The earliest record of Nigerian Dwarf goats is from West Africa. They came to the United States in the 1930’s and 1950’s as food for larger cats like lions. Now they are dual purpose animals, able to used for both meat and milk. Many people keep them as pets because of their docile nature and they are easily managed by children.
A herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats is call a tribe or a trip. An adult male is called a buck, a young male is a buckling and a male that has been fixed or sterilized is a wether. Wethers are ideal for pets. They do not take any special food and can live off of graze or prairie hay during all seasons, winter included. Adult females are called does and young females are called doelings. When the doe gives birth it is called freshening or kidding. The babies are called kids. Nigerian dwarf goats are good mothers and typically deliver easily and unassisted. They commonly have 1 to 4 kids at one freshening, even up to 5, 6 or 7 kids. However, not all the kids typically survive with higher multiple births. A doe can support up to 4 kids in good living conditions without supplementing the kids. However, if she develops mastitis or is mineral deficient she may have more difficulty and need help to support her babies. A newborn Nigerian dwarf goat weighs around 2 pounds at birth. However, the more kids in a freshening the more varied the weight of the kids can be. They can be as little as 10 ounces and still survive with a little assistance.
BREEDING THE NIGERIAN DWARF GOAT
Nigerian dwarf goats are a traditional livestock breed that farmers raised in the past. But a drastic reduction of the breed variety was caused by the rise of industrial agriculture and threatened their survival. As of 2012, The Livestock Conservancy Board ranked Nigerian dwarf goats as a recovering breed. A movement toward self sustaining lifestyles has helped increase interest in this breed. Nigerian dwarf goats can breed all year round. This flexibility has helped to develop interest in this breed with hobby farmers and modern day homesteaders. Because they can breed off season - different than other goats, it is easy to keep a year round milk supply. The does gestation period is 145 to 156 days or about 5 months. This is a good thing as you can breed your doe yearly and milk for the rest of the year. Some breeders even breed 3 times in two years to maximize the does potential. However, being a mother myself who “kidded and nursed” my children, I know that it takes a lot out of your body. I prefer to give my girls a few months to rest and recuperate before they are bred again. These mothers are very protective of their kids. Alert and defending them from dogs and any other animals they think could hurt their babies. This can be stressful. And goats and stress do not go well together. We want them to restore their vitamins and minerals before breeding again. We have had good success with our does and they have always been healthy and ready to visit the bucks again.
Not only are these goats great reproducers but they are also great producers. The compact size makes keeping them easy keepers on smaller properties. The bucks are ideally between 19 and 21 inches (but up to 23.5 inches). And the does are between 17 and 19 inches (up to 22.5 inches). Adult Nigerian dwarf goats weigh approximately 75 pounds when full grown. They eat less and they convert the food they eat to milk efficiently. They live up to 12 years and in ideal situations they have lived as long as 20 years.
We wean our kids around 8 weeks unless sold as bottle babies. This is a good time to move the bucklings away from the does. Bucklings can be fertile as early as 8 weeks. If planning to wether a buckling, they can be banded before they leave. However, if possible, wait until they are about 4 months old. This is reported to help their urinary system develop and should not cause as many issues with urinary calculi when they are older.
POLLED: HORNS: DISBUDDING: or DEHORNING
We have many kids that are polled at birth. Meaning that they will not grow horns. However, we do not breed polled to polled goats because of genetic concerns. Because of this, we do also have some kids with horns. Many breeders keep their goats naturally horned. And if you have space and a safe environment - goats with horns are fine. However, we have decided to keep our herd free from horns for a few reasons (which can be discussed at a later time). If planning to disbud, best practice is to do this when the kids are 2 – 10 days old. We give them a pain med and disbud the kids that have erupted horns. Some kids horn buds do not break through the skin until later. Disbudding at this stage is not very effective and can be more painful to the kid. It is better to have a veterinarian surgically dehorn them at this point.
FEEDING NIGERIAN DWARF GOATS
Goats have a rumen like cows and sheep. However, cows and sheep are grazers and will eat everything in an area. Goats are browsers. They prefer to eat a little here and a little there. They do not eat anything as urban legend suggests. In fact, they are very particular and will not eat food that has been dropped on the ground or soiled. They do love brush, bramble, trees, poison ivies and most weeds that other livestock will not eat. Truthfully, they prefer these more than grass. Goats that have a good choice of graze, proper hay and/or grain that they need will not eat non-edible or poisonous substances. In reality, they actually have very delicate nutritional needs. A goat will seek out the minerals that they need if it is not provided to them. This is when they will try other things to eat.
When changing feed, always make changes slowly. If you change the bacteria in the rumen too quickly you can cause bloat or the rumen to shut down. This can be a life threatening situation.
When feeding our Nigerian dwarf goats we feed the bucks/wethers and does differently. Each one has specific needs that the other does not. To avoid illness we have worked with our vet to carefully to determine how to feed each one. Remember, goats do not have teeth on the upper jaw in the front, only gums. Feeding foods to them that are not in their natural diet could harm them.
