Monday, January 21, 2008

Herd Relationships

I saw definite signs of heat in four of the does today (3, 7, 8, and 10). This is the first time I've been able to observe goat breeding behavior in a large herd. The does have paired up (3 & 10, 7 & 8), and in each pair one is docile and loving and the other is aggressive and vicious. I'm not sure what the purpose of this behavior is, but it's been interesting to watch. The does all still beat Bubba up regularly, but at least he has started fighting back. I've been letting him out into the main pasture every day to eat goat feed and hay without being attacked, and this seems to have helped toughen up his attitude a bit. He's also grown quite a bit over the last few months, and he looks much more adult, and less like an adolescent. He'll be a year old in February. I really hope he manages to breed at least a few of these does this year.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Great Chicken Escape

Early this morning, before I'd even had a chance to make some coffee, Paul looked out the window and said, "There's a chicken in our neighbor's yard!" Actually, all six of the new chickens were in the neighbor's yard. It was very windy yesterday and last night, and the greenhouse plastic had been ripped loose from the chicken house roof. Those pullets always perch up near the top of the house, so they were able to just sidle on out into freedom.

To get them back in, first we had to deal with the Reds. The new chickens are skittish enough that they would not go in the door if a person was standing there, but if we stood back the other hens would hop out as well. One piece of plywood later, and all the red hens were crowded into a corner away from the door.

Luckily, my experience working at a dairy had taught me how to herd animals. Chickens are more difficult than cattle, but still easier than goats. I placed Paul strategically to prevent them from breaking for the street, and then carefully worked the chickens closer to the open door of their house. They milled about just outside of it, but a little more pressure got five of them to hop in. The sixth decided to make a run for it.

Several circles of the yard later, I was about ready to give up and go make myself a chicken catcher. However, Paul wanted to try one more time, and he managed to trap her against one side of the house. I snagged her as she tried to dive past and tossed her in. The plastic sheeting has been reattached and battened down, so hopefully there won't be a repeat. When it's time to replace the plastic, I think I'll extend the chicken wire up the roof first to prevent escapes.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tame Goats

The goats have become so tame in the last few months. I think it might be because they're eating hay exclusively now, so all of their food comes directly from the humans. Whatever the reason, I was able to deworm all of them in about 15 minutes today. All but one of them let me just walk right up and grab her. Of course Goshen tried to escape, but she was stupid enough to run into their house and was easily caught.

I also had the opportunity to try out the pvc and duct tape solution to goats getting their heads caught in the fence. It probably works better in warm weather, but here in the winter the duct tape didn't hold very well. The pipe only stayed on for a couple of days, and then those goats were right back to getting their heads caught.

I've designed a much sturdier version using pvc and pipe clamps. It's still in field testing, but once I've gotten the bugs worked out I'll post the instructions.