Simplifying the Barnyard before Winter

We have gone from rabbits, ducks, geese, goats and chickens to JUST goats and chickens over the course of the summer months.

The choice is in part to save on time spent on individual dishes, water and daily care. Feeding and housing them costs money. A bag of rabbit pellets, layer pellets, goat grain, grower crumble and bedding were all too much. Part of it was the lack of streamlined housing. Dishes, doors and feeders were of evert shape and size. This seems trivial but come °5 high-wind days in February it would have been good to have ten matching small water bowls for all the rabbits instead of dragging a paid of hot water clear from the house to drop them into.

fireball goat nubian

Our goats have been sold off to reflect our very best choices. Only one remains for sale, a blue roan buckling with gold trim. A handsome enough fella—but a hard sell with a flood of spring kids that everyone is trying to off-load.

Next year, I will wether all but one buckling born so they can be sold as pets or to a local lab that keeps goats for blood platelet production for medical tests such as human pregnancy testing. It sounds crewel on the face of it, but it’s a very well maintained facility. It offers a home for yearling bucks to go instead of for food or auction to an unknown home for the highest bidder. For that, they must be wethered at 6-weeks to stop them from coming into rut when they pee on their own faces and everyone’s shoes that approach. We let two from our herd go last week.

blue flemish giant rabbits for sale in maineRabbits were a losing game with failed pregnancies, lost litters and amazing escapes. I am not a livestock showing kind of gal so they had no pedigrees. That was an unforeseen pitfall. Most were sold as pets, a few for food. They had to be separated which meant they took up a lot of room. The respiration of the bunnies caused humidity issues and brought on respiratory issues.

Come summer I just couldn’t keep the Silver Foxes cool enough. Shade, water, a different spot to dig in the grass in a moveable grazer-pen, and I still lost two. I’ve been bit, scratched and let down too many times. I needed to focus on more rewarding and financially self-sustaining livestock.

Waterfowl Reduction Act of 2019

Geese drove my poor husband Kevin nuts hissing and following you around during breeding season. Our oldest sone just loved the goslings. They really do follow you around like you’re their mother. Unfortunately, the geese had low egg fertility too. This meant filling the incubator with gigantic eggs for little gain. The ducks’ liquid-shit-nasties which were too difficult to keep clean. They couldn’t be housed with the chickens because they’d knock over or splatter all the water out of the dishes—which are hard enough to keep full and thawed in winter.

Worse, they were too dumb to go to and stay at the pond on their own. I’d have to lead them down or carry a couple and some feed to lure the others. The ducks had great fertility but suddenly no one wanted eggs or chicks come spring. Come breeding season the geese could no longer be house with them either. The drakes and ganders would surely fight to the death. So I sold them. No more leading ducks to water, chasing off hissing fools, or chipping frozen OSB shit-layers in winter. Less dishes to keep thawed, less bellies to keep full, and a happier husband. He puts up with a lot so I have to oblige when I can. Give and take, right?

Designing better suited housing, efficient feeding and watering stations, and an altogether simpler layout, this winter ought to be a much simpler one. The dishes, hay mangers, bedding habits and overall reduced numbers will give more time for snuggles and more often overall health checks instead of becoming too cold, exhausted and dragging my feet back home to toast by the fire. It will be better for us all.

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