WATER is the number one priority of the goat owner. Make sure they always have fresh water available to them!
Bucks and wethers are fed free choice prairie hay, graze, and minerals. ONLY occasionally, have we added buck pellets (pelleted food formulated for bucks only), kelp and black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS). This has been on an as needed basis when illness, recovery or an exceptionally long winter with poor hay quality is needed to keep them in good condition. You can add apple cider vinegar to water in the winter. When giving grain add approximately ½ teaspoon of ammonium chloride to the feed. This will help to keep their urinary system flowing. Do NOT give baking soda to bucks! Baking soda will neutralize the vinegar and ammonium chloride affects.
Open does are fed free choice brome hay, graze, minerals and baking soda. They are supplemented with a 16-18% dairy goat feed. We use Purina Goat Chow as needed to grow and stay in good condition. We do supplement the grain with kelp and BOSS at times.
Pregnant does are fed free choice Alfalfa hay, graze, minerals and baking soda. They are fed a 16-18% dairy goat feed. We use Purina Goat Chow with kelp added morning and evening – about ¼ cup per doe.
Lactating does are fed free choice Alfalfa hay, graze, minerals and baking soda. They are fed a 16-18% dairy goat feed. We use Purina Goat Chow with alfalfa pellets, BOSS and kelp added morning and evening at the milk stanchion while being milked.
Our goats are loved and some may say even spoiled. We try to make sure that the treats we give them are good for them as well. We have given: Peanuts in the shell, orange peels, banana peels, small amounts of yogurt, cut up apples and pears and a favorite is bending a branch from a nearby tree down within their reach.
We make no apologies. We love them like family – just family that live outside. Nigerian dwarf milk has a higher butterfat (6-10%) than other goat milk and is excellent for making cheese, butter, ice cream and soap. Additionally, goat milk is easier to digest making it an option for many lactose intolerant people or those that have other gastrointestinal issues. Goat milk has an alkaline pH and is naturally homogenized. Cow milk stays in the human stomach for 24 hours. Goat milk is easier to breakdown and digest. It stays in the human stomach for only 20 minutes to 4 hours. We love the milk that they produce. And our vet says that happy well cared for/loved goats produce better tasting milk. I’ll go with that.
POISONOUS OR TOXIC FOODS FOR GOATS
When researching what our goats can and can not have, we have come across many lists on the internet. This can be confusing as some things are listed as good for them and on another list as poisonous. I will give a list of plants to avoid that have been reported to be poisonous or harmful to goats somewhere on the internet. I do not claim to be an expert but I try to be safe rather than sorry. This is an attempt to provide a starting point for goat owners and definitely is not a definitive list. But do be aware that vomiting in goats is almost always due to poisonous plants. Please consult your veterinarian for verification.
Feeds containing UREA. These are toxic to goats
Anything that could cause choking: nuts, nut shells, avocado pits, fruit pits, bones, etc.
Fescue grass- not poisonous just not recommended
African Rue, Andromeda (related to foxglove), Azalea, Brouwer’s Beauty Andromeda, Boxwood, Burning bush berries, Calotropis, Cassava (manioc), China Berry Trees, all parts, Choke cherries, Datura, Dog Hobble, Dumb Cane (diffenbachia / houseplant), Eunoumus Bush Berries, False Tansy, “Fiddleneck”, Flixweed, Fusha, Holly Trees / bushes, Ilysanthes floribunda, Japanese pieris (extremely toxic), Japanese Yew, Lantana (?), Lasiandra, Lilacs, Lily of the Valley (Pieris Japonica), Lupine, Madreselva (Spain) patologia renal, Maya – Maya, Monkhood, Milkweed, Mountain Laurel, Nightshade (?), Oleander, Red Maples, Rhododendron, Rhubarb leaves, TuTu (coriaria arborea), Wild Cherry, Yew.
NIGERIAN DWARF GOAT HEALTH
It is important to understand the diseases that goats can contract and how. We try to be careful and use good biosecurity standards however, no matter how good we are, disease can still find a way in. We try not to worm our goats routinely. We have fecals done periodically to test for parasites and treat accordingly. There are not many medications developed for goats so many treatments come from medications meant for other livestock.
The best advice I can give is to know your goat. The more you know your goat’s behavior and personality the better caretaker you will be. Our vet told me once “You will tell me when something is wrong.” And he was right. When one of our goat’s routine changes, like - they aren’t first in line to eat, or don’t come up for a scratch on the shoulders – something is wrong. One of our girls perches herself on the highest place she can and bleats out at us until we feed her in the morning and evening. One morning I came out and she wasn’t there. And she wasn’t hollering at me. She was in the shelter laying quietly. I checked her temp and it was 105 degrees F. She was sick.
Keep a log or chart of illnesses, medications, freshening, vaccinations, etc on your goat. Know his/her weight and age. This will help you answer questions for treating your goat when the vet is unavailable and over the phone consultation is necessary.
