OKAY. NEW PLAN.
THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF LECHAT NOIR FARM
OKAY. NEW PLAN.
THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF LECHAT NOIR FARM
As anyone who maintains a small farm knows, you cannot always keep animals just because they are cute. They need to serve some practical function as well. What can a flock of geese do for you?
The guardian goose.
There is a blog post or a YouTube video floating around out there somewhere that suggests keeping a single goose with your chicken flock to protect them from predators. I have never personally encountered the original source of this information, but I have read enough blogs and such to have encountered the reference repeatedly. A lot of our customers also come out to our place looking for a 'guardian goose' for their flock. They tell me that they read that they could raise a single gosling with their chickens and it will bond with the chickens and fight to defend them as part of its own flock.
I really hate to burst bubbles here, but it simply is not true. I will give the benefit of the doubt and say that individual animals have their quirks - and it is possible that someone somewhere ended up with a goose that seemed to do exactly what they are advertising. However, such a goose is an exception and, if he does indeed exist out there, he is in imminent danger.
In our experience, a single goose will not actually bond with chickens (or guineas or turkeys and so on) no matter how young the goose is when you bring him home. It is within the realm of possibility, though I am purely speculating here, that if a gosling were actually hatched by a chicken he would imprint on the chicken and, therefore, appear to have bonded with the other chickens. However, imprinting happens a lot earlier than a couple days later when you bring a gosling home from someone else's farm. Bonding is something else entirely. A goose bond is very strong and it is not handed out all willy-nilly to any other creature just because it happens to have wings. A goose will bond with another goose if another goose is available, but a lonely gander's second choice is... you. (Because if that gosling had been incubated and hatched by humans, chances are high that he imprinted on a human.) Sure, you may be able to isolate a goose to the point of him following your chickens around in desperation for company, but he is not going to stick his neck out (pun intended) to defend those chickens. Any such behavior is self-defense and nothing more.
And this is where the real problem comes in: A single goose cannot defend itself against a determined predator. A flock of geese work together to defend their territory - circling, honking, hissing, and snapping like a multi-headed monster. To the unwary predator, that is exactly what the flock is. It is no longer a scattering of meal-sized birds, but a single, immense, obnoxious, and potentially painful creature that is just not worth the trouble for a snack. If you are following me here, you can clearly see how one goose and a flock of chickens cannot produce the same effect.
Would you believe there is an update to the peacock story already?
After posting A TALE OF TWO PEACOCKS this morning, I went to the barn to collect some food for the guineas and.. I heard chirping.
Posted by Anita
Auntie to three new peachicks.
If you have only found us through our website and this blog, then you may not be aware that we have a pair of Indian Blue peafowl. They are not listed under 'Critters' on our page. They do not even get an honorable mention. There is a very good reason for that. You see, when we were putting our website together, we were not completely sure that we even had peafowl. There's a story here....
On the feeding of donkeys... and other creatures.
I am just going to jump right in and say it: We people tend to feed our animals too much. Maybe it is an American thing. I have no experience anywhere else. But it is a thing. That is not to say that I do not know people who follow their veterinarian's advice to the letter and measure out their dog's food with great care. The fact that I know anything at all about the details of how and when acquaintances feed their pets -- because they went out of their way to explain it to me as if it were a matter of importance -- tells me that this is something that is hard for them. Not hard for them to do, but hard for them to wrap their mind around.
I was the same once upon a time. I would read the suggested feeding amounts and schedules on the back of the dog food bag and scoff: "What? My dog eats a lot more than that!" Not that he should have, just that he did. As if that makes sense at all.
Of course, my own eating habits were much the same. I am pretty sure from the barrage of news headlines about Americans and obesity that I was not exceptional.
Then I moved to Oklahoma and bought a donkey. I recognize that the things that motivate me to self-improvement are often a little unusual. But caring for a donkey changed a lot about how I viewed diet and health.
It does not matter how long we have been doing this, or how many times things go horribly wrong and we get through it. When we lose any animals, the heartbreak is the same. It means we are human, I tell the kids, We know by the pain we feel that we have lost none of our humanity along the way. And none of that reassurance in our humanity dulls the ache -- or quells the fear.
When I tell people that we inevitably lose some poultry each year to predators, I do not often see any surprise register on their faces. Honestly, I think I might be able to hear them thinking: "Sure. That's what happens when you insist on free-ranging your animals, you ding-bat." Sometimes my confession is followed up by their testimony (which confirms that my mind-reading skills are on target), "We will be keeping ours in a safe coop and run. So, no worries."
No worries. If only.
While it is true that we have a chicken missing periodically - the likely victim of a hungry hawk or a late morning fox on the prowl for a snack - most of our losses have not actually had anything to do with free-ranging. Nothing compares to the losses we have sustained inside safe enclosures. And I mean nothing compares - by any measure and not just quantity. The chicken who comes up missing at the mid-morning roll call does not compare to the discovery of an entire grow-out flock helplessly torn to bits. Waking up the morning after your safe enclosure was no longer safe is a punch in the gut.
The story of our first goats.
Our sudden and somewhat impulsive move to Oklahoma in December of 2013 was tumultuous and it took several months to even begin to be in a position to start acquiring poultry and livestock. Having said that, I realize that we were not entirely ready then and had we been more reasonable people we would have given ourselves a year or more to get settled in before throwing live animals into the mix. But with experience comes such wisdom - and we lacked both.
We also lacked patience. We had gone through a lot to get here and time was passing. Back then, we still worked on suburban time -- expecting things to happen in hours and days rather than months and even years like it does out here.
