Tricky Kids

On our small hobby farm we only keep as many animals as we can take care of. That being said some of the animals are easier keepers than others. For example, we have two goats that we breed so we have milk and we sell the kids later in the summer when they are old enough to be weaned.

Goat kids are about the size of rabbits with long legs when they are first born. Over the years we have had kids die but with the exception of the kid that died last year it is always within the first two days of life. During these first two days they are very sensitive and require close monitoring.

Like newborn human babies it is important to:

  1. Keep goat kids warm.
  2. Make sure they latch on properly and are drinking milk.
  3. Be sure they pee and poop, at least the first time.

Nora is our oldest goat at 8 years old. Out of our two does she is the better mother. She cares for her kids so well that I never really have to worry about them at all. She keeps them warm, makes sure all of them are eating, checks on them if they are yelling, and enjoys her time with them.

Fauna is two years younger and a pain in my butt as far as kidding season goes. Some years are better than others but every year there is one kid that she just doesn’t care for as much. I usually have to bring one into the house for a few hours to warm it up and bottle feed it. She is the goat that needs constant monitoring for the first few days until she gets accustomed to her kids.

kimg0852This year she had triplets again! There is one black and white doe, a creamy buck, and a red doe. While they were all born healthy there were a few touchy days to keep them that way. She has larger teats that hang down pretty far so the babies were unable to find them for a first feeding. After about an hour or so they were still not having any luck and were screaming for milk so I bottle fed each of them a few ounces. New babies will rapidly weaken if they don’t get milk every few hours.

Two hours after that I checked on them again. They were still having trouble and making noise which was upsetting Nora, the other goat. She is our better mother and she wanted to check on Fauna’s babies to be sure they were okay. Fauna stood nicely while I maneuvered her babies to help them latch on. This worked while I was on my knees and elbows angling her teats in place but not if I moved. So I milked a little more into a bottle and fed all three babies again. The next time I checked on them two of the kids had it all figured out but the little red one had not. She was also by herself away from the heat lamp so I fed her again and moved her under the warmth.kimg0855

The next day she was weaker and more lethargic so Trenton and I took turns going out every hour or so to bottle feed her a few ounces and try to convince her to nurse from her mother. Unfortunately, the other two were hungry little buggers and Fauna was getting annoyed with her kids and didn’t want to stand still anymore. Thankfully, the little red one has regained her strength and has figured out how to nurse from Fauna so I don’t have to bottle feed anymore.

Soon Nora’s kids will be big enough that we can start milk sharing a bit to have a little fresh goat milk in the house. Fresh goat cheese on crackers sounds delicious right now!

kimg0860On a side note goat kids are little escape artists. Fauna’s kids are moving around enough now that they have figured out how to get out of their pen to say hello to Jack, our horse.

 

Almost Easter Kids

One of the reasons I love spring is because it is time for new babies on the farm. New fluffy chicks, noisy little piglets, and bouncy kids (the goat kind).

Nora is our Oberhasli/Alpine cross that we have had for 6 years but last year we did not breed her because we were about to have a new baby of our own and I decided I only wanted to milk one goat at a time with a newborn in the barn with me. It worked well for us and I wish I had only been milking one goat when Fiona and Lucian were newborns but I grew up on a dairy farm and cows are bred back every year. On a homestead I have more flexibility.  For example, while we were milking Fauna last year one of her kids mysteriously died at 4 weeks. This left her with too much milk for one kid so we experimented with milk sharing. It worked out so well we decided to sell her remaining kid in the fall rather than in the summer like we usually do.

This year we bred both goats and Nora is pretty consistent about kidding around Easter. This year was no different, she had her kids the Monday after Easter. Lucian and I noticed her acting funny in the pasture Monday afternoon so we watched her for a while to be sure she was in labor. She was standing in one spot without nibbling the grass, laying down, getting back up, pawing the ground and looking completely uncomfortable. If it is nice outside I will usually let them have their babies outside but Easter Sunday we had a bit of a spring blizzard so it was wet, cold, and windy. It took a bit of coaxing but we were able to get her into the barn.

kimg0811We made sure she had food and water then left her to settle in. I went out to do chores a little while later and she had one baby almost dry and standing in the stall with her. Trenton brought the kids out so they could see the new baby and we got  the heat lamp hooked up. Fiona was so excited to finally see a baby goat. 

In the 6 years I have had goats I have never had them kid only one baby so after the kids (the human ones) were in bed I checked on her again and sure enough there was another baby snuggled up with the first one. I made sure they both drank milk before going to bed and thought about the fun little surprise Fiona and Lucian would have in the morning.

“There are two of them!” Fiona yelled when she checked on them while we did chores. They are both boys and Lucian named them Collin and Jake. Penelope had her first experience with kids and baby giggles have filled the barn every morning and evening when we do chores. kimg0798

Easter Chicks

Happy Easter! To me the coming of Easter also signals the coming of spring. This spring has been a little off to say the least. Normal seasonal events have changed and evolved but we are adjusting. The kids still enjoyed coloring eggs and hunting for their Easter baskets exactly like they have in previous years. Rather than having a large family celebration and egg hunt we will be having a small egg hunt in our own yard this year.

kimg0768I usually hatch chicks with the 4th grade but this year due to our home-boundness (I may have made up that word) we are hatching chicks at home. It has been fun to share the incubation process with my children, and nieces and nephews. They have followed along with daily growth, listened to various chick stories, and made scientific hypothesis as to how many chicks would hatch.