So here is a list of vital signs to know about your goat. This can save a lot of money and your goat’s life.
Rectal Temperature 101.7 – 104 degrees F
Respirations Adult 12 – 20 per minute
Kids 20 – 40 per minute
Pulse 70 – 80 beats per minute
Estrus / Heat cycle 18 - 23 days and lasts 12 - 36 hours
*It is also a good idea to give probiotics with Vitamin E during stressful situations
HANDY MEDICATIONS and TOOLS FOR GOATS
A well stocked medicine cabinet can be the difference between life and death of your goat. Over time it is a good idea to have a few commonly used medications on hand.
Vetricyn, Vitamin B 12 (BOSE), Meloxican for pain relief, Ammonium Chloride, Vinegar, CD&T, Minerals (block or loose), Baking soda, Dried kelp food grade, Probiotics, Diatimatious Earth...
A few tools that are handy to have are as follows:
Hoof trimmers, Wood file, Collar and leash, Carrier for transport, Bowls to feed, Water heater elements to prevent frozen water in the winter, Rake, Barn lime, Shelter / Large dog house, Water container, Food container, Hay manger, Leur lock syringes and 22 gauge - 1” needles, Standard syringes, Alcohol, Cotton balls and paper towels, Scissors, Nasal Aspirator, Disposable scalpel, Disposable gloves, Digital thermometer...
Nigerian dwarf goats can be milked once or twice a day. We milk two times a day by hand. No one in our family grew up on a farm and learning to milk has been a process. We learned on an unexperienced but very very patient doe. She put up with a lot. Looking back, well...looking back is embarrassing. Since then we have learned a lot. We have worked to develop a good step by step milking routine so that even the those people who have never milked before can feel comfortable trying their hand at it. It may seem elementary to some of us, but I have been asked too many times "Do goats give milk all the time like cows or do they have to have a baby first?" Yes. Goats (and for that matter cows) do have to kid, calf or have a baby before they can give milk. For goats it is called freshening. The doe is freshening her milk supply. The doe can be milked immediately and the kids can be bottle fed. If this is your plan make sure the kids all get colostrum first. They will be much healthier in the long run and have the benefit from the does immunities. If your doe is Cae positive, powdered colostrum supliments are available. Do not allow a Cae positive doe to nurse her kids. Bottle feed so that the kids will not contract the Cae from the mother goat.
We have tested all our goats for Cae and CL. They are all negative and can raise their kids naturally without concern. We allow the doe ti raise her kids for two weeks naturally and then we remove the kids at night. The doe is then milked one time a day, until the kids are weaned. My does that have quads are not milked until they wean their kids. With four kids to support, they need all the milk they can make to support their babies. With the other does, we remove the kids at night and milk the next morning. After milking, the doe is returned to her kids. As long as the kids continue to grow and develop normally, we continue this until the kids are 8 weeks old and weaned. At that time, we begin milking twice a day about 12 hours apart.
There are many different ways to milk. The following is the routine that works for our family. We use stainless steal pans under our does. This is because our does are dwarfs. They only have 3 to 6 inches between their udder and the floor of the milk stanchion. Traditional pails (which we have tried) do not work and make milking difficult as the udder ends up in the pail. A standard stainless steal pan with a handle works well. It is also very handy to remove with the handle when an inexperienced or anxious doe begins to dance. We filter our milk through a stainless steal coffee filter that sits inside of a canning funnel. This is then set atop the half gallon mason jar. We also use commercial teat wipes and olive oil when milking. Primarily because the cost is minimal in relation to the time and effort it took to keep homemade solutions sanitary for any length of time. The teats are wiped clean and then a little olive oil is applied to our hands and the teats. This helps decrease any discomfort for the doe and speeds up the amount of time it takes.
Collect all the supplies before you head out. A stainless steal pan, funnel, screen/filter basket, strip cup and a glass milk jar. We keep teat wipes, olive oil, grain, peanuts and a grooming brush at the stanchion. When you have your supplies ready and your hands washed. You are ready to get your goat.
1)Make sure the grain is in the bucket
2)Stanchion is locked before beginning to milk
3)Check the doe for any changes in – her udder, teats, feet, mouth, bottom, etc. Is her udder red, cut, hot or does she jump when you touch her? If the answer is yes further inspection is needed. If she is found to be ok upon visual inspection, meaning no open wounds or sores and no signs of pain. Continue the milking routine. If however, you have a problem address it first. Inspect her milk in the strip cup and test for mastitis if necessary. If this is a first time milker she may need some time to get used to the routine. Make it a positive experience. If she has been doing fine and all of a sudden doesn't act right. Something may be wrong. Remember, you know your doe. Listen with your eyes to what she is telling you.
4) Clean hands and supplies are the most important part of the process. Make sure you don't contaminate that fresh goat milk.
5)Wipe down teats with teat wipe and solution
6)Olive oil hands and teats
7)Strip the first milk from the teats into the strip cup.
