Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Glamour Shots

One of the most time consuming things to do during kidding season is to get good photographs of kids, both so new owners can pick which one they want, and/or so I can post them to the web site on the For Sale page.  We usually have to wait until the kids are hungry enough for a bottle, since just putting them on the ground and pointing the camera at them results in a lot of pictures that look like this

Or this

They never stop like this and look at the camera, they always stop and look away
And sometimes this
What the what?!

Not all that helpful in convincing anyone that these kids have a bright future in the show ring.  So, we wait until afternoon feeding time and use the bottles to get them to stand still so they look more like:

 But we also get some shots that don't make it on the web site

I've got milk where now?

And, of course the head shots

Look! It's the new face that the Got Milk? campaign has been looking for!

You gettin' all this? That's right, I got the baby blue eyes goin' on!
Oh, you done looking at my brother yet? No one is as good as he thinks he is.

Num, num, num, num
Now I'm ready for my close up...
Apparently, this one has heard you have to be "hungry" to make it in picturesShould I tell him it is a metaphorical hungry, not a literal one? 
So now that we have their head shots, all we need is an agent for them to make a go of it in Hollywood.  Stick with me kids, and you'll go places!

So punny it hurts, right?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moar Fluffeh Behbehs

It's been a couple of years since we've had chicks, so kids aren't the only baby critters here

What? I thought we had a monopoly on this place!
Last year, I was up to my eyeballs in baby goats, and around the time I'd normally order chicks, I just couldn't do any more baby animals.  The year before that, I had gotten a mere half dozen chickens as replacements for the previous year's hen chicks that turned out to be roosters.  Since I let my hens live out their natural lives, I now find myself with quite a few old biddies (the majority of my flock is over four years old- which is old for egg production hens) who don't do all that much in the way of egg laying, and it is time to get some new hens to keep egg production up.

One of the many items on the list o'projects is a mobile chicken house with electric netting that we can move around the property so the hens can eat weeds and fertilize the soil.  Most of the designs I've seen are for a handful of hens, and when you have the amount of weeds we'd like eaten, that just  seems too small.  And we keep getting hung up on finding wheels that can handle the weight load, but that can also swivel and conquer our bumpy terrain- we know if it isn't easy enough to move, we just won't end up moving it much.  Since that isn't yet built, I limited myself to ordering 25 chicks...for now.
It's a new place-- everyone, stick together!
I ordered gold sex-links, which means that the females and males hatch out looking completely different colors.  This comes in handy because otherwise, chicks can only be sexed the day they hatch out, and after that, there is no way to know if you have males or females until the chicks are a couple of months old.  This means feeding and caring for quite a few chickens that may turn out to be a gender you can't use, and that may decide that even though he weighs a mere fraction of what you weigh, he is going to attack you every time you go out into the barnyard or hen house.

The last time I bought 24 "hen" chicks, six of them turned out to be roosters.  Hen chicks cost more than rooster chicks or "straight run" (where you just get a certain number of chicks that haven't been sexed, so you have no idea what ratio of hens to roosters you'll end up with, though somehow everyone I know winds up with like 90% roosters this way), so I was not happy with the 25% fail rate of the hatchery.  Instead of taking my chances with some of the heritage breeds I've gotten in the past, I decided to go for a sure thing- chicks who are unmistakably hens.

Someone brave ventures over to check out the food

Chicks are shipped when they are a day old since they still have a built in food supply-- what is left of the yolk from the egg they developed in is in their abdomen when they hatch, so they don't need an outside food source for a couple of days.

There are at least 20 openings for food, but clearly that one opening has the best food in the whole tray
The peeping that came from their shipping box was incredibly loud for such small bodies.  As we took the chicks out of the box, we dipped each one into water, just in case they were thirsty after their journey.  Most of them didn't seem all that interested in the water, but once Andy scattered some food from their feeders, they excitedly chowed down.

Just like baby goats- the higher, the better
They've got a good start with chick starter, alfalfa leaves, grit, oyster shell, and soon some fresh weeds.

So, you, uh, come here often?

These chickens are wild little things who scatter when I check on them a couple of times a day, but I'm sure they'll calm down and learn that people = food/treats by the time they are ready to join our mature chickens out in the barn yard.  It is surprising just how quickly they grow in their feathers- we already saw little tiny wing feathers starting, and too soon most of the cute chick fuzz will be gone.

Hold still, you have a little something right...there...
But we'll certainly enjoy the fluffehness while it lasts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kidding Season in Full Swing

It feels like kids are arriving left and right these days!  It could be much more fast and furious (it was last year), but so far we've had eight does give birth to 25 kids- 14 bucks, 11 does. 
All that work of being born is so tiring!
It seems as though every year, or every couple of years, we end up changing around the kidding stalls for one reason or another, usually having to do with more does kidding at a time.  I don't have pictures of the various set-ups since I'm more focused on trying to get pictures of the baby goats during kidding season, which is sort of a shame, because the set up has really evolved.

The garage is where we set up the kidding pens- it's sort of an awkward size, so we don't use it for the cars, but we can hear the does go into labor while getting other tasks in the house accomplished.  Just how convenient this is was driven home by having our first three kiddings happen in the barn.  Sometimes, a doe will start to show signs of early labor and have kids on the ground in 20 minutes.  Sometimes, you catch the doe in early labor and four hours later, you're still sitting in the barn waiting to catch and dry off kids, not wanting to leave for fear that you'll miss something important, but also not getting anything done.

