A Story from Merciful Hearts Farm
Deb Potter, 10 May 2008
Week to week I never know exactly what I will write for you but it seems a story always pops up someplace or another. This week is no different. Wednesday I decided I'd better write my story early as we have our oldest son graduating from Clemson & things would be busy. As I was walking back from the chicken yard, my story began. But this is not really one long story, it is a series of peculiar things that have happened in the last less-than-24 hours!
Jan, one of our older dairy goats, had wanted to leave her barnyard & go into the backyard to graze. Her twins, Thing One & Thing Two, are almost weaned so they don't care a whole lot about where their mother is during the day. They were grazing all the way at the bottom of a sheep pasture. So I decided to let Jan follow me through the gate. That was right before lunchtime & I had a bucket of eggs with me so didn't feel like pushing Jan back as she tried to wedge her way through the barnyard gate. I let her by me.
A few hours later I came out & fed the ducklings. They are really growing. They all stand side by side & peek out a crack at the bottom of the chicken house door when they hear me coming. It is not that they can hear me because I walk loudly but because I talk to all of the sheep, goats & dogs along the way. As soon as I round the corner of the old barn I see little yellow & gray bills begin to poke out the cracks at the bottom of the door. When I open the door to step in I must step very carefully as their little floppy webbed feet are everywhere under my shoes. They have figured out that people feed them. Unfortunately, they also think people are feed. They peck at my bare legs with their little rounded bills. It is annoyingly ticklish in a weird way.
The ducklings have 3 different water bowls. One is a big rubbery black one that is about 4” deep. When I fill that with water everyone climbs in to dip & paddle. They also have 2 smaller bowls where they drink the rest of the day after they've dirtied up their playing water. I also feed from 3 different pans so that there is room for everyone. There are 2 chickens who've decided they much prefer chick starter feed to their layer feed so they fly in the top window of the ducks' room when they hear me feeding. I spend a few minutes throwing them back out again. They always return but my chicken-chasing time gives the ducklings more eating time.
Well, on the way back from gathering eggs & feeding ducklings, I looked over near a fence under the trees & saw a strange light brown pile of something that didn't look familiar. The closer I got, the more the sight concerned me. I didn't know if something had died & was laying in a lump or what was going on. As soon as I came through the last gate, I saw that it was poor Jan. She was hanging by her front foot that was caught high above her head in the fence. She'd twisted around & over so that the big brown lump was the underside of her belly. Jan is a black goat with a light belly. Her front left leg was high in the air, her body was a lump beneath it & somehow her head was at the very bottom. She was barely moving. I called her name & she weakly answered me.
In order to untangle her, I had to pull her head upright & lift her entire body so that I could maneuver her foot out of the fence. She had one side of her hoof firmly wedged into the fence so that it looked like her “toe” was broken. She was also on top of a jagged tree stump & was already bloody from rubbing against it while she struggled. I put as many of her body parts back into place & away from the tree stump as I could before I tried to lift her. She is not a big goat but probably weighs close to 70 pounds. I got everything lined up & then lifted her into the air by the fence. Her hoof would not come out of the hole in the fencing & she was bawling as I was lifting. I shifted her weight against my shoulder so that I could use both hands to untangle her foot. I was finally able to get her foot out of the fencing but then had to get her off of the tree stump & figure out what she'd injured.
Once she was unhooked, I carried her to a clear spot & checked her out. Her leg & ankle were not broken but she definitely could not stand. She had a few bloody spots but they were not deep cuts. And she had a dazed look in her eyes – I don't know how long she'd hung like that but I'm sure that was why she looked so funny. I got water for her & let her rest.
Before bedtime we carried her to the barnyard & brought her kids to her. We gave her a shot of pain medicine & more food & water. She is now gingerly trying to stand on her bad leg. Again, nothing looks broken or even really swollen but I'm sure she wrenched it badly. We are bringing her hay to her & keeping an eye on her while she rests. I think she'll be better in a few days but had I not been out fussing over the ducklings she could have really injured herself worse or even died.
This morning when I went out to feed chickens, gather duck eggs & just check on things I glanced down into a sheep pasture & saw a peculiar sight. Regina, one of our livestock guardian dogs, was standing next to a sheep that had its head down behind a fence. All that I could think of was that somehow that silly sheep had gotten its head caught in a fence & that Regina was staying with it to guard it. I tried to call Regina up to me but she looked reluctant to leave the sheep. I started down the hill & the sheep lifted its head. It was not stuck anywhere. It was busy with its head down on the ground because it was cleaning up its newly-born lamb!
That was quite a surprise as we thought our lambing had ended a good month age. But this little ewe had a funny colored little ram lamb. He is black on the underside with white & brown sprinkles across his back. He is now all cleaned up, has nursed & is bouncing around his mother. I guess Regina was just looking out for them as they were so close to the fence line at the woods. She is a good dog who carefully guards her sheep & goats.
As I walked back to the house I was amazed to see one of the triplet goat sisters IN the kennel with two of the dogs. The dogs were acting like they were nervous but the goat just looked a little embarrassed. Now this one I have no idea about. The kennel has 7 foot fencing & since the dogs cannot get out unless we let them out, I never imagined a goat could get in. I opened the kennel & the dogs ran off around the yard as usual. The goat looked at me as if nothing odd had happened & strolled out of the kennel gate. Now we've had an occasional chicken get in with the dogs but there isn't much left of the chicken to get back out. I guess the dogs were so shocked to find a goat in their kennel that they didn't know what to do with it. But this is one of the sisters who also got into the oil bucket last year & pretty much spend each day looking for another way to get into trouble.
I guess all I can say about this week is that it is a good thing I spend so much time out & around the barnyard. I go out for eggs 5 or 6 times a day & also go out for a lot of other things. I've learned just to look around & listen as I am out. I usually take the same route back to the barns but like to wander different ways on my return to the house. That is certainly turning out to be a good thing, at least for our ornery little animals.