8)Check this milk for flakes, strings, or blood signs - act accordingly if there is a problem. If not continue milking.
9)Milk in the pan. When her stream slows bump the udder or massage softly then finish milking her out.
10)Wash off teats with your wipe. An udder cream or spray can be used but is not necessary. We use a peppermint rub to soothe our does.
11)Filter the milk into the jar / date / refrigerate your milk ASAP!
12)Feed your goat a peanut, praise her and give her a good shoulder scratch or brush down if you have time. Remember a happy goat gives the best milk.
Interesting facts: Only goats, sheep, toads, and octopi have rectangular pupils. In goats blue eyes are a dominant trait. When a goat calls out it is called bleating.
Our goats are registered through ADGA or AGS.
Can you see the baby on Missy's side?
Twin sisters Libbie and Lottie
Poor expecting Sadie. She had quads a few days later.
HISTORY OF KUNEKUNE PIGS
Kunekune pigs are a heritage breed earliest recorded in 1790. They originally came from Asia. Then were brought to the Maori people in New Zealand by whalers and traders. The Maori people have raised them as a traditional food source for many years. Then as industrial commerce increased the Maori people began eating more modern foods and the Kunekune pig was left to roam among the people. The pigs lived around the homes of the people and at the left over scraps. They adapted and were close to extinction in 1980. At that time there were only 50 Kunekune left. Only 18 of those 50 were able to be confirmed as purebred. In 1995 and 2005, the Kunekune breed was introduced to America. 5? pigs were brought the US in 1995. Then in 2005, Jim and Lori Enright brought ----? more to the US. These breeders were intent on saving the Kunekune pig from extinction. Today there are more bloodlines and registered breeders in the US and in Austraila?. The Kunekune is not even listed on the Live Stock Conservancy Board anymore. Though they are not as common as some breeds they are a popular breed for homesteads and smaller farms. The Enright's worked hard to promote the Kunekune pigs and I am so glad they did. These pigs are some of the most wonderful animals I have ever raised. To say they have personality is not even touching the surface of these animals. They are highly intelligent and social with human beings. And that is a good thing because so many of them are just so adorable.
FEEDING KUNEKUNE PIGS
The boars and sows are about 24 inches tall and about 200 pounds when kept on pasture. They are considered to be a miniature pig. They are pasture pigs and do not root up the ground as most pigs do. They are the ideal livestock to manage an orchard. They can survive during most other seasons with grass and good graze and only need alfalfa hay to suppliment them in the winter. And even then, 1 to 2 flakes a day per pig will do. Throw in a few veggie table scraps and you will have some happy Kunekunes. The boars are easily handled and love attention. When handled consistently, the personality of the pig emerges. Our boar will "faint" at the sight of one of his humans. He rolls to his side and moans until he gets his belly rubbed. Even after the spoiling has stopped he will lie still for another 30 seconds or so just in case you might reconsider and stay longer. The sows are just as loving and great mothers. They have few birthing issues and raise their young on their own. Even after pigging, my sow will let me crawl into her shelter and inspect her babies. We removed our boar initially when she delivered. But he laid on one side of the fence and the sow laid on the other, side by side. He would nuzzle the babies through the fence. After about a week we introduced him to the piglets. He acted as if they had always been there. He even laid with the babies while momma sow went off to graze and have a little "momma-time". Now I know that not all Kunekune boars and sows are this docile. And I am not suggesting that you do as we did and put the boar back in with the sow a week after farrowing. What I am saying, is that we have spent a lot of time and intention on being familiar with our Kunekunes and they have responded favorably.
BREEDING KUNEKUNE PIGS
Kunekune pigs are a lard pig, but are also bred for meat and more recently as pet pigs. The sows can be bred twice in a year. They typically have litters of 7 to 10 piglets. The babies are also called a shoat or farrow. A female pig that has not delivered piglets is called a gilt. A female who has delivered piglets is a sow. A boar is the intact male pig. He is considered to be proven if he has sired piglets. Gilts are fertile at 10 months of age and males at 12 months of age. However, it is a good practice to wait until your gilt is 12 -18 month before breeding her. This gives her body time to develop and grow to her potential. Some breeders report fewer farrowing problems when the gilt is 12-18 months old at her first breeding. The piglets are usually weaned at 10 to 12 weeks.
