We've been taking it easy today, since we've already celebrated the fourth of July with family, and it's storming here today. However, that didn't stop our Muscovy hen from going broody on her 15 eggs. It's common for Muscovy's to hatch every egg they sit on. However, they aren't all hers and we haven't seen our drake, Sergeant Pepper, attempting any baby making with the smaller Muscovy hen, Piper. There may be 5-6 eggs of hers in with Mama Hens, but if she hatches the other 9-10, we'll have our hands full! We'll also learn that just because we don't see any mating rituals or behavior, they could still be getting it done when we're not around!
Since we'll be getting our first pair (both females, bonded together like sisters <3) of goats, we'll need to make a suitable living space for them to be comfortable. Eventually, we'll also be making a goat milking station, but at the moment we aren't sure if our new goats are with-goat, yet! (If they are...we got a heck of a great deal!) If we find that they are, the milking station project will be moved up on the list in priority, and we may get to taste our goats milk in a matter of weeks!
Anytime you're considering raising livestock or getting a new pet, there are certain things you need to know about them.
Questions to consider when deciding on a new animal:
This seems like a lot, but once you know the basics about your goat, you'll be ready to go!
A lot of what you need to know, you'll only really be able to learn through your own experience.
Experience teaches the things that gets left out of the textbooks, which makes talking to someone with experience worth every minute it takes to ask these questions. Once you have some answers, you'll be glad you prepared ahead of time because you can enjoy having your new goat, instead of worrying about things you still need to do.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
I found a great resource of information on goats from Jen's blog the Easy Homesteader including this bulleted list:
Goats need a space that allows them to come inside or go outside as they please. They need at least a stall to protect them from direct sunlight, rain, snow, etc. According to Kirsten Lie-Nielsen's How to Prepare for Raising Goats article, each goat "requires a minimum of 10 square feet". I've seen fences set up closing off half of a barn, and the barn is open to the fenced in field next to it for goats. You don't have to have a closed in building for them, they do fine with a shed type enclosure, as long as they can come in out of the weather as they please.
Their space needs to be enclosed with a fence so that they won't get out, but they need room to play and forage. If you've been on Pinerest and looked up playground equipment for kids, I'm sure you've ran into some obstacle course or sea-saw plans for baby goats. Goats are happy little creatures, and enjoy hopping around and standing on top of, well, anything! We visited a family of goats that belong to a friend of ours, and the kids were standing on top of the dog house that was in their enclosure, standing on top of piles of dirt, and even trying to stand on their mother! It was a funny sight, for sure!
We found two very fine young Nigerian Dwarf goats, they're each about a year old, and got a pretty good deal on them. The current owner wants to keep them together because they're bonded together like sisters.
Look at these beautiful young ladies!
This is Tippy, I absolutely LOVE her fuzzy white coat with it's freckled brown spots! Those blue eyes are dreamy!
This is Periwinkle, a beautiful velvety, mostly midnight colored with a moon-glow spot female.
I If all goes well, we'll be picking them up tonight. The kids and I have a 4 hour drive, round trip, ahead of us. We're going to be having a VERY early dinner, around 3:00, and hitting the road no later then 4:00PM. The current owner is going to go over how to care for them, do's and font's, etc. This makes the drive worth every mile, getting guidance from someone with experience is crucial for us. This is the first time we've ever had goats! When I talked to the current owner on the phone, we spoke for about thirty minutes about why I should get a Great Pyrenees to guard our flock! That wasn't what I was calling for, but I told her about our set up and discussed temporarily keeping the goats with our ducks, and asked if raccoons were an issue for such a small goat breed. I learned a lot about the Pyrenees breed, what type of stock to look for and a little about the cost to have one. Basically, the cost will pay off by keeping all of our animals alive and well!
Photo courtesy of
Poppy Patch Farm Nigerian
Dwarf Dairy Goats
(Photo is a link to their page)
It's important that anytime you purchase an animal, you check out what type of environment the animal is coming from. We're going to be temporarily keeping the goats inside of the duck run, until we get a fence for them. I discussed this with the owner and learned that they're used to being around chickens. That was important information!
