I read all the books. I did all the research. I was about as prepared as a newbie can be. Or so I thought. Then I got goats.
Within 3 days, one of the does, Lilac, was jumping the 5 foot fence. So, we tore down the fence, built a whole new pen with 4 foot fence lined with electric wire. 2 zaps, and they never bothered the fence again. Easy enough. But I learned goats are quite agile when they put their mind to it.
Then Sara, the other doe, went into labor. Everything I had planned regarding allowing her to have a natural delivery went right out the window with kid #1. The large buckling got stuck, and I had to pull him or loose both. No biggie, she immediately proved to be a good mom, took care of him, did everything a doe should do to a new baby. I monitored for over an hour, and it was clear the delivery was over. I went in to shower, and came back out to find kid #2, an undersized doeling, laying in a puddle of amniotic fluid, freezing cold and completely being ignored. Long story short, everything eventually worked out fine. But, I learned nature doesn’t always go by the book.
Then, we got a buck. Again, I tried to prepare. I ensured his pen and gate were secure, with hot wire set at an appropriate height for such a big guy. He got zapped a few times (all that testosterone made him a little more persistent, after all!), but he finally gave up, and has been happily (and sometimes not so happily) contained in his pen for about 6 weeks now. He has proven to be a fairly well-mannered gentleman of a buck–even if his disgusting buck habits are a complete turn-off! Of course, the does seem to disagree wholeheartedly, as, within 2 weeks of his arrival, Lilac finally went into full-on, no-doubt-about-it, standing heat. So, going along with my whole plan for staggered breedings and hoping to dry Sara off as soon as possible, I introduced Lilac and Stallion. Oh, my, those were 2 happy goats! Now, seeing as how there has been no further signs of heat from Lilac for the last 4 weeks, I am hoping it’s safe to assume we will be having some babies in January (terrible timing, I know, but the best I can manage with our situation). Anyway, I quickly learned all about the birds and bees of breeding goats (let’s just say it gives a whole new meaning to “Slam, Bam, Thank you, Ma’am!”).
Well, we got our new fence built. Then, we moved the chicken coop and hens into the pasture (that was an adventure in itself!). I turned the does out this morning, and quickly learned that an over-sized chicken door and an adventurous doeling don’t mix. Especially when there are chicken pellets in a feeder on the inside of said coop.
I had to think fast. If we shut the door, the hens couldn’t lay their eggs in their boxes. That wasn’t an option. I had to keep Lilly out some how. For the first time, I began understanding why animal farms are not always asthetically pleasing. Projects often come up unexpectedly, and must be repaired quickly. Hopefully, my remedy will work, however ugly it may be…
As if I needed more adventure today, Stallion’s testosterone kicked in, and he pulled a few antics of his own. You see, Stallion (the buck) has typically had some type of company since we got him. For his own mental well-being, I would occasionally put Lilac in with him (hoping she was pregnant anyway) just to keep him company. He also shared a fence line with the girls (albeit, thoroughly hot-wired on both sides to keep anything from happening THROUGH the fence). He seemed to be doing well, and never gave me any trouble. Then we got the donkey, and I put the donkey with him to give him more permanent company. That seemed to make him a bit happier. Then, we built our new fence. That’s when I learned that any animal (or person) for company is fine by him. But don’t leave him ALONE or else….
Yeah, that was Stallion’s gate. I put the girls and the donkey out to pasture to get some grazing time in. Just like the last 2 days, I planned to put them out for a couple hours, then put the girls away and put Stallion out (they can’t be together yet, afterall). Made sense to me, and Stallion has never caused any problems. Until today, when I spotted him walking around the house, toward the pasture—OUTSIDE of his pen. Puzzled, I went to take a look and found that his gate was completely trashed!
OK, no big deal. It was a cheapy home-made gate, after all, and I suspect he simply stood up on his hind legs, managed to by-pass the electric wire, and I guess the gate fell apart. Just a fluke, and I could handle it. I decided to temporarily put him in the does’ pen (since they were out to pasture) until I figured out what to do. I returned to the house to get a few things, and as I came outside, here comes Stallion, non-chalantly walking toward the pasture. JR was running up to me, animatedly exclaiming, “Don’t worry, Mom, the does’ gate is fine. He just jumped the fence! That was AMAZING!”
Amazing. Right. Not quite the word I would have used. Impressive, maybe, but fact is, I now have a fully mature buck in rut, who just learned to jump his fence, including the row of electric wire on BOTH sides! I also have 2 does that I don’t want bred for at least 3 more months. And they share a fenceline. My neighbor has 4 does he doesn’t want bred for at least 2 more months. OK, can I just say things are NOT looking good right now. I have now learned if you have a large, mature buck in full rut, you shouldn’t take away all his does at once or the testosterone kicks in and he learns things that I REALLY didn’t want him to learn! And I had NO CLUE what to do about it.
So, I put the does back in their pen, and Stallion and Shiloh (the donkey) were turned out together in the big pasture. The good browse and familiar company seemed to be keeping him occupied. The pasture has good gates, but no hot wire. Later that evening, after the gates and wires were all repaired, we returned Shiloh and Stallion to the pen at dinner time. His girls were across the fence, and he seemed happy. When we left for church this morning, we turned him and Shiloh out to pature again, just in case. He was still in the pasture when we got home, so I was starting to feel better. We swapped them, putting them back in his pen, and putting the girls out, and watched to see what would happen. All seemed well. After all, he had his donkey. Then, for another reason I will post about later, we needed to use Shiloh for some therapeutic riding for A. As soon as she walked out of the gate, Stallion got upset, so we did our riding exercises within a few feet of his pen. Stallion seemed OK with that. When we were finished, we put Shiloh back in, and I turned to walk away. Suddenly, there was a goat out, and the gate was open. I haven’t figured that out, but somehow, he got the chain unhooked. I returned him to the pen, carefully chained it shut, and walked away. We all positioned ourselves to see what he would do next. Almost immediately, he proceeded to stand up on his hind legs, place his feet on the top of the gate, and somehow shake it until the chain fell off its hook. Once again, he was out.
I began to panic. My buck has managed to escape his pen 4 times in 24 hours. He wasn’t content to remain with the donkey any longer. Things were looking worse by the moment. At wits end, S ran up on the roof to turn off the electric fence charger, while I ran to get hot wire and insulators. I rigged up a new chain hook, and set up a wire, right across the top of the gate. We turned the electricity back on, and we positioned ourselves, praying it would work. Within moments, Stallion non-chalantly walked over to the gate, stood up, placed his front feet on the top of the gate. It took about 1/2 a second before we saw him leap backwards, quite surprised, and with a major blow to the ego. He walked in circles a few times, probably spraying himself with his bucky-cologne to make him feel more manly. But he didn’t go back to the fence.
I really have no idea what to expect next. But, I have learned that no doubt, goats are an adventure that just doesn’ t end. Just when you think things are running along smoothly, you make plans for the projects you want to complete one weekend, and those goats will inform you otherwise! Guess that’s farm life for ya’.