When breeding Kunekune pigs, it is a good practice to pay attention to their bloodlines. It is good to be able to breed pigs together from different bloodlines. But this is not always easy to do. Even though the Kunekune is becoming more popular, they are still not easy to find. And finding a boar and sow that are not closely related can be challenging. Because of this the pigs are commonly identified by both of their parents bloodlines. The gilt/sow will be listed as her mother's bloodline and then her father's. For example, our Molly's mother's bloodline was Jenny 6. Molly's father's bloodline was Tonganuil. So she is identified as a Jenny 6 / Tonganuil. Mike our boar is a Mahia Love / Rona. So his father's bloodline was Mahia Love and his mother's bloodline was Rona. There is a lot of information about the different bloodlines and where they came from, characteristics, etc. You just have to do a little research. The Maori first called them Kunekune. This means fat, round, or chubby in their language. These pigs are just that and that is part of what makes them so unique looking. They have short flexible turned up snouts. Their hair is long and covers the whole body. It can be black, white, brown, red or any combination of those. Many are spotted and some have brindle markings. Some Kunekune pigs have wattles or little skin appendages that hang from their jaws. This is considered a desired feature for breeders when breeding them for pets. The Kunekune has very poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Today Kunekune pigs are being used in some places for drug sniffing and bomb detection because of their amazing sense of smell.
Even though they are adorable, intelligent and highly social they are still animals. They need help to stay cool in the summer and if kept outside will need a shelter, water and a mud pit for wallowing in.
In January of 1887, the Dexter cow was first registered in the “Farmers Gazette” newspaper. Although, it was recorded by the Royal Dublin Society in 1879. Dexter’s came to the U.S. from southwest Ireland in 1905 through 1915, this was before Kerry’s and Dexter’s were identified as different breeds. They were used in homesteads for meat, milk and for burden.
A male cow is called a bull, a female is called a cow and a baby is called a calf. A heifer is a female cow that has not had a baby yet. The Livestock Conservancy board has Dexter’s ranked as recovering. These miniature cattle are pregnant for 15 to 18 months. They make great mothers and give birth easily. At 40” tall and only 700-1,000 pounds, they are one of the smallest breeds in the world. They are called the poor mans cow because they do well in any climate and eat pasture and occasionally hay, but only when grass is scarce.
Dexter’s cannot eat alfalfa because it is too rich but, they can eat brome or prairie hay. However, they still need vitamins and minerals. Dexter’s are the ideal family cow because they are docile and hardy. Although it may not seem like it, Dexter’s actually have some of the best tasting meat. Not to mention that they give about 2-3 gallons of milk a day. They have a relatively long life span at 17 to 18 years, making them great for small farms. We have black Dexters. They can be dun and red as well. Our cow was horned but has been dehorned. Our bull calf was born polled; which means without horns.
We are loving our new llamas! We have Momma llama, her baby and Scooter. Scooter is small enough to be registered as a mini llama. He has the most beautiful and expression filled eyes. They are light brown with streaks of blue marbled through them.
Each llama has their own personality. They have been so sweet and are learning to trust us more each day. Momma llama is said to be pregnant and expecting in June. So here's hoping! Keep your fingers crossed.
We will be adding more information on them at a later date.
Emu are a part of the Ratite family. They are originally from Australia. They were first imported to the United States prior to 1950 as exotic zoo animals and private collections. In 1960, Australia named the Emu as their national bird and banned their export. Around 1980, Emu began to be commercially bred in the US. Prices of these birds climbed higher and higher. And emu became a popular exotic agricultural farming option. Since that time the market has dropped and emu can be purchased more economically. They are not as popular as they were in the 80's but can now be used as an alternate option for small homesteads for meat or oils. The meat is a low fat, low cholesterol, rich in iron red meat. And emu oil is used in cosmetics and health products. It is advertised as a healing oil. Emu are an agricultural animal that every part of the bird can be used. At harvest, around 16 months of age, an emu can produce 20-30 pounds of health red meat and give 4 to 5 liters of raw emu oil. The skin can be made into rich leathers. The feathers are used in the craft industry because they are very unique. The adult feathers grow from a folicle just like our hair does. It is a double shafted feather that grows in black and bleaches to gray from the sun exposure. Their feathers are not water resistant like most bird feathers so they are very soft to the touch. Emu egg shells are carved, made into decorative pieces and broken up for craft or jewlery mosaics.
Emu are not endangered as a species. They are rated as a least concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, in the past two types of emu have gone extinct. They are the Tasmanian Emu and the King Island Emu. Emu are the second largest bird on Earth. Second only to the ostrich. Emu are the only birds with calf muscles. They have very strong legs and can run up to 30 to 40 miles per hour for quite a distance. At times their strides can reach over 9 feet long. Adult emu have been know to jump 7 feet high straight up. They are a flightless bird that have very small useless wings by their sides. Emu have great eyesight and agility and can escape almost anything. They use their legs and three sharp toe claws to rip apart predators.
