Oh the joys of Goats!

Goats-5Ok so I know I’m totally jumping ahead here but I just can’t wait to write about my goats! Goats are amazing little animals, so full of fun, love and energy. Now I didn’t make the decision to get goats lightly, as a matter of fact it took a full year for me to be ready to bring home my little bundles. Farmer D and I had discussed getting goats for milk because obviously we couldn’t have a cow on a quarter acre. A year and a half ago I was looking online at all the goats available to buy when I found an ad for a local goat milk farm advertising a class on learning how to care of goats. I contacted the owner immediately and our journey to becoming goat parents had begun.

Farmer D and I went up to the farm in Lake Stevens a couple weeks later. We got out of our car and immediately could hear all the goats and I was hooked. We spent an hour going over all the basics, feeding, medications, minerals, you name it we discussed it. Then we got hands on experience which was really fun. I milked a goat, trimmed her hooves, and gave her a copper supplement. We were working with Oberhasli goats, which were much bigger than what we were looking for however we got our first chance to really experience what caring for goats would be like which was awesome.

As much as I really wanted to dive right in I was so scared, if you thought I was worried about killing some chicks, the fear I had over killing a couple baby goats was way worse. So I ordered books and spent months reading those books over and over again. Nothing I did calmed my fears. I was in one of my chicken keeping groups on Facebook one night when I saw a post about some Nigerian Dwarf goat milk for sale by Janelle. I jumped on it and asked if I could drive out the following weekend to pick the milk up and see the goats. She was going to be off on one of her adventures but her husband was going to be home so we scheduled pick up. When we arrived he offered to show us the goats, in the barn was several tiny little babies and their mamas. They were so much smaller that I expected and exactly what I had been looking for. This was spring of 2015. The goats were adorable but the milk was the best milk I had ever tasted, it was raw, delicious and healthy. Goat milk is full of healthy probiotics and your body digests it faster than cow milk which is really good for me because I’m sensitive to dairy so I don’t drink much milk, but Goat milk I could drink all the time.

That night I contacted Janelle at the Braun Family Farm to discuss getting two doelings from her the next time she kidded. She walked me through the kidding schedule and calmed some of my fears about getting babies. But it wasn’t until we talked this last November and she said her does were scheduled to kid in mid to end of December that it all became real for me. She so graciously agreed to have me over to introduce me to her pregnant does and talk me through the beginning stages of raising kids. Janelle was amazing! She showed me the barn and what they would need in their house, her mama does were so sweet and her buck was very personable. He jumped right up and said hello. After giving me all the feeding instructions and bottle requirements, she truly made me feel like I could handle being a goat mama. I left there feeling sure of my decision and knowing that no matter what I had a mentor who could be counted on to support this new adventure.

In the following weeks I had question after question and Janelle always made herself available and had the answers. She kept me updated on the mamas progress and sent me photos. I was beyond antsy as the middle of December came and went. I had kept the secret of the baby goats from my kids for 4 whole weeks but couldn’t contain my excitement anymore and spilled the beans to Chloe and Wade, I told them all about the baby goats we were getting as our family Christmas present. They asked every morning if the babies had been born, and every morning I said not yet, until December 22, 2015. I woke up to a message from Janelle with photos of 2 beautiful tiny doelings. They were the most adorable little things I had ever seen. Naturally I woke the kids up and we headed to the Braun family farm to meet our newest family members. For only being hours old, they were loud and walking all around, trying to feed on their mama. It was beautiful to watch. We spent about an hour or so just watching, holding and spending time with our new babies. We agreed to pick them up in 5 days so they would get the hang of feeding and get all the colostrum they needed from their mama. We named them Clover and Sage and went home. I know what you are thinking, why would you take them from their mamas at 5 days old? Well let me reassure it, its ok to take them to be bottle babies. The reason we wanted them right away is so they could bond with us, which would make them more suited for our small farm if they saw us as their family. Because of our decision our goats love people, they love all people and are not scared of visitors, they are incredibly welcoming to visitors. Also because of our decision to raise them as bottle babies they were raised with our small children and know they are little people. They don’t jump up on my son who is only 3, they learned very young they would knock him over and then he would cry and let me tell you, they don’t like it when we cry.

