Our first year of Homeschooling!

A little more than a year ago my husband Micah and I sat down to discuss the possibility of homeschooling our daughter Chloe. She was going to be in the 3rd grade and we thought that since we were building a self sustaining life style as much as possible it would be the natural progression of things that I would enter into the adventures of homeschooling. This had been a topic of conversation for years, pretty much every summer we discussed and decided against homeschooling, until June of 2016 that is. We had more than enough reasons why we wanted to do it, and not so many reasons why we shouldn’t. This was before we learned of my dads skin cancer diagnosis. We had already begun the process when we found out my dad was sick so there was no turning back. Hindsight being 20/20, I would say that maybe life was throwing a little too much my way to start this but we moved ahead.

I began the online homeschooling certification classes, I was loving learning again and completely motivated. I was already 2 weeks into the 6 week class when my dad was admitted into the hospital. I don’t talk about this time in my life much because for me it was excruciating but its all tied into my homeschooling journey. Those last 4 weeks of my classes I completed the majority of my lessons at the hospital and in hospice care with my dad. Skin cancer is a painful and horrible way for your life to end, but during that time with my dad we talked about what I was doing. Most people thought I couldn’t handle teaching my stubborn and independent daughter but one night when I was on dad watching duty he asked me what I was doing. I explained the class I was required to take in order to teach Chloe. He looked at me and said, “If I know anything about you, no matter how hard this will be for you, you can handle this. You are strong enough for the both of you.” I won’t say I didn’t have my doubts during the course of the year but at that moment it was exactly what I needed to hear to know that I was making the right decision. I finished my course right before my dad passed away, but I was able to tell him I met my certification requirements and I got to see the pride in his eyes before he was gone.

The following month was hard, I was consumed with taking care of everyone around me and prepping everything for the upcoming school year and I forgot to take care of me. Due to my mistakes, we had a rough start to the year. I had ordered the entire 3rd grade Bookshark curriculum for Chloe. Thinking that if I could just follow the plan and schedule they made we would be fine. Boy was I wrong! First thing I didn’t see was that Chloe was transitioning from public school with a set structure and time for everything to being at home to do everything. The first two weeks we did good, walk in the park, mostly because we were both so excited to begin that it kept us going. But then things started getting really hard. Everything was a fight, she just wanted to do her own thing, wanted to avoid school work as much as possible. It took me a while to figure out how to proceed. We both wanted to pull our hair out, she probably hated me and I certainly didn’t want to be around her. It took 3 months of us being at each others throats for me to realize we had a problem. Not only was she fighting everything, but my motivation was gone. When my dad died, I slipped into a depression that caused me to come down with a bunch of stressed induced medical issues. I never left home for fear of being judged. My kids told me it was like I was a zombie. I began asking questions of other homeschool moms, what helped them when they began, what should I change, how can I make this work…and they came through. Not only did we need a break to decompress and figure each other out, but I needed to fix me before I could really be there for her. So thats just what we did.

Thanksgiving came and went and December was upon us. I decided that what we needed what some unschooling time. Learning at her pace and what she wanted to learn about. We read together to keep her reading on track and she happily did math, but everything else was all up to her. We watched documentaries, looked up online articles, and just spent time having fun. While she was getting use to the new way of things, I was seeking out new doctors who could give me answers and treatment and counseling to move past my loss. I didn’t know how much my physical condition and emotional upset had been impacting her and her learning. I felt a lot of guilt. So when January came along and it was time to get back down to business we sat down and talked. We talked about everything she was feeling and how we wanted to move forward. Doing it together and with an understanding that we were in this together was exactly what we needed.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say it was all sunshine and rainbows for the rest of the year because no it was not easy. But we worked out a plan and schedule. We finally worked together for the first time since the beginning of the school year. We still had days where she fought me on everything and I still had days when I doubted I was going to survive until June. Its not easy to be with your kids 24/7, never getting a break, always questioning yourself every single day. But what it comes down to was, what is best for my kids? We live in a world thats dangerous right now, everyone has an opinion about everything, not many people are that accepting of people who are different. We never felt like we fit all that well into the liberal run public school system, and while we love the Lord, we also don’t fit into the uber conservative private school ideals either. We are right in the middle, blazing our own way of life and doing something special and unique. So my belief is that yes, I was doing what was best because we are doing what we feel is right for us without casting judgement on others who do things differently.