We placed 37 eggs in the incubator on our first Science Saturday. Our second Saturday was held via Google Hangouts and we read a chick book and worked on a few pages from a Chick Hatching booklet I found online. For our third Science Saturday which was day 14 of chick development we candled the eggs to see if they were developing. We took 5 eggs out of the incubator that were not fertilized. The kids really enjoyed seeing the veins through the shells and the chick developing. Day 18 was not on a Saturday but it was the day the eggs needed to be taken out of the egg turner so we held that science lesson via Google Hangouts.

I was a little worried that the eggs might not hatch at all because my incubator is getting a little old and the temperature was fluctuating more than normal. The last two years I have had to turn it up so the interior temperature would remain at 99.5. It was acting the same way except for one day it got really hot inside. I noticed the thermometer was reading about 102 which is almost hot enough to cause chick death. It took awhile for it to level out again and I was worried we would not have any eggs hatch. I re-candled them on day 18 to see if they had developed any since I candled them before. I took 2 out that looked as if they stopped developing but I was hopeful because it looked like more development had taken place. My darling husband said it was because I had “hard boiled” them.kimg0767

On Friday which was day 20 of chick development we had a sleepover with a few of my nieces and nephews so they could watch the chicks hatch. One chick hatched before they we here and I was thrilled that I hadn’t cooked them. Everyone was super excited to watch the “miracle of life” as my sister said. Everyone was able to watch a chick hatch and to transfer a fluffy chick from the incubator into the brooder box.

Before they left Saturday afternoon 10 chicks had hatched. This morning we have 21 healthy chicks and one more that is struggling to hatch. Percentage wise this may be our best hatch-out yet. 21 chicks out of 30 viable eggs gives me a 70% success rate which I think is pretty good.

kimg0765We are helping the last one to hatch by peeling back it’s shell a bit at a time hoping it will pop out soon. Every once in a while we help a late hatcher come out of it’s shell but many times the chick is malformed or will die the next day. I hope it will be healthy so we can add it to the box with it’s siblings.

The kids had fun with this project and I was glad we were able to enjoy it as a family. Although I didn’t actually plan for the chicks to hatch on Easter it is nice to hear Easter chicks peeping in the house.

I hope everyone has a Happy Easter!

Into Spring

Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It is starting to get warm, the sun is shining more, and the grass is starting to grow again. I see spring as a promise of better things to come. A sunnier outlook if you will. Spring is also a busy time of year. There are additional repairs to be done, new babies being born, seeds to be planted, new animals joining the farm, and yard work to do.

kimg0749Repairs:

  1. The chicken coop needs to be fixed so the chickens will stop escaping. There are a few holes in the fence so the chickens free range. Last year in early spring we had a fox take about a dozen chickens before I was able to scare it off. This year I want the coop fixed so we don’t have hungry fox issues. I plan to let the chickens free range later in the summer for short periods of time but for now they are safer inside.
  2. We are going to change the design of our duck coop to try a pair of ducks. I know I said I didn’t want ducks again but I want to try only having two with a better set-up. The ducks were good at getting rid of potato bugs in the garden and their eggs were nice too.

kimg0714New Babies:

  1. It is almost kidding time! Our goats, Nora and Fauna, are looking pretty wide and are almost ready to have their babies. Having goat kids on the farm is fun and exciting but it also adds a few extra chores to the day. During a kid’s first day of life it is crucial to be sure they are warm and nursing properly. So we are monitoring the does for labor signs and getting ready for new kids. The pens are cleaned out, heat lamps are ready, and Franky has been moved out of the barn. Fiona has been checking for baby goats every morning and can’t wait for when they arrive. She will be soooooo excited!
  2. Chicks will be hatching soon! Due to the school closures I was unable to start our incubator at school with the 4th grade like I usually do but I was able to start it at home with my own children and their cousins. We have been holding Science Saturdays when we do chick related activities and discuss how they are developing. Our last Science Saturday was via Google Hangout but we’re making it work.

Planting Seeds:

  1. We decided to plant our own starter plants this year. We’ve planted our own starters in the past but most of the time we purchase our broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers from local greenhouses. The trend right now is panic buying so we thought we would prepare for that and just plant our own. It will save us money and hopefully they do well.
  2. We are also trying to grow an Avocado tree from a few pits we have saved. This was part of a Science Saturday project so I’m hoping between the 8 cousins we will be able to start one tree.

New Animals:kimg0751

  1. We picked up our spring piglets from my dad’s farm last week and they are settling in nicely. They are still little so they are inside the barn in the farrowing pen Trenton made when we had a bred sow. They will stay inside until we are able to put a load of sand into the pig pen behind the barn. The pen is still a bit mucky from last year’s pigs and it needs to be cleaned out and filled in before we put the new pigs outside. Our niece decided they should be named Despereaux and Wilbur.
  2. Ducklings have been ordered and will be here by May 15th. I am looking forward to having ducks again with our new coop idea for them. I think having fewer ducks in a different area will be better than what we had before.

Yard Work:

  1. Dog poop, enough said. Cleaning the yard from the winter mess is a process.

There are also a few new challenges that were unexpected but we are rolling with them. Predicting to stay at home for the next month wasn’t in my plans but now that it is we’re getting a little inventive as far as work, school, and farm life goes. For example, I will be making video’s for the Kindergarten class I am still teaching as a long-term sub. I will be making calendar time videos three days a week as well as sharing my family’s Science Saturday projects. I made my first video for them last night and even though I had to do it twice and lock everyone else in the basement I think it went well.

I will also be making short “Story Time on the Farm” videos for Northwind Book and Fiber which is the local bookstore I work at. Today I made a clip of me reading in the pasture with Nora and Fauna and next week I think I will make one with the new pigs.