Ok, back to December 27th, coming home day arrived! I have never gotten my family fed, dressed and out of the house so quickly. We were all so excited to bring our babies home, I was up at the butt crack of dawn. I swear driving out to Duvall had never taken so long! I was bouncing in my seat the whole way! Even my kids weren’t complaining, except for the one stop on the side of the road for Wade to pee, shhh don’t tell! We finally made it! In the 5 days since we had seen them they had already grown and were bouncing all over the place. Janelle was amazing, she was so calm and took her time showing me how to make their bottle at the right temperature and how to give it to them. For tiny little kids man were they stubborn about taking a bottle, but before we left they both accepted it. Now getting a diaper on them was a whole other story. It was awkward trying to secure diapers on these long legged squirmy little babes. But again, Janelle masterfully got it on them and next the onesies. They were adorable and too small for the onesies I bought for them lol, too small for newborn onesies, who would have thought. Not long after we had them dressed, we were on our way home.

When we got home with our very precious cargo, we decided to treat them like any other new animal in the house and we did a slow introduction. The big dogs went outside and only the cats and small dogs were inside. Clover and Sage were so small we transported them in a laundry basket. We set them on the floor and let the Belle(chihuahua) and Piper(Doxie) come meet them first. They were so curious about the new babies, both tails wagging and smelling them, no signs of aggression just curious and wanted to play. I was thrilled. The cats came next, only Oppie and Chibs were in the house. Oppie jumped right in the basket. No one was scared of anyone and everyone did great. Finally it was the big dogs turn. We already knew Jax would be a good boy, he adopted a kitten as his baby and would clean him and lick him when the kitten was only a week old so I knew he would be just fine. It was our english bulldog Diesel who worried me a little. He had never shown any kind of aggression toward other animals before but you just never know. It surprised me when Diesel was the one to come inside and lick the babies first. Everyone was together and loving each other. The dogs and cats just followed the goats around with curiosity and the goats didn’t mind it at all. Within a couple days the babies were just part of the family to everyone, they were happily jumping around the house and eating like champs on the bottle. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to me at all because until now we had a utopia of animals and everyone got along, but it still was.

Over the weeks I had many questions, Janelle was always there to reassure me and walk me through everything. There were times I was nervous and scared I was doing something wrong but Janelle was always there with advice and everything was fine. They were jumping all over the place, loved to sit in my lap for naps, they sucked on my ears and nibbled on my hair. I have never felt so much like a mom to an animal before. They followed me all over the house and would cry if they couldn’t find me. We built a beautiful bond during our time in the house together. Sure the bottles every 4 hours meant I had to plan my day around goat feeding times, and yeah the diapers could be really nasty, but I wouldn’t have changed what we did for anything! They are so loyal and loving and fun to be around. They are always happy to see you and ready for love whenever you want to give it.

They are 12 weeks old now and have been living outside for 3 weeks. The transition was hard on all 3 of us. They cried a lot the first couple days and wanted me to spend every minute outside. I went out to visit them almost hourly the first week and every time I thought I would cry leaving them. It has gotten easier, but I still hate leaving them as much as they do. Farmer D built them a huge fenced in space they can play in and they sure do play. We put a tire and stump for them to jump on and when we go out to see them they prance and dance and jump all over the place. During the sunny days they love to lay in the sun or run around the yard following my kids and I around. These last 12 weeks with goats have been nothing short of amazing. I’m more confident of our abilities to care for them, I still get questions every now and then but having a great mentor always able to answer those questions puts me at ease.

For anyone thinking they really want a couple goats but are unsure if they could do it, go spend some time with some goats, you would be amazed at how great they can be. I can assure you that they are far easier to raise than the books make them seem. They are fun and loving, they are literally the perfect pet also if you don’t want them for milk or meat.

Thanks for reading!

Nicole

 

Sharing the Obsession

During a discussion with a fellow chicken keeper that I have been mentoring and may have been responsible for getting started in the world of chickens, it was brought up that I should write about how chicken keeping brings people together and creates friendships between people that may not have met otherwise. It really got me thinking about how many people I have shared our obsession with and influenced their decision to get chickens. Chickens really do bring people together from all different walks of life, I belong to many groups of different varieties but when it comes to my groups about farming and chicken keeping there really is nothing like it. The best way to explain it is in terms of being a duck, like I said previously when ducks meet other ducks there is a ducky conversation that takes place, “you’re a duck, I’m a duck, now we are friends” and often times when meeting other chicken keepers a similar conversation takes place, “You have chickens? So do I! Oh, we must be friends now!” Chickens and all other farm animals truly bring people together.

There are a few people who really stand out to me and all for totally different reasons.