Will I continue to homeschool next year? Yes but not in the same way. We discovered during the year that Chloe has ADD and what she needs more than having a teacher at home is having her mom at home. Our relationship suffered during the year, I was teacher all day and then mom at night, she never got to have just mom and fun mom because I was always working basically. So for next year we decided to try an online academy, the hope is that she will still get to do her learning at home, have the structure of school to help her be able to focus more, still have the support she needs from me for learning, but also be able to have just me, her mom. At the same time, I will begin to homeschool our son Wade for kindergarten in the more traditional homeschool setting because he is eager to learn and can sit for hours learning, Chloe always struggled with sitting for any amount of time. LOL!

We are blazing our own way, making mistakes and regretting none of it! In case you were wondering, no we did not fail the 3rd grade! We did our end of the year assessment and to my surprise Chloe scored in the 7th and 8th grade level for Language arts and reading, and 4th grade math. Not only did we survive with no casualties but we excelled and I’m incredibly proud of all we accomplished this last year, even with all the craziness and hardships!

Thanks for reading!

Nicole

Raising Quail for meat and eggs!

We’ve been raising Quail for 6 months and the overall consensus is they are delicious to eat, make excellent eggs, are fun to watch and they are incredibly stupid. We still haven’t figured out how they survive in the wild, but they truly are super easy to raise.

Why should you raise quail? Its simple, they don’t take up the space chickens do, they start laying between 6-8 weeks old, the eggs are a super food, roosters are ready for butchering by 8 weeks old, and they are so quiet compared to chickens.

I said they were stupid right, ok good because yeah they are the least intelligent bird I’ve raised. Mostly I think this because I’ve watched them get startled and fly up into the roof of their house not just once, but over and over. They also lay their eggs all over the place, Ive even found one in the water dish. They are pretty wild animals in comparison to ducks and chickens, they don’t seem to understand the concept of person bringing food, water and treats is ok, instead they see us and think “OMG they are here to kill us, run and hide!” Then they proceed to scurry all over the house, running into walls, flying into the roof and hitting the chicken wire at full speed. Seriously they just don’t ever learn!A19059BB-

Quail babies are so tiny! These were our first 4, I really should have gotten more than 4 to start but I didn’t realize just how small they would be and how little they eat. So we added a few more along the way. The cute sleeping in our hands phase only lasted about a week and then they didn’t want to have anything to do with us. But they were pretty funny to watch. They were fast little buggers who jumped and flew around all over. For a brooder it was pretty easy to just set them up in a little rabbit cage, they only used the heater for the first 2 weeks and then they had all their feathers. Thats another perk to quail, they get fully feathered super fast. So they could go outside by 3 weeks.

49D66232-4A80-4D21-9018-68B044CC8931See how big they were at 3 weeks and already had all their feathers. I still had a heater in there but they never used it, they slept on top of it at this point. Feeding is pretty simple, I just got the meat bird feed and threw it into the blender for the first few weeks to make it tiny and they were able to eat it without any issues. Housing them is super simple also, we probably could have kept them in the rabbit cage until they were 6 weeks old but we built them a house outside so we wanted them moved out there. Quail only need 1 sq ft per bird so each level of our house can have up to 12 full size quail. Its pretty amazing to have that many in a small space. For now we just have the 2 levels, top is for the adults and the bottom is for growing out the juveniles. Its very basic and simple, we chose to go with the wood pellets instead of the wire bottom because it keeps them warmer in cold temps, keeps the eggs from cracking and gives them something to dig in. Plus since they are so small, the bedding lasts for at least a month! Heres our 2 story quail house:

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And of course here are a few of our full grown quail. Still adorable even if they are little crazies who I have to make sure they don’t escape because they could fly away.

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If you have the stomach for butchering the extra males, then yay for you! I personally had to have Micah do the butchering and I did the clean up. Compared to chickens, once again way easier. Each bird took me about 10 minutes and that was because it was my first time. We have 10 males right now in our juvie house that we will process in 2 weeks and its the easiest process ever so I will do them all at once and it will only take me maybe an hour. Chickens take me at least 45 min per bird because there is a process to make sure its done correctly and I take my time with them. I won’t get into the details but there are so many videos on you tube to show how simple it really is.

So yeah, Quail are fun and super easy to take care of. They make the perfect addition to any urban farm with limited space. They don’t take much time or effort, I love them! Plus the roosters taste amazing!

Meat Birds…so gross!