Between May and June it is not uncommon for the females to fight over a mate. The female emu will mate several times during the breeding season from October to April. A female emu will mate several times and lay several clutches of eggs during this time. A sexually mature female emu can lay 40 to 50 eggs in one year. She can lay an egg every 3 to 5 days. And Emu have produced viable eggs for 35 years or more in captivity. Emu eggs look similar to a large avocado. They can have the same weight and volume as a dozen chicken eggs. When they are hatched, the emu chick is about 9.8 inches tall. They are considered precocial, as they can walk within minutes of hatching. They can leave the nest after 3 days. The chick takes about 10 days to absorb the yolk sack. During this time they can be very fragile. After they have absorbed the yolk sack and are eating a balanced diet, they are very hardy chicks. The fathers are the ones who build, sit on the nest and raise the chicks. He will lose up tp one third of his body weight while he is on the nest. The father will teach them how to find food and about stranger danger in the environment for the next 5 to 7 months. However, some juvenile emu will stay with dads for up to 18 months. They are striped at first to help them hide from danger. By 3 months they can reach 2 to 3 feet and by 6 months up to 4 1/2 feet tall and will have their adult plumage. Most emu are full grown at 12-14 months of age. Emu develop their sexual organs at this time but do not reach sexual maturity until about 2 years of age or even later for the males at 3 to 4 years of age. Emu can weigh up to 150 pounds and be up to 6.2 feet tall by 4 years of age.
A female will begin to communicate with a pouch in her throat or windpipe around 12 months of age. She will inflate the pouch and produce a deep booming or drumming sound. This sound can be heard for up to 1.2 miles away. This is usually when the emu's sex is easiest to determine. They can be sexed by dna at birth but obtaining the blood samples can be difficult. Emu will shake their stiff tail feathers together to scare off predators. They can also hiss an eerie warning for would be predictors, causing them to reconsider their choices.
Emu are intensely curious and can be very docile birds. They are excellent swimmers and love to play in water. They can be seen cavorting about and kicking their heals up as they get excited over any little thing. Even though emu are usually solitary birds but can be seen in large groups as they travel to look for food and water. They forage for plants and insects in the wild. In the wild, they can go for weeks without eating and travel huge distances to find new food sources. Emu are omnivores, meaning they will eat both plants and animals. They eat acacia seeds, catepillars, grass shoots, leaves, pods of cassia, bettles, grasshoppers, fruit, lizards, ladybugs, crickets, moth larve and ants in their native environment. Emu have a very short and therefore quick digestive tract. They must obtain the best calories to digest because their food travels quickly through the digestive system, usually within about 6 hours. Emu are great at spreading seeds because many seeds do not digest in this short amount of time. In the wild, they travel great distances and spread the seeds in small perfectly fertilzed mounds along the way. Emu can live 10 to 20 years in the wild and more than 35 years in captivity.
When incubating emu eggs in captivity they need to be kept between 96 to 98.5 degrees F on a dry bulb thermometer with a relative humidity of 24 to 35% or wet bulb 70 to 74 degrees F. The eggs need to be rotated 360 degrees daily. The eggs will hatch in about 8 weeks or between 48 and 52 days.
One very interesting and fun fact to look up is The Great Emu War. It happened in Australia during the end of 1932. No joking the Emus won!
Sebastopol Geese are a heritage breed originating in England in 1860. They were also known as Danubian geese in Britain in the 19th century. The Germans can them Lockengans or curl-goose and Struppgans meaning unkempt goose. They came to the US from southeastern Europe around the Black Sea. They are named after the Russian City that exported them to the US, They were accepted in the Poultry Association in 1938. A flock of geese can also be called a gaggle. Sebastopol geese are bred for meat and as ornamental geese or pets. The male is called a gander and the female is called a goose. The babies are called goslings. The goslings can swim 24 hours after hatching. A Sebastopol goose can lay 25 to 35 eggs each year. They lay large white eggs. They do not lay all year long but in a few clutches. Ours lay from February through April. Sebastopols are good parents. The gander watches over the goose as she sits on her nest. He is very loyal and protective keeping all those passing by away. The goose sits on her nest for 30 days. After hatching, the goslings will follow the parents and graze eating grass and other greens for food. The goose and gander are very dedicated to their goslings. They will walk one on the left and one on the right. When the goose is grazing the gander is watching over his family. He often waits for the gander and goslings to sit and rest before he will eat. When breeding Sebastopol geese, it is important to breed a curly breasted to a smooth breasted Sebastopol. If you breed a curly breasted with a curly breasted Sebastopol you can get a totally straight feathered Sebastopol or have wing abnormalities.
The Sebastopols are docile and easy keepers as far as geese go. The loudest they get is during nesting and hatching season. My gander will come up and sit in my lap. He follows me around the garden and honks when he needs a pet or to be talked to. He is protective over his gander and myself. He has to be reminded that my children and other animals are allowed to come close to me. He can be led by carefully taking hold of his neck and gently walking him to his pen. Most times they are easily herded to their pen at night. But they seem to wait for us to tell them that it is bed time. Then there are a few customary honks, wing flapping and then they will waddle to their house.
Sebastopol geese are beautiful. They are typically white but the colors can vary with striking blue eyes. The distinctive feature is their long curly flowing feathers. Many people affectionately call them "sebbies". They have also been called wedding dress geese. They can not fly. However, they are very good watchmen and will let you know day or night if something is not right. They are listed on the Livestock Conservancy Board as a threatened breed. They weigh between 10 and 12 pounds. And it is said that the females are darker colored when they hatch than the males. They can live up to 25 years if provided a good safe environment to live in. Dogs and coyotes are their biggest predator.