Also, if they're used to living in dirty homes, they could be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, or other diseases due to their living conditions. Also, you want to get an idea about what they are use to. Coming home with us in a minivan is going to be pretty traumatic for them, so for the first week or so we want to try and make them as comfortable as we can, while they get use to their new home and care givers.
We're very excited to be expanding our little farm and meeting another goal towards sustainable living! We're getting Nigerian Dwarf Goats for milking purposes, so I'll be learning how to make cheese and butter out of goat's milk (recipes coming soon!). I read that goat's milk is easier for the human body to digest, and because goat's milk has about 95% butterfat in its contents, it's milk you can drink "straight from the teet" (I've been told...) and it's delicious without processing it.
These goats are induced ovulators. That means that after a week or two of a female being around a male, the female will go into heat, just as cats do. Because of this, they aren't seasonal breeders and can have offspring any time of the year. Also, they usually have twins! Of course, I wouldn't want to keep them pregnant by any means, that wouldn't be healthy for them! It's a fast growing breed, so it's easy to start with a couple and end up with several, which is another goal we have.
The Nigerian Dwarf Goat should suit us well, and help us have a constant resource of healthy milk for our family!
It seemed to have happened in a blink of an eye. There was one definitive moment that changed our understandings of how nature works, and what our responsibilities are as poultry/water fowl farmers are. When animals become injured because of something you have done, or the lack of doing something, the world seems to change for you. Or at least it did for us.
It all began on a day that we cleaned our duck coop thoroughly, better then the usual changing of straw. We actually washed it out and poured water inside to get it absolutely squeaky, and then my fiance and I both had to go out to his mom's to get our 3 children. We left the duck's out in their run so that the coup could air out, also because it was a very hot day and we hated to coup them up inside there, unsure of how long we would be gone or how long they would have to suffer being stuffed inside of a hot box. We decided to leave them in the run while we were away and to stop back by and put them up on the way back through. (We're currently doing renovations to a mobile home on the lot our coup is on, but are still living in an apt...or sleeping their at night anyway).
Our first mistake was that both of us became so busy, entangled in what was going on around us and in general distracted, that neither of us thought to go back to the trailer and put the ducks in their coop.
The next morning we went out to check on them and let them out into their run. I went to do some things in the garden and then heard Matt start screaming, "Did we not put them up?!?" which was then followed by, "They've been attacked, Daisy's missing an EYE!!". We were horrified. ashamed, sad, and both felt awful at the site of our battered babies. I started looking on BYC instantly, reading Forums about what antibiotic duck's need, where to get it, how much and what to do, etc. These forums helped us SO much, our ducks are still physically healing, but their personality is back 100% and their acting like themselves again!
What We Did
We had no idea what to do when we realized there was a problem with our feathered babies. So, I started searching google, and ended up getting the most helpful information from the people at BackYardChickens.com!
1. Step number one would be to check out the archives of BYC (backyardchickens.com) in an emergency. See if anyone has had a similar issue or experience with an emergency similar to yours.
2. Get to Tractor Supply Company, or a similar store for agriculture/livestock ASAP!
We went straight to TSC and got a small $8.00 bottle of Penicillin, needles and syringes. We also got Rooster Booster Wound Spray, I think it was somewhere between $10-15.00. It was a cheaper option on their shelf but I wanted it because it was a natural, organic option and it was OK for them to eat. When you spray a duck with anything, their wings are going to get wet. After they get wet they're going to run their bill across it and possibly ingest some of what you sprayed on them. This medicine was OK for them to swallow.
One of our Pekin ducks, Daisy, had a wound under her wing, her head wound in the photo, and one of her eyes (the one not shown here) was swollen shut for 3-4 days. We thought she had lost her eye in the fight for her life. To our reliefe, I began flushing it twice a day with a Saline Solution and she was able to open it again! Matt told me not to bother with it because he was sure that her eye was lost, but I read on BYC that someone flushed their duck's eye after a dog attack and it helped. I really didn't know what we were dealing with and it was hard for me to look at what I thought was an empty eye socket (because of the shame I felt for not making sure our babies were safe before we went back to the apartment for the night). We wanted to do everything we could, and I'm SO glad that we did! I really just did the Saline rinse as a precaution, but the second time I rinsed her eye my daughter, who was helping to hold both of the Pekins so I could doctor them asked, "Aren't you suppose to be flushing the bad eye?" And I said I did, and then Daisy looked at me with BOTH eyes! It was such a beautiful moment.