I had done my research. Long before the move I had poured over every goat book I could get my hands on. I spent hours watching YouTube videos and reading the best and worst blogs that offered goat advice and information. I had decided that we wanted to raise Kinder goats. They were a newly recognized breed - a hybrid of a Pygmy and Nubian - which promised to offer all the good things you get from a meat goat and a milk goat in a moderately-sized package. There was also the advantage of these goats being a fairly rare breed which would mean that we would be forced to take our time finding exactly the right goats at exactly the right time.
Or at least until May of 2014 - which was probably not exactly the right time. There happened to be a Craigslist ad for registered Kinder goats for sale within driving distance of us. What are the chances? It was like destiny. We made arrangements with the seller and rented a horse trailer to go pick up our goats of destiny.
At this point, even in retrospect, I cannot say with certainty that we had done anything regrettable regarding the purchase of our first livestock animals. We had: 1) Done our research, 2) Decided on a breed which would be well-suited to our needs and resources, 3) Committed to that breed, and 4) Decided to buy registered stock from a registered breeder.
In the past when I have shared pictures of birds still inside our brooder boxes, I have gotten comments asking how I keep the brooder so clean. The short answer is: hard work and determination. However, there are a few things that make that hard work more effective in the long run which I will be sharing here today. Read on to learn more about the cleaning method that has made all the difference for us.
I am almost too tired to write this, but as I sit here watching more clouds roll in for the afternoon I feel the need for some catharsis. You may have heard about the extreme weather that has been pummeling the plains states for the last few weeks. Well, that's us.
One of the many tornadoes that touched down a couple of weeks ago even happened to touch down at our place - but, thankfully, it lacked motivation and only destroyed a lot of our trees and fences. Still, that and the ongoing tornado warnings and sirens and flash floods and closed roads and rising bodies of water and loss of life is more than enough to remind us that post-traumatic stress disorder is a real and lingering thing.
It occurred to me for the first time this morning that all of this record-breaking severe weather might very well have been the catalyst for starting a new blog. Subconsciously, of course - as these things go. But surely after days of watching the radar screen and listening to damage reports made something go click in my head.
Regardless, it is not entirely the stress of dodging weather disaster every day that has exhausted me. It never is. What wears me down are the daily things. Usually they are little unforeseen difficulties that pile up until they become overwhelming.
Our grass is dying from excess water and our soil is leached. Extra food is needed for all of the animals, but keeping it from going moldy and growing toxins is a constant concern. Disease is more likely to spread in this kind of weather. Parasites proliferate. Small injuries become bigger ones as infection is harder to keep at bay, and nearly impossible to treat properly in muddy conditions.
Here we are on the third blog post and I already have to say it: Okay. New Plan.
And it is all because we don't fence our animals.
We fence our trees.
The disadvantage of letting donkeys, goats, pigs, chickens, geese, or some combination of those and others wander around our entire property most of the time rather than confining them to tidy paddocks or grazing areas, is that it makes it pretty difficult to start young trees or grow a garden. Sure, they have over 14 acres of untouched woodland to explore and munch on, but the little apple tree that Dave just planted just plain tastes better.
We figured all of that out rather quickly and made sure to wrap the bases of young trees with netting to prevent bark-stripping - and fence the youngest saplings entirely to preserve them. It is extra work and it is a bit unsightly, but we would rather do all of that than not give the critters the most room to roam with us every day.
We fenced our house.
We also installed a chain link fence around our house so that we could plant flowers and vegetable gardens that would not be turned into dust baths - and to keep the sidewalks free of poo. That has worked out pretty well for us over the last few years. We keep goslings and chicks grazing within the chainlink of our front yard when they are growing out, but send them outside once they are tall enough to reach the raised gardens.
Sending them out was a precautionary measure that I was sure we would never need as the geese have never shown any interest in our flowers or vegetable plants - preferring the bermuda grass and chickweed out in the open areas.
I used the word 'never' far too many times in that sentence above. I should know better. And I'm sure you have already guessed that the next thing I am going to say is: Until now.
I have always been fascinated by the study of animal behavior. As a matter of fact, behavioral science was my minor in college for a time. (Until I could not manage to pass organic chemistry. Three times. Consider that a closed door.) When I spend my days (and sometimes nights) here surrounded by and observing animals of all kinds - I am in my happy place.
I love animals. I am an animal lover. However, I have noticed that I am not an animal lover in quite the same was as a lot of my animal-loving peers. You see, I love animals best when they are being animals.
I am not, in fact, a robot. I do enjoy cuddly moments of human interaction with creatures. It's just that I especially love to be near animals when they are doing what is most natural for them. That may sound sort of crunchy and far-out groovy, but really it is practical. Animals behave better when they are behaving naturally. The clincher is figuring out what is natural for them -- and what is not.
We often choose what is not good for us.
Put down that Little Debbie snack cake and read that again: We often choose what is not good for us. You could blame it entirely on free will - a rather important thing that other animals lack as they depend on instinct alone. But you would be missing a key to the puzzle. In addition to free will, we humans also have instincts. Reaching for that Twinkie may be more instinctual than you think.
But wait! Twinkies are not natural! How could I have an instinctual drive to eat Twinkies? Why do chickens eat styrofoam when there is a bowl of fresh, organic, non-GMO chicken feed right there? Why does your goat stand out in the cold rain next to his shelter all day?
There is a long and complicated answer to this question that is far too meaty for a mere blog post. However, it essentially comes down to one thing: Stress.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING?