We’ll start with the “critters go” category.  The hyper-aggressive rooster I dubbed The Rapper Rooster is gone.  We had mixed feelings about The Rapper.  He was a mean little raptor, and consequently the girls were afraid to collect eggs from the hen house unless someone else stood guard.  He and Chareva had a few run-ins that ended with her chasing him around the yard and whacking the @#$% out of him.

On the other hand, he took his role as Protector of the Flock seriously.  Last Friday night we arrived home around 10:30 PM and heard him out in the chicken yard, strutting around and trash talkin’ and generally threatening to kick someone’s ass.  He only did that after dark if a predator was nearby, so I grabbed a high-beam flashlight and went to take a look.  I hadn’t gotten far when I heard something fairly large run away and crash into the heavy brush – probably a coyote.  So The Rapper had done his job, and Chareva and I figured on balance, he was probably worth keeping.

Rapper Rooster, RIP

Moot point now.  Chareva found him (or so she claims) on his back in the chicken yard a couple of days ago, legs in the air, not moving.  Given their history, she immediately produced an alibi for the approximate time of death, but also refuses to take a polygraph.  There were no visible wounds on him, so whatever killed him, it probably wasn’t another animal.

The chickens Sara is raising as part of a 4-H project are coming along nicely, getting bigger by the day.  Chareva built a new fence outside their coop so they can wander around in the grass during the day and eat bugs.  You can’t really see it in the picture, but there’s a net over their area so we don’t end up serving a chicken dinner to the hawks that always seem to be on reconnaissance missions overheard.

Sara’s newest 4-H project is raising two goats.  Chareva and Sara drove to the county agriculture center yesterday to pick them up.  They’re both males, and Chareva was convinced they’d pee with the force of a firehose all over the back the van, so she spread a big tarp in back and took along a cage with cat litter covering the floor.  Fortunately, the goats didn’t react as predicted.

The previous owner of our little farm already had a partially-destroyed goat pen behind the house, so we fixed it up last week and added a new gate.  Chareva constructed the hoop house you see in the picture to provide some shelter.

Alana doesn’t normally wear a bathrobe for farm work.  She’d just returned from a last-day-of-school party that included swimming in a local river.  When Chareva and Sara arrived home with the goats, she was too excited to change clothes before running outside.

This is Sara’s project, so she was determined to shepherd the goats into their pen.  The goats didn’t want to leave the van, and I wondered if Sara would be too intimidated to do anything about it … but nope, she took the first goat by the horns and persuaded him to move.

The second goat either wanted to join his buddy or didn’t want to be similarly manhandled by a 10-year-old girl.  He decided to hop out on his own.

The goats ran around exploring their pen, then began munching the foliage.  As you can see, they’ll have plenty to eat for awhile.

44 Responses to “The Farm Report: Critters Come, Critters Go”
  1. Curtis says:

    Nice Tom.

    Glad to see your kids involved in 4-H, something I wish I could have been a part of when growing up.

    After reading many Joel Salatin books I have come to the conclusion every child in America would benefit from being in 4-H. Maybe, just maybe, we would still have more farms and farmers than prison inmates in this country.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      That would be a nice change. I don’t know if I was even aware of 4-H as a kid growing up in the suburbs. Seems to be a big deal here in the rural south.

      • Firebird says:

        You just hope that the FDA and their jackbooted thugs don’t storm these places with their high powered weaponry and destroy all their hard work in the name of farm factories and Monsanto. Long gone are the days of government encouraging Americans to grow their own victory gardens. (I’m cynical and I can’t keep up)

  2. LuckyMama says:

    So – I live in the country-burbs and I’m getting ready to get some chickens – 5 to be exact. I don’t want a rooster, just layers. How many and what kind of chickens do you have? Are they good layers? I was so excited to see this post!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      We have sixteen laying hens right now — Sara’s 25 are all still young ‘uns. The egg-layers are a mix of Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas and Long Island Reds. Chareva likes the Barred Rocks. They’re docile. The Ameraucanas lay nice blue eggs. The Rapper was an Andalusian, very striking colors.

      Chickens are pretty low-maintenance, and the eggs are more than worth the effort.

    • Fauna says:

      Ducks are another possibility. Their eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs and they have better personalities. You just have to provide a small pond or wading pool so they have water to splash in.

  3. Mark. says:

    Supposedly goats love to eat poison ivy, so if that’s a problem anywhere… also they do pretty well on kudzu. Not sure what else billy goats are good for, apart from helping make more goats…

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Oh yeah, we have plenty of poison ivy for them to eat … as I type and try not to scratch the little blisters on my forearms.

  4. i says:

    Nice indeed.

    Why males? Are they gonna be food sometimes soon? Because after a couple of months they are going to smell really bad (as far as i know, the meat will stink too).

    I was kind of raised on goat milk and it was good. I know, its dairy, but with around 10% fat it´s not a bad option. And it was fun as a kid to milk the goat every morning and drink the fresh milk.. 🙂

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Males are what was available through 4-H. Sara will care for them until August, when she has to auction them at a 4-H event. Since this project has a limited lifespan, we’re taking it as an opportunity to see whether or not we like having goats. If we do, we’ll probably look into getting a female for goat’s milk next time. If it turns out goats are too big of a pain to be worth it, well, it’s only until August.

  5. Boundless says:

    What variety of goats are those, and how high can they jump? We recently got Dwarf Nigerian dairies (all does), and so far they have not challenged 4-foot fences. Some goats can clear a 6-foot fence, sideways, from a stand still. It might help that at the moment our fencing is all electric netting, which is less for keeping the goats in than keeping the preds out, but the goats respect it.

    We’re getting a buck and a companion wether in a couple of weeks, plan to use the pickup for that (we used the station wagon for the does, which wasn’t too bad, but we’re concerned we might never get the buck odor out). We plan to house them well away from the does, and are preparing for the worst on scent – dedicated clothing, outdoor clothesline.

    Coyotes can climb fences. Zap ’em. Our plan is a combination of permanent with outside wires, and the electric netting (Premier1Supplies PoultryNet Plus 12/48/3 IIRC, which also works for chickens, once I figure out a portable overhead raptor net support system). We’ll have fixed goat lanes with multiple gates, and use a netting loop at a gate for a temporary paddock, to prevent over-grazing.

    Coyotes can also clear 4-foot fence, so we lock the does up in the barn every night. The bucks will be in a 5x5x6H dog kennel (with wire cloth roof) at night.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I didn’t know coyotes can jump that high. The goats are close to the backyard where the Rottweilers hang out, so I hope their presence is enough of a deterrent.

      • Boundless says:

        > I didn’t know coyotes can jump that high.

        I’m basing that on internet chatter, which as we all know, is never incorrect :). You can find dissent on that as well. We’re being on the cautious side.

        > The goats are close to the backyard where the Rottweilers
        > hang out, so I hope their presence is enough of a deterrent.

        Good chance of it. People also protect their goats by having a llama or a donkey live with them. Where we’re getting him, our buck is presently protected by a llama, who was very suspicious of us, and fairly confrontations, when we were introduced. He also reportedly freaked out one day when the buck got locked in the barn, and the llama couldn’t find him.

        There are dog breeds that can also be left with goats if introduced as pups.

        All of this is more expense and effort than you’ll want to make for what might be a temporary project. We plan to switch to goat dairy 100% for milk and cream, to the extent possible for cheese. Dwarf Nigerian milk seems to have zero goaty flavor, and you’re probably already studying up on the benefits of goat dairy vs. bovine dairy (not to mention the general horrors, hazards and nutrient destruction of industrial dairy).

    • Fauna says:

      They look like Boer goats, a breed that is raised for meat.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        That’s why Sara named them Tender and Juicy. She has to turn them in to 4-H for an auction and she understands what their eventual fate will be.

  6. tony says:

    Too bad The Rapper Rooster is gone. He could have earned you a mint in the cock fight circuit.

    BTW, I didn’t know life with farm animals was so complicated.

  7. Debi says:

    I agree with Curtis, every kid should know where food comes from and I don’t mean the grocery store. My daughter participated in FFA and it was one of the best experiences she could have had. It taught her responsibilty and the value of hard work as well the economics of raising and selling livestock. Your daughters will reap many rewards from 4-H.

  8. Ignorant suburban kid question: When an animal dies on its own, do you still eat it? I mean, unless it was really old then it died from something, so I would wonder if it’s still safe to eat.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      We don’t take the chance if they die of mysterious causes. Could be a disease. We also can’t say for sure how long he was lying there dead. If we’re going to eat one of our own animals, we want to kill it ourselves.

      Chareva tossed The Rapper into an empty field so the local wildlife could dispose of him.

      • i says:

        Besides the disease problematic, let’s say some accident kills it: As soon as the animal dies, its blood starts to clot. If you don’t cut it open to bleed it out, the meat becomes useless and dangerous very soon. The bigger the animal, the longer time you have (with a chicken maybe minutes, with a pig maybe half an hour or so).

  9. AndreaLynnette says:

    Never thought I’d be jealous of a 10-year-old!

    We live in the ‘burbs near Washington, DC. Despite my strong desire to have chickens and goats and such, we have HOAs and zoning ordinances to contend with.

    Here’s hoping the girls have tons of fun!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Well, I can understand why people wouldn’t want goats and chickens in a suburb. Even with The Rapper gone, the remaining two roosters would annoy any nearby neighbors will their constant yammering.

      • Walter Bushell says:

        Ah, the suburbs, the place with all the disadvantages of the city and the country and the advantages of neither.

  10. Jeanne says:

    I imagine your girls will want ponies soon. I would.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      They already want a pony and I’ve already told them it’s not happening.

      • Kathy in Texas says:

        So you say………

        • Tom Naughton says:

          I’ve been known to lose those battles. I also told the girls at one time that we wouldn’t get a cat. Fortunately, Chareva is on board with the no-pony ruling.

          • Walter Bushell says:

            Even so I’ll bet you a dollar you’re doomed to have a horse. With their genetics and diet they can become the irresistible force.

          • Joseph Shaughnessy says:

            My wife grew up on a dairy farm. She had a pony and later a horse. According to her, ponies are smart and mean and have no remorse over trying to peel riders off using adjacent fences, trees and rocks. They are also sneaky. When she got a horse, she thought she had gone to heaven. Not as smart but good tempered and a great pal for a a young girl. She had the horse from middle school through college and loved the experience.

  11. How big is that pen? Unless it goes waaaay back out of the picture, I’m guessing “plenty to eat for awhile” is going to be about 3 days.

    I think stocking rates are 2-5 goats/acre depending on pasture quality. They’ll keep eating it down to dirt, but that’s where the worms/parasites are.

    Sara maybe better be figuring out a rotation scheme sooner rather than later!


    • Tom Naughton says:

      They’re chomping through it at a nice pace. The plan is to start moving them around the land during the day. We’ve got plenty of poison I want cleared.

  12. Better get some electric netting built for goats. Remember, “if your fence can hold water, it will probably hold goats!”

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m waiting to step outside and find one of them sitting on top of the van. I’ve heard stories to that effect.

  13. Tatertot says:

    Tom – I don’t see any ‘chicken tractors’ on your farm. How long did it take those birds to scratch down all that grass in their new pen? Not long, right?

    Have a great summer!

  14. Bevie says:

    We lost a rooster like that this week too. Current speculation favors snakebite as killer.

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