We have only been raising meat birds for 4 weeks now and I already wish we were done. There is only 1 way to describe meat birds, GROSS!!!! I guess you can also say they are unnatural and an abomination but thats too heartless for me. We got 10 Red Rangers 4 weeks ago and at first we thought they were so cute! For the first couple days they were like any other chicks, cute and cuddly but a little bigger than normal chicks. After the first couple days, thats when the poop and constant eating started. The poop had the smell of adult chicken poo, so out to the garage they went. They really started growing fast, by 1 week old they were 8oz each. At 1 week we also had our first loss, the smallest of the rangers we believe got suffocated at the bottom of the pile while they were sleeping. Lesson 1, make sure they have enough heat to spread out otherwise they will sleep in a big pile and possibly kill the ones on the bottom. We had been using 1 Brinsea brooder heater but that wasn’t big enough, so we added a second so they could all spread out.

The next week went smoothly so we purchased 6 Cornish Cross that were 4 weeks old. This was were we made the mistake. Cornish Cross are much different than Red Rangers, the Rangers move around more, scratch around and look for food more. Cornish sit around the food and eat all day long. After researching we decided to take food away at night because they would do nothing but eat. So they get 12 hours with food and 12 hours without. We weighed the Cornish when they arrived at 4 weeks old and they were 3.5lbs. Each week they have gained at least a pound. Those 6 birds started with eating about 2lbs of food a day and have increased to over 4lbs everyday. Cornish Cross grow unnaturally fast, you have these 6 week old chickens that look almost full grown, but peep like chicks. They eat so much and poop so much but don’t move around much so they are always dirty. At just 6 weeks, some of the Cornish are already struggling to walk because their legs can barely hold up their weight. Its really sad to watch to be honest. Lastly, they don’t grow feathers like you would expect, at 6 weeks old they are still half naked. I was hoping to have them outside but with our cold temps thats just not possible, basically Cornish Cross really should only be raised in the summer around Washington state. So my thoughts on raising Cornish Cross again is that I would rather raise more Rangers for a longer period of time than go through this bizarre experience of these odd human created breed of chicken thats just wrong.

Back to the little Rangers, they are 4 weeks now and growing about twice as fast as egg laying chickens. They are pretty heavy for 4 weeks and eat a lot of food, but they are still pretty active and will look around for food and eat fodder when provided. So far they seem like a little more natural for raising for meat, they still behave like chickens despite being larger. The only thing with all meat birds is that brooder cleaning is much more frequent with these giant birds, so stock up on shavings.

This weekend we will be processing the Cornish Cross and I will update the blog after its finished with how the whole experience went. We have processed plenty of roosters before, but they have been so small that Ive just breasted them out and removed the legs, so we will hopefully have plenty of roasters for the freezer.

UPDATE!!

Ok so now I can officially say this, I am never going to raise Cornish Cross chickens again. Its not just that it was gross for the 2.5 weeks but it was actually really sad in the end. The Nuggets as well called them could barely walk by 6.5 weeks old, even with all the space and attempts at getting them moving.

First lets talk about the stats because they are exciting. Ok so these Nuggets were 6.5 weeks old, we got them at 4 weeks and during the 2.5 weeks they were here they ate 30lbs of meat bird feed. Live weight totaled 30lb 1oz and post processing weight was 20lb 4oz so with the cost to purchase and the cost of feed we only paid $2.25 per pound of chicken meat! Yay that part is exciting!

Now for the sad reasons I won’t raise Cornish again. As stated before, most of them could hardly walk by the time we were ready to butcher them. Of the 6, 2 of them had a large amount of fluid around the heart which is an indication of Ascites or Congestive Heart Failure, these 2 didn’t have fluid in their bellies yet but it would have happened very soon. One of the hens had a very bad case of Ascites, the belly was filled with fluid, the heart also had a fluid sack. So basically at only 6.5 weeks old half of the Cornish were suffering from congestive heart failure. These 3 were also the smallest of the chickens but based on my experience with Ascites, they wouldn’t have lived much longer so it was best we butchered them now. The biggest Cornish was the top rooster and he weighed 5lbs 11oz, dressed out at 4lbs 11oz. The smallest hen weighed 4lbs 4oz, breasted out and removed just the legs and wings at 2lbs 2oz. So a pretty big difference between the healthiest and the hen suffering from congestive heart failure. Another really upsetting thing we experienced that was all new to us during the actually butchering process was the dislocating of the wings. Typically after Micah chops the head off the chicken, we hang them to bleed out, however the Cornish flap and thrash around so severely that the wings dislocated on 5 of the 6 Cornish. If we had known about this we would have used the cone method. Now the plucking process was very fast but their skin is very thin so it ripped much easier. So be careful!

So we learned a lot so far but we still have more to learn,

Nicole

Healing your animals at home

Many times I’ve been messaged about sick or hurt chickens and ducks, I’m always willing to do anything I can to help with saving animals. When I began keeping chickens, I set up a first aid kit and its ready to go at a moments notice. Since we have so many animals we have had to deal with a wide range of illnesses and a couple injuries. If you are going to keep animals then having a kit ready to go before hand is critical, it can be the difference between life or death.

