, 2022

Barnyard Babies: Baby Chicks & Turkey Poults

After the feud between Mama Hen and the ducks, we decided that the best thing was to move her and her baby chicks into the old duck/new turkey yard. 

The turkey yard. Originally built to be a duck yard, but rejected by the ducks.

I reckon it's the poultry nursery yard for now. But before we moved them, we did a number of things to varmint proof it. 

We added 2-foot chicken wire on the bottom of the welded wire fence.
This will keep chicks from slipping out and varmints from slipping in.

The bottom portion of the chicken wire was folded to extend like an
apron around the edge of the yard, It's weighted with boards and rocks.

Over the top, Dan made a pole frame for bird netting to keep renegade
chickens from trying to fly in, and turkeys from trying to fly out.

Close-up of the netting. I like that it's nylon and not plastic.

For right now, Mama Hen and her three chicks are at the far end of the yard, where the old duck houses are.


Putting her and her eggs in the dog crate turned out to be a better idea than we first expected. She settles the chicks down in the crate at night, so we can close it to for an extra layer of safety.


We started them in a small enclosed area. After a few days, Dan moved the little fence and expanded their area. Eventually, we hope to put them with the other chickens, assuming they'll all accept that. For now, this is safer.

It's hard to get pictures because Mama puts herself between them and me!

Under the chicken coop overhang, Dan built a turkey roost.



The poults were about to outgrow the chicken tractor by this time, so we moved them into their section of the new yard.

They've grown a lot!


We don't know for sure (because turkey people say it's very difficult to tell), but we think we have two males and one female. Call it a hunch, but we both have the same feeling.



Of the hen and chicks, the turkeys are very inquisitive. When the chicken tractor was out in the pasture, the poults were always calmer when chickens were around.


However! Any time they get too close to the fence, Mama Hen lunges at them. They are timid, though, and immediately run off. Dan saw them hop the fence for a closer look and Mama Hen went full blown mama bear ballistic. He said they couldn't get out of her pen fast enough.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, our varmint proofing didn't work. Mama Hen switched from the dog crate to the duck house, and yesterday morning, one of the chicks had disappeared. Last night Dan covered the opening with chicken wire and put out two live animal traps. He checked on them at bedtime and had caught skunks in both traps. He found a third skunk in the yard! That one has gone to skunk heaven. I'm so glad he secured Mama hen and the remaining two chicks. Otherwise, we'd probably have lost the other two as well.

August 1, 2022

Barnyard Babies: Ducklings!

The Mama Duck Team with the first of the ducklings.

The ducklings started hatching on the last Monday of July.

One day old. If you look closely, you can see three little duck bills.


There were three the first day, then three more the next day. On day three, Dan counted four more. The next day they were out, and the count was seventeen. It's hard to tell because when they're out, they're all over the place.



First outing. It was brief, but everybody got a chance to see the new babies.


Despite how mean the chickens used to be to the ducks, they seem to have learned some respect since The Squabbles. All chickens watched the ducklings from a respectful distance and steered clear of wherever the ducks went.






While they were out, Dan cleaned out the broken shells and three unhatched eggs from the duck nest.  Later, after evening chores, he told me that the ducks refused to go back to the tidied up nest. He had to put one of the eggs back in it before they would return and settle the ducklings down for the night. 

Next time, I'll give you an update on the baby chicks and turkey poults!

And, I thought I'd take a brief moment to plug one of my books, Critter Tales. It's loaded with our adventures as beginning livestock keepers, plus the research I did to learn how to keep homestead critters sustainably. [Spoiler: Muscovys are my surprise ending!] The Critter Tales link will take you to more about the book and where to buy it.