It occurred to me this weekend, as I was trying to bathe a chicken in my kitchen sink (more on that later), that for as much time, *money*, energy and effort as we've put into our animals here at Brooksound Farm (Brooksounds? we haven't decided yet...) the animals get very little mention.
Skip it if you'd like or already know the tales of the tails that we keep around here, but we do, admittedly adore our animals and they are a huge HUGE part of our lives here on Hagey Hill. We've introduced you to most of them before, but let's start again, shall we?
This past March, Derek came home from work on a snowy Friday evening to find me surrounded by hand written notes, and the address for the local feed store.
"Wanna go get some chickens?" I asked, "The internet said..." and on I went. We'd discussed chickens for years, so it wasn't a new idea, but we had said previously, NEXT spring, when we're settled, we'd start. We hadn't even finished unpacking the house yet. (Okay, OKAY we still haven't...).
Bless that man. "Sure," he said. And by 7 o'clock that evening, we had spent $80 on six fluff ball baby chickens and all the supplies necessary for keeping three day old baby birds without a mama alive.
Now? Now we have six egg-laying machines! It's been a bumpy road. Most recently, as mentioned, we've had some injuries that were caused by members of the flock on other feathered friends. Let me tell you, washing and cleaning injuried chicken TUSHIE is not glamorous. Oh no. And the head chicken hasn't accepted her back into the flock just yet, so she's free-range, and stays pretty near her friends, regardless of the fact that if she goes back in the run, Florence pecks the crap out of Susie.
The girls: (Florence, Kathy, Jackie, Polly and Becky)
The poor little outcast, Susie:
Next up we have the goats, who have taught us much about how farm animals prefer NOT to be fenced in and will escape at any given opportunity. We started with one, and that was a disaster, next thing we knew, we had three. The boy is Linus (I beliveve you've met him) and the twin sisters, Lucy and Sally. They are mostly free-range, as their primary job at this time is to be our lawn mowers, which, seeing as how I haven't had to mow in two months, I'd say they are earning their keep. We might breed/milk the girls in a couple years (they are all only about six months old) but for now, we are just letting them eat and eat and eat...
I have also learned how to effectively treat bloat in a goat, and let me tell you, it is only slightly less disgusting than bathing a chicken in my sink. Blech.
The kittens, Burton Guster (Gus-Gus) and Juliet O'Hara (Jules) are rapidly becoming cats, and are our mousers. Have I mentioned my husband's saint-status? I announced to him in late April (before the goats...) that we were going to need a cat for mousing and if we got one cat, we both knew we'd actually need two. One cat means you get clawed when they feel playful. Two cats mean they claw each other. Enter a good friend, Gail, who knew a girl with some rescue kittens, a quick road trip to Connecticut, and we had two fur babies taking up my bathroom and bedroom. Now, they are big, and free-range ONLY in the house, and thus far, their hunting skills have brought about the demise of exactly ONE creature.
It was a grasshopper. And Jules got tired of eating it halfway through and left it on the floor for me. Sweet.
All of these animals, interestingly enough were born in March. Weird.
And finally: Jonah.
Four years ago, when we adopted Jonah from a rescue, he came with the warning that he couldn't do cats, and he didn't love other dogs either. We thought, "No biggie, we'll never want any other pets, so that's fine!" He was great with the kids, kind, and gentle and NEVER barked.
Then, fast forward to now, and we have been rocking his world with all the additions. We carefully, and slowly introduced him to each new animal, and other than a couple of altercations with Linus the goat (stupid goat) and Jules, who has no patience for him whatsoever, he's done great. He's a fabulous farm dog. He doesn't even flinch (despite him being half hound) as poultry squack past him, Gus, the cat frequently kicks him out of his own bed, Linus can be seen to head-butt him, and add in the neighbors' ducks and we are all shocked with how quickly he learned and now fully understands not to hurt or harm any of the animals.
AND the neighbors TINY dog, Nikki is frequently here visiting, running the hill with him. He has never tried to harm him in any way. We are duely impressed with our overweight grandpa dog, who has earned his title as best farm dog ever.
So, there ya go. That's the rounds here at the homestead. I'm grateful for what we've learned thus far about animal husbandry and care. I know animals often equal heartbreak, and as winter approaches, I worry, especially, about the chickens. Everyone is doing well for now though, so we're happy.
The kids are learning to work, and they are also learning that if you want an animal to trust you, you must treat them with respect. This is especially difficult for the smallest boys who simply want to snuggle the cats to death. We are learning. It's amazing.