Bourbon Red Turkeys
Bourbon Red Turkeys are a heritage breed. The earliest record of this breed is from Kentucky in the 1800s. They were named after Bourbon County in Kentucky. They were called Bourbon Butternuts at first. They are a result of cross breeding Buff, Bronze and White Holland turkeys. They are bred for meat and were at one time considered the best table bird. They are considered on the most popular breeds. However, since the industrialization of the turkey industry and the development of the broad breasted white turkey heritage breed turkeys have lost popularity. Today Bourbon Red Turkeys are listed as threatened on the Livestock Conservancy Board. The turkeys weigh 14 to 23 pounds as adults. A flock of turkeys is called a rafter. They forage for grass and fruit. An adult male is called a Tom or gobbler. A juvenile male is a jake. The tom has a snood attached to the upper part of his beak. This snood can tell you what his temperament is at any given time. He will relax it and it will turn dark red when he is feeling amorous or proud. If it is short and white he is likely in a cautious mood and is on alert. The tom also has a beard that sticks out the front of his chest. It is typically dark black and whisker like to touch. It is actually a feather that hangs down. This grows longer the older the male is, approximately 1 to 2 inches each year. A Tom's beard chan get up to 12 inches long. Males can be quite aggressive especially during the breeding season. We have yet to find a docile Tom turkey but the hunt goes on! The females are called hens and hatchlings are called poults. July is typically breeding season. Though our hen has hatched poults as early as May. They lay large eggs that are pale cream to medium brown with brown spots on them. The hens are good mother birds and have good instincts. Our hen is extremely docile and as you can see loves little ones. She especially loves preschoolers. She follows the groups of children all over the farm hoping for a pet or hug. What a ham - I mean turkey!
Muscovy ducks are the only domesticated ducks that are not descendants of the infamous Mallard. They are from South America and they were then dispersed through European colonies. Because they were originally from South America they were called Musco ducks. The earliest record of them is from AD 50 in Peru. They came to Central America around AD 750-950, until the Spanish conquistadors took them and spread them around the world in the mid-16th century.
The males are called drakes, females are ducks, and babies are called ducklings. They are bred for meat, pest control, and eggs. These ducks start laying eggs at 7 months and lay about 195 per year. The duck will lay 8-15 eggs in a nest and sit on them. They make great mothers. If you want to hatch your own Muscovy’s, the incubator should be at 102oF. The humidity should be set at 60-65% and it takes 35 days for the eggs to hatch.
Muscovy’s eat flies, mosquitos and bugs. They can be fed a high protein feed along with their natural diet. They are very gentle but they can be very protective over their mates and young. These ducks are very unique because they don’t actually quack. Instead they squeak, hiss, and wag their tails. They have a crest that can be raised at will and their tails are very long.
Khaki Campbell Ducks
The Khaki Campbell duck is a heritage breed from England. Adele Campbell, from Gloustershire, wanted to provide a consistent supply of roast duckling for her husband and son. So, in the late 1800s, she bred an Indian Runner and a Rouen to create a sturdy duck that laid a lot of eggs. It was introduced to the public in 1898. In 1929, an importer in New York brought the ducks into the U.S.
A male duck is called a drake, a female is called a duck, and a baby is called a duckling. A group is a flock. These ducks are bred for their delicious eggs. They can produce 250-340 eggs per year. In fact, the world record for most eggs laid in a year for any bird was made by a Khaki Campbell who laid over 365 eggs in a year. When they are 5-7 months, they lay their first egg.
Khaki Campbell’s take 28 days to hatch, but you should stop turning them on the 25th day. The humidity of the incubator should be set at 60% for the first 25 days and 70-80% on the last 3 days. This is so they will be able to break the shell. The temperature should be set at 99.5o F.
These ducks are mostly foragers, so they eat a lot of bugs and grass. However, you can feed them duck feed from the store. They are very energetic and they love water. It’s good to have a lot of space for them to roam and play.
Their Livestock Conservancy Board ranking is on watch. There are four colors of this breed: dark, white, khaki, and pied. Although, khaki is the only recognized color. White Campbell ducks are actually bred for sport.
Chickens and Co.
We have a 5 year old Rhode Island red rooster named Sarge. He is very good at his job. He keeps all the other roosters in line. We have several different breeds of chickens. Mainly, because we just like them. We like to get different colored eggs and someday maybe we will be able to raise meat chickens as well. At this time we haven't been able to cross that line.
We actually have two of our original hens as well, Paisley and Roxy are still laying eggs and they are both 5 years old. We have barred rock chickens, lavender orpingtons, buff sussex, crested creme legbars, australorps, anconas and copper marans. We also have a few silkies a rooster named Froto for his hairy feet and a Chinese Show Girl named FIfi. We get several home grown barn yard specialties as a hen or two always seem to find a shed or corner that we haven't checked in awhile and go broody on us. We also have some old english bantams just for the fun of their spunky personalities.