Here’s my list of must haves:

Electrolytes, Probiotics, Nutri-drench, VetRx, Neosporin, No Pick (Blue Kote), Bandages, Scissors, Tweezers, Vetricyn, Coconut Oil, Vaseline

From Moonlight Mile Herb Farm: First Step Tonic, Worm Balancer, Bumblefoot remedy, Bug eraser spray, Ultimate Garlic Fusion

So those are the things I always have on hand for any emergency. Over the last year we have gotten away from using antibiotics and commercial dewormers in favor for more organic and natural ways of healing. When I began asking questions and doing the research I found Moonlight Mile Herb Farm and their line of poultry products. Since I began using the products I haven’t had to use the commercial products once…knock on wood. Many of the products I used previously now require a vet prescription, so finding a natural alternative wasn’t just something I wanted but it was necessary.

When brining home baby chicks, electrolytes, No pick and Vetricyn are your most critical items. We brought home our first set of chicks, were so excited with these little fluffy butts that we never thought they could hurt a fly. We were so wrong!  The reason I say Vetricyn and No pick is because the chicks will clean and peck at each other and sometimes it causes mini ouchies. Within a day of having our chicks home, one had a boo boo under her eye. But Vetricyn is great because it can be sprayed in the eyes, it can be used on any wounds for any animal and it speeds healing. No pick is smelly and tastes terrible so when a chick tries to pick at a wound it will taste bad so they won’t try to do that again. Its really great for big chickens too because they are really attracted to red, so blood turns them into little sharks when blood is in the water, but a mouth full of No pick will send them running. Electrolytes are needed because the hatching process is so taxing on their little bodies, then depending on where you get them from they could have gone through shipping, then moving into a big pen, then being taken out of pen and going to their new home. Basically the first few days of life is hard, so electrolytes help them get back up to strength faster.

Probiotics are great for gut health, a healthy gut also means hens are able to make eggs more effectively and fight off other problems better too. Nutri-drench has saved many birds over the years, I have found that the high dose vitamins will help to prolong the life of an ailing bird giving me the time needed to diagnose and treat a sick bird. VetRx is a natural remedy for respiratory issues, it can be used in a diffuser or dropped right above the nostrils.

Where I live we have a lot of crows. In some ways crows are beneficial, they are great for chasing away hawks and eagles, but often times they are just menaces to the farm. I suspect the crows have brought scaly leg mites onto my farm so we have had to do many scaly leg treatments. Luckily its very easy to take care of. When I see that a hen needs scaly leg treatment I begin with a nice foot soak in the sink with a little dawn soap, if there are scales that can be easily removed without causing bleeding then I will rub on them till they fall off. After a soak then I dry the legs, cover them in coconut oil to smother the mites and after that I cover the entire leg and toes in vaseline to aid in the healing of the scales. Like I said, its pretty easy to take care the issue but sadly it spreads through the whole flock so you have to treat everyone to fully eliminate them.

I always pray that nothing will happen physically to my birds, but there are always risks when free ranging. I’ve been lucky to not have any major physical injures however I have treated many local friends chickens and ducks. Chickens and ducks are incredibly resilient to injuries, I have seen some miraculous recoveries but the number one rule for me when I see injuries or really bad prolapses is what would be best for the animal. Do they have a real shot at recovery or will they be in too much pain to recover. If i think they will be able to recover and return to a normal life I will do everything in my power to help them. First thing when there is a wound is to clean the wound, usually I wash the wound area and cut away feathers that obstruct the view to ensure that all the dirt is cleaned. Most cases aren’t in need of stitches because chickens and ducks regrow their meat and skin very fast. As long as the wound is only a flesh wound then I will spray with Vetricyn allow to dry and then coat with Neosporin, not only because it aids in fast healing but the Neosporin makes bandages not stick to the wound. Depending on the severity I do always try to cover the wounds because getting sand, dirt and potentially flies laying eggs in the wound which leads to fly strike, so keeping hurt hens clean, covered, indoors and quiet are very important to healing. I repeat the wound treatment daily until new skin has grown, once they have enough feathers to cover the area and no open wounds, they can return to the flock.

