The New Additions – Meet Bella and Clover

I mentioned in my earlier post that we’ve been busy here in Windy Woods for the last month or so.  So much so that I’ve neglected posting anything, so now you’ll likely get a flurry of posts.

This event happened prior to the previous chicken carnage post, but was shortly overshadowed by it.  May 18th we fetched home our newest family members.

bella and clover

Left to right: Bella and Clover

These ladies are extremely charming, and pretty decent dairy goats.  Bella is a 1st generation Kinder goat. If I recall correctly, her dam was a Nubian and her sire was a Pygmy.   Clover on the other hand, had a kinder for both dam and sire.

Bella is a bit larger, weighing in at 91 lbs. Clover was about 73 lbs.

Between the two of them we are getting just slightly over 1 gal / day from these sweet ladies.

And I do mean sweet.  I’m amazed by just how much personality they have.

They also have the annoying habit that when they’re out of the pen, they seem to feel it’s just their right to wander right on into the house if given even the slightest chance.

On the other hand, they are better behaved than Altana on our walks.

clover bella kristen corwin

Kristen (and Corwin) on the hill of the children’s citadel with Bella.

That’s something that has surprised me, walking the goats.  It all started early on when I was out keeping an eye on them wandering the yard for a bit browsing.  I got bored, so I wandered down our trail a bit and let out with a loud maaaa (goat call).

Bella almost immediately replied in kind, so I kept up the conversation with her, and Clover when she joined in, and to my surprise, they wandered down the trail to where I was.

This has become a thing, though I no longer need to maa at them to get them to come.  I just start meandering, and they follow.

Goats are browsers, which means they want a variety of stuff, branches, weeds, etc. in their diet.  Despite the reputation, however, they are discriminating in what they eat.  They sniffed at the wild cherry we have growing everywhere, and just left it alone.  Which is good, as it is toxic under the right conditions.  On the other hand, they love quaking aspen (poplar), which is nice as we have a lot of it in Windy Woods.

Unidentified goat treat

Unidentified goat treat

They also adore whatever weed this is, to the point that they actually fight over it.  Not a serious fight mind you, Bella is the queen of the flock for certain, but they do butt heads over it. I don’t know what it is, but wish I did.  It’s some kind of weed that grows wild around here.  Since they like it so much, I would like to know what it is to see if I can get more to grow.

On the other hand, they don’t appear to much care for fern, darn it.  We have so much of that growing around Windy Woods, I had really hoped they would help clear it.

They love blackberry plants.

They also like the huckleberry plants, though they wouldn’t touch it at first, I think they were waiting for it to get to a certain stage of spring growth.

I think the dietary item that surprised me the most though was dried oak leaves.  They don’t much care for green ones, but the dried up, wind blown, been on the ground all winter, oak leaves.  Yup, that’s what they like, especially Bella.  She never eats many, but always three or four every trip.  Almost like taking some kind of vitamin.

bella-and-clover-grassy-hill.jpg

Bella and Clover on a grassy hill near the end of our trail.

I’m glad that Kristen and I have really been enjoying the walks with them, because I think this time of browsing (I swear, I’m going to name at least one kid Chrome, and another Firefox, but no IE) is very good for their diet.

Livestock Lesson – Fox Among the Hens

There’s been a lot happening in Windy Woods since my last post.  I’m going to start with a hard lesson we’ve learned in this post.

Back on May 28th, Kristen came home from running errands in town to find a chicken carcass out by our log pile.

My first thought on hearing about this was that a hawk had gotten one, but been chased off by the flock before managing to eat / carry off the bird.

No such luck.  The children started finding more carcasses.

Altogether we lost eleven hens, half our flock. The truly depressing thing was, whatever killed them did just that, killed as many as it could catch, and just left them lying there.  We did not find all eleven hens, but I was able to find five of them.  Most predators will only kill what they can eat, take it away and eat it.

As best as we can determine from the carnage left, it was most likely a fox. From what we’ve read, of the predators that will kill indiscriminately like that, the options are three.

A weasel (not real common near us), a feral dog, or a fox.  Since we know we have fox, having actually seen one in the yard, that’s the most likely culprit.

idyllic chicken scene

Pear trees in bloom from kitchen window, chicken in the foreground

Which brings me to the hard lesson, despite the idyllic picture of a barnyard with chickens everywhere.  And, the ease of allowing them to gather the majority of their food from our 15 acres, and the neighboring state land.  Set up the electronet, and keep them confined to the pasture.

At least until we can afford to set up a perimeter fence and let the dog roam freely.  Sadly, we have to tie her if we leave now, or she’ll chase the van down the highway.