After posting on a moms group looking for information on chickens, I responded to Amy’s plea for information and simply offered to show her and her husband my set up and what we had going on. They came over and I gave them the basic run down of what we did to get started, showed them our coop and some of the things I would have done differently. We talked about where she could get chicks from and I gave her a local breeders info. After a hour or so of talking about everything I could think of, I could see the excitement Amy had and knew it wouldnt be long before she was a convert. It wasn’t long at all, she messaged me within a couple hours with photos of 4 auto sexing chicks(boys and girls look different at hatch to tell them apart) as she was on her way to the local feed store for supplies. I knew then this was someone I was going to be life long friends with and since we have become great friends. Everyone I have met has also taught me a little something too. Amy taught me that auto sexing chicks can be wrong also, as made evident by her rooster Stan who hatched out looking like a female not a male. As a matter of fact for weeks as she kept sending me photos of him saying, “Are you sure she isn’t a he?” and my response was always “but she’s an auto sexing chicken, she looked just like your other pullet, so she has to be a she” but I was so wrong!! Its a really good thing Stan is such a sweetheart because there is a serious bond between the two of them.

I consider myself to be a little socially awkward, I have no problem talking to people in forums or via messaging but when it comes to meeting people I don’t always give off a great first impression so I don’t meet as many people face to face as I would like to. I knew of this local mom, diy genius, gardener and chicken keeper Julie who I really wanted to meet, and sometimes I wonder if maybe I used my chickens to facilitate our meeting. In July 2014 I bought a Silkie hen and her 7 chicks she had just hatched, they were on my bucket list for chicken breeds I really wanted. I knew I couldn’t keep them all so I started looking for families who wanted to adopt the extras. In walks Julie and she really wanted to come see the little fluffy babies. I was so excited because I was going to get to finally meet this amazing person that I truly admired and also because I knew how cool it would be to send some babies with her so I could still see them grow up. Of course she wanted to bring home 2 of the babies because Silkies are sweet little fuzzballs who are soft and so personable. They were her first Silkies so I got to teach her a little something about them and in return I’ve gotten to have this great friend who has all the answers when I need help with gardening and diy ideas. I also got to learn a very valuable lesson about the strength of some chicken family bonds. Julie took home the 2 sisters, she raised them and loved them and eventually they went broody (wanted to hatch chicks). They both went broody at the same time even. Julie contacted me about giving them some eggs because she wanted to let them hatch some babies and she wanted the experience for her family. So of course I gave her 6 eggs for her silkies. It was a pretty exciting process to go through with her. Once the chicks hatched we saw the hens co brood the chicks together. They literally shared the responsibilities of raising the little babies. This was not something I had heard of before so after watching those little hens co parent their babies, when my own silkies went broody at the same time, I naturally gave them eggs to hatch together and I was able to experience it first hand myself.

Another family that really stood out to me is Angela’s family and her son Quinn. She contacted me to get some advice because Quinn had asked to get some baby chicks. I invited them over to talk about chicken keeping and to see if it was something they could easily do. Quinn was a big surprise to me, he was full of questions and had a huge interest in learning. I wasn’t expecting him to have such well thought out questions, but it was clear that he really wanted chickens and wanted to be a good chicken keeper. After answering what must have been a hundred questions, he was ready for baby chicks. Since I had fertile eggs, it was easy to let them pick out some breeds and to stick them eggs under a broody hen for them. I don’t know that Angela and I would have ever met if it hadn’t been for chickens and I’m glad that we did because not only are Angela and Quinn pretty cool people but I have been able to teach them all about chickens from the very beginning of the process, the laying of the egg. Quinn was able to watch videos of the baby chicks growing inside the eggs and get updates of the chicks all the way up to hatch, he was able to pick the chicks he wanted for his flock (did I mention that he picked 3 hens out of 10-2 day old chicks, those are some good picking skills) and after taking them home he took care of them and raised them to point of lay. Those are some valuable skills for a kid and he was learning all along the way. When I recently went for a visit and to show them how to clip wings it was clear that Quinn was a natural chicken keeper as he easily picked his girls up properly and brought them over for their wing clipping. I’m really proud of Quinn and thankful that Angela has let me be a part of their experience.

I have met so many people during my chicken keeping life, many of them I’ve become friends with. Its been great creating new chicken enthusiasts, introducing rare breeds, and teaching kids all about the cycle of life with chickens. Occasionally I get an update that a rooster I rehomed became a dad or a hen hatched out her own babies, or babies I hatched laid their first egg, and its really exciting when I get those updates.

Chickens opened up a whole new world of friendship for me, who knows maybe you have a crazy chicken person in you too!

Thanks for reading!

Nicole