The original pen was made out of two 16 foot no-climb welded wire horse panels cut in half and made into a giant square.  I'm pretty sure that when I bought the panels, I was just looking for holes small enough that baby goats couldn't climb through them- after a couple of years, the five foot tall panels seemed pretty ridiculous, and I decided to get some hog panels instead.  The hog panels were shorter, and we were able to do two pens, so there could be a pen just for kids, and just for does.  This was to keep either the bottle babies from bugging the pregnant does, and to keep the pregnant does from getting too aggressive with the bottle babies. 

Eventually, we were up to three kidding pens which could also be split in half if many does were kidding at once. One Saturday last year found me arriving home from the farmer's market just in time to deal with six does kidding over a span of four or five hours, all in their own little kidding chambers.  We had added some plywood as the backing for the stalls- mainly to protect the drywall since the kids of 2010 had eaten holes through it- and used metal loops to attach the hog panels.  This freed up a couple of the hog panels, which are now mainly being used to patch up holes Bert and Ernie have created in the buck pasture fence.  But I digress.

Last year, I became somewhat disenchanted with the kidding pen set up.  Here's the thing- does like to step up on the hog panel wires.  When they do this, whatever is on their feet gets on the wire.  Then, baby goats, exploring the world with their mouths as they do, get that gunk in their mouths.  The panels are difficult to disinfect, and there just weren't good barriers between the stalls.  I craved solid, impervious surfaces that could be easily wiped down. 

The new design: all three stalls are a little over 5'x10', and the walls are made of vinyl covered plywood- very slick and solid.  The front of the pens have doors still made of hog panel, but there shouldn't be cross contamination.  Should we decide we need to divide the stalls, it will be more difficult than just clipping wire panels to wire panels, but I'm hoping that the easier-to-clean aspect will make up for the loss of convenience. The solid walls also seem to keep the areas under the heat lamps warmer, and there should be less of a draft from the garage door. 

Our first kids of the year have grown up a bit in the last few weeks:

Luna's daughter- Selenehelion- always keeping an eye on me

Roxanne's kids are over towards the right, one of Luna's bucks is the lounge lizard in the middle, and the dark kid top center and top left are Sapphire's, with one of Boo's kids in the lower left-hand corner.

CRF Castle Rock Roxanne had our first February kids- three does and a buck sired by Castle Rock Bentley.  Roxanne is from a line of does who are very slow to mature, and I've been waiting very patiently to see this third freshening udder, and it is all I was hoping for.  I hope to get a picture soon, but there's a decent chance that her buck kid will be sold as a herd sire.

Castle Rock Sun Sapphire was the next doe to kid with twin bucks by Bentley; both bucks are polled, and one appears to have his mother's blue eyes as well.  Sapphire was very talkative during her long, uneventful labor, while I was pretty deep into a very bad cold that had moved into my sinuses and was affecting my hearing in weird ways- human voices were hard to hear, but clinking glass or bleating goats were all amplified and painful.  I just wanted the kids to come out so I wouldn't have to hear the bleating any more! 

Ghost Pine gave us our first Chicago Peace kids- two bucks that look just like tiny versions of their mother, and a light buckskin doe who is going home with a very excited 4-H family in a couple of days.

The next day, without making a sound, Bailey presented us with quads

Can you tell which one of these five is not Bailey's?
I am quite surprised that a brown doe (out of a chamoisee doe and by a gold buck who throws a lot of chocolate) and a gold and white buck (Castle Rock Harvest Moon- out of a gold and white doe and by a buckskin and white buck) would produce four solid buckskin kids, but there we go.  The buck has blue eyes, and I think one of the does has blue eyes too, but they are so similar that it is a challenge to tell them apart. 

The little mostly white doe in the picture came out of Saranade, as did her look-alike sister and two darker buckskin bucks.  Chicago Peace is the sire of these kids as well, and they are all very sharp and dairy kids.  The two does look very much like SnowFluryCeanothus- an older half sister of Saranade, and it is incredibly tempting to keep one of the does based on just that, but I am trying really hard to limit how many does I keep this year- last year I retained 14 junior does, and I cannot do that again this year if I want to keep the herd at a manageable size.

Snownamie had triplet bucks by Chicago Peace- not what I was hoping for, but at least we had some variation on the all buckskin, all the time, with two of the bucks being black and white and super friendly. They took turns keeping me company while Coral Bells was in labor.

Some serious napping taking place

I'd bred Coral Bells to Barnaby as a repeat of the previous year's breeding that produced twin bucklings that were long and gorgeous, but hoping this time for a doe to retain.  Looks like it was not meant to be- Cora had one normal buck, and one very underdeveloped buck that had clearly stopped developing a while ago.  This occasionally happens in all animals- for some reason, the fetus just stops developing at a certain point.  With the exception of not having as much milk right now as I would have anticipated, Cora seems fine and is not showing any ill effects, though we are definitely keeping an eye on her.

At the rate we're going- 25 kids from eight does- it is entirely possible that despite my plans to have less kids this year, we'll come close to last year's total of over 100 kids.  I guess on the bright side- this year's kiddings are more spread out than last year's.