Both ducks, Donald & Daisy, had severe wounds, they were very deep. We sprayed every abrasion visible with the wounds spray twice daily for a week, and gave them .5 cc of Penicillin twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening for a week. I continued flushing Daisy's eye and she opened it more and more every day.
3. When you talk to anyone that works at TSC, or a veterinary office, etc., make sure to follow our gut.
A man that works at TSC told us that if his ducks were attacked, he would just "shoot them". I understand a mercy killing, but they were walking around and quacking. There was only the clear indication that they had been through a trauma, the physical sign of wounds, but no signs that they weren't alert, wouldn't eat or that they wouldn't survive. It may have been the way we described their wounds that made it sound worse then it was, I'm not sure.
One thing I know from working at a Veterinary Hospital, ducks and chickens aren't usually animals that people pay for extensive treatments to get them better. Not in a farm-type setting anyway. They don't bring in hundreds of dollars at once, as cows or horses do. Most vets who make farm calls work on cows, goats, sheep, pigs, etc. As with anything else, if a vet doesn't work with a certain species, they aren't sure what to do without looking it up.
This is why resources like backyardchickens.com has been created. To help people that want to put effort into healing their flocks, or just to have a happy healthy flock. There are people who frequent the website often, just to see who needs help and if there's an area they are familiar with. Everyone there is very nice, and if you find someone from the forums who was helpful, you can always shoot them a message just to let them know they reached you and helped you through an emergency.
4. Be patient, consistent and believe in your treatment!
Animals have their own personalities, with that comes their own response and experience in traumatic situations. Some days we could tell they were flourishing, some days we felt like they needed more Penicillin. On the days we thought they needed more, we continued with the same dose we started with, .05 CC.
It's been almost a month since the attack happened, our beautiful duck's walk around every day as happy as they can be! I'm so thankful that there was an available resource with information and guidance on how to care for them and get them back to being happy, entertaining little ducks!
5. Know the predators in your area, protect the flock in every way you can
Predators like opossum and raccoons don't usually leave prey to walk around the next day, even with large gaping wounds. If something would have happened to scare the predator, such as a car pulling in or something like that, they would usually just hide in the bushes until it's safe, then come back to finish the job. If a fox or raccoon were able to get access to a chicken/duck coop, they usually kill several, if not all of the flock. Even if they only eat one or two of them.
Different areas have different predators. Right now, we mostly worry about raccoons and opossum. Snakes have yet to become an issue, though I'm sure we'll have our dealings with them in the near future. We found a snapping turtle coming up our driveway into our yard, messed with it a little and set it free. The next day, that same turtle was next to our duck's run. There was no way for it to have gotten in, and that was before we allowed them to free range. We haven't seen it since then, but we let it go. We're always on the look out for them when we let our flock out to free range.
6. Enlist animals that will help protect the flock
There are several types of animals you can get to help watch over the flock. Geese are a species of water fowl that grow very large, are aggressive so most predators will run away from a fight with a goose, and will adapt each duck (or chicken, if they live together) as a family member and watch over them. We plan to purchase a Toulouse pair of geese as soon as we find somewhere that has them in stock!
Some people also use dogs to protect the flock, which works very well since dogs have been bred to work on the farm for centuries.
In our case, we learned that our neutered tabby cat currently stands as protector of our home. He is a full grown male cat, even though I bottle fed him as a kitten and he's lived inside of an apartment most of his life, sleeping in the bed beside me; we've seen him kill and eat smaller prey items such as birds and mice. I didn't think he even had that in him, but after being a barn cat for over a year, the prowling hunter side of him has been awaken! We knew he was fighting, but the amount of opossum fur scattered all over our barn the same morning we found our battered ducks, gives pretty good evidence that our feline friend may have saved our ducks! Since the attack, I also notice that he sits at the edge of the yard and watches the perimeter. He stalks the small animals in the field, and I'm sure he would chase of anything else that came too close.