Finally lets talk about natural treatments! I found Moonlight Mile Herb Farm about a year ago and have loved every product I’ve ordered. I use the Worm Balancer once a month for a couple days as a preventative treatment and since I began doing this I haven’t had a worm overload, prior to using the preventative I would have to deworm in the spring and fall and throw away eggs for 2 weeks every time and there were always evidence of worm overload in the poo. When I adopted my new silkies a year ago they all were infested with lice, chicken lice is so disgusting but never fear its not the same as human lice so we can’t catch it from them. I gave all 5 of them a bath with dawn, dried them and sprayed them down with the bug eraser every few days for a couple weeks, and guess what, all the lice were gone! I also can spray the coops with the spray and it doesn’t hurt anyone. In our 3 years we have only had 1 hen come down with a bumble foot infection, prior to finding the moonlight bumble foot remedy, I would have had to do surgery on the hens foot and remove the infection, however with the bumble foot remedy all I had to do was put a drop on the infection and then a drop in her mouth everyday, 2 weeks later the infection was gone! Surgery can be very stressful on a hen, plus she will need to be separated from the flock and her foot wrapped and then you have to treat the foot like a wound and it can take several days of wound treatment to make sure that she is healed before going outside again, I don’t know about you but if there is something I can do thats easier and less stressful for the hen then I’m going to do it. The Ultimate Garlic Fusion and the First Step Tonic are immune boosters. I use the Ultimate Garlic Fusion once every couple weeks for an immune boost for the hens and the First Step Tonic I’m using for the first time in all my brooders, its an immune boost, helps keep cocci and other parasites away, assists with healthy nutritional supplement. So far my babies are doing great, healthy and no signs of cocci.

I’ve been working hard at transferring everything over to natural remedies, prevention and healing. I am loving all my new products and believe in them 100%.

All for now, but if you have any specific questions about treatments and healing birds please let me know!

Nicole

Its a new year on the Old McDavis Farm!

Its been a year that I have been away from our blog and a lot has happened, we have changed a lot and been through a lot. My goal moving forward will be to post weekly what we are doing, changing and learning. The 2016 year was a hard year on my family, we didn’t do much growing of our farm, only maintaining because I was going through several medical issues and as a family we were dealing with several difficult losses. But it is a new year and we have started fresh. I will be writing lots of new blogs with some new ideas and how we have changed the way we are doing things. But first I want to thank you for reading my farm blog and update you on all the new things happening.

Up until summer of 2016 we had a dozen or so large fowl chickens, a small flock of ducks, 2 baby goats and a small flock of silkies, along with some cats and dogs. Well, we have grown quite a bit. Our large fowl flock has grown to 19 with more eggs in the incubator now, primarily focusing on Swedish Flower Hens and colorful egg breeds. Our duck flock grew to 12 mostly Ancona as we found a beautiful genetic line to add 2 drakes from and we hatched out 6 new females from our own lines. We still have our 2 domestic mallards for slug control in the front yard, however they may be hatching some more Anconas for us this year. Our goats Sage and Clover are now 14 months old and we are patiently waiting to find out if their mating session last week was successful, and we have a beautiful little girl we are adopting next month after she kids her first babies. Our Silkie flock grew to 10 last summer along with our Swedish Flower hen special needs gal, our colors now include white, buff, porcelain, cuckoo, black and splash. Chloe’s Serama flock recently grew to 5, 3 are frizzled Seramas. Stu the Angora rabbit got the snuffles last summer and we assisted him over the rainbow bridge in September after a long and painful fight to heal his body. We have been without a farm rabbit since then however we are welcoming a new baby girl Angora next month which we are so excited about because she looks so much like Stu, we are accepting name ideas on our Facebook page so check that out.  www.facebook.com/theoldmcdavisfarm  We have entered the world of Quail raising, we thought we would just start with a couple adults however when a friend hatched out a bunch of babies we jumped at the chance to raise some from hatching so instead of the 2 , we actually ended up with 8. Our first order of Red Ranger meat birds arrived a week ago and its already been an all new monster of chicken raising. Indoors we have grown a bit too. We started a Saltwater fish tank in order to adopt my dads 8 and 6 year old Clown fish. We began to rescue unwanted Cockatiels and ended up with 2 girls and 2 boys who keep trying to hatch babies, possibly something for us to consider allowing them to try in the future.

As you can see, things are changing and growing around here. I’m planning to discuss many things on our blog, some of the things you can look forward to me writing about include: our first trial of raising meat birds, raising quail, preparing for our goats kidding and what happens after, building new coops, a more natural way of raising birds, our whole truth about starting a saltwater fish tank, angora rabbits and why they are the most awesome breed ever, building a new glass greenhouse, how we build things out of repurposed materials, growing barley to feed animals, growing our vegetable garden organically, the good bad and ugly of beginning to homeschool and of course all the baby animals we hatch and raise. So thank you for returning after such a long break.

-Nicole

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