We just recently added guineas to our menagerie. We found an assortment of varieties and have ended up with several kinds. We ended up with french, white, pearl, lavender and pied. So cute right now. But not for long. Can't wait to see how they will all turn out. And boy do we need them. The flies and mosquitoes are horrible.
Standard Rex Rabbits
HISTORY OF THE REX
The standard Rex rabbit was first discovered in 1919 when a French peasant found an odd looking bunny in a group of rabbits. He then brought it to Monsieur Gillet, who named it Castorrex, which means beaver king. Gillet immediately ordered another rabbit just like it but only one was found. These two rabbits laid the foundation for the whole breed.
Gillet showed his friends a pelt from his Castorrex and they accused him of “dressing” the pelt, so he brought in one of his unique rabbits. It was later discovered that their soft fur was the result of a recessive genetic mutation that leads to guard hairs that are the same length as the undercoat. This makes the fur have a silky and smooth feel to it. The Rex's were first introduced to the public at the Paris International Rabbit Show in 1924. They came to the U.S. shortly after the show and have since been used for a variety of things, including meat, fur, to show, and as a pet.
BREEDING YOUR RABBITS
A male rabbit is called a buck, a female rabbit is called a doe and the babies are called kits. Bucks need to be sterilized before 5 months of age. Bucks are fertile at 7 months and doe’s are ready to be breed at 6 months. Keep in mind that rabbits are veryterritorial animals. It is not recommended to keep more than one in an enclosure. Always put the doe into the buck’s cage. Does have been known for castrating the males when they enter their territory.
When breeding the doe is introduced to the buck and when mating is complete the buck falls off the back of the doe. This signals one successful breeding. We leave our doe in with the buck until he falls off at least 3 times. However, some people do leave them in for a few hours. This is not the best plan though, because some doe’s can get irritated and become aggressive.
Rabbits are very consistent with gestation from the time of mating to giving birth. It typically takes 28 to 35 days for the doe to deliver. If it has been 35 days and you do not see babies, she has either disposed of them or is not pregnant. The nesting box should go in on the 28th day. For the standard Rex, the nesting box is 15” long x 10” wide x 10” tall. Then we put straw and a little bit hay in for bedding. We put hay in the box because it will increase the doe’s interest in nesting.
Rabbits are very protective and efficient breeders. Sometimes this means that they will do anything to carry on their breed. Unfortunately, the mothers will sometimes eat the babies so they can live on to produce more if they feel threatened. To prevent this from happening, we put a spoonful of raw ground beef on the wire floor of the cage. Put this in on the 28th day with the nesting box.
The doe could have up to 12 kits at one time, so it is important to take care of her during the days when she is pregnant. Make sure she has a mineral and salt spool as well as alfalfa or brome hay.
When the babies are born, though they seem irresistible, avoid too much contact with them. It is important to check and remove any that died. What we found that works is petting and giving attention to mom first, this will calm her down and it puts her scent on your hand. The kits are usually weaned between 6-8 weeks. If you are keeping them be sure to separate them from their mother.
Rex's need a high protein diet with 16% or more protein. They drink a lot of water so it needs to be kept clean and cool. A mineral and salt spool along with brome hay will help them get all the minerals and nutrients they need. For a treat, we often give our rabbits greens from the garden.
These rabbits need to be weighed at 6 months. When they are under 6 months, they are called junior does or bucks. They should not be over 8.5 lbs as a junior. Senior does and bucks are Rex's that are 6 months or older. Senior does should weigh 8 to 10.5 lbs. Senior bucks should weigh 7.5 to 9.5 lbs.
ADVANTAGES OF THE REX
Rex's are the perfect family pet. They don’t need much vet care because there aren’t vaccinations for these rabbits. They are prone to sore hock, this is when they sit on wire for too long and their feet get sores on them. Bag balm will help the wounds heal. Rex's never need to be bathed or groomed. In fact, it can ruin their coat if it is washed, it breaks the guard hairs so it isn’t as smooth.
Even though they only live 5-6 years, these rabbits are very intelligent. You can teach them tricks with the proper motivation. They have curly whiskers and they can jump at least 3 feet. Because they are so motherly and friendly, they are often used as foster mothers.
COLORS OF THE REX
The Rex has a variety of colors. The broken color can be with any of the recognized colors and white. It can also be with two colors and white. Otter has four different colors that are black, blue, chocolate and lilac. The underside for this color is cream or tan colored along with the inside of the ears and nostrils. The eye color corresponds with the fur color.
Farm hands and feet
The hands and feet are what keeps the farm running. Dad, mom and our kiddos are the chore keepers. Then we have our four legged friends. We have our farm cats. Callie lives inside and keeps the mice outside. And she likes to enjoy a daily walk about outside. She has been with us for many many years. I think she actually believes that the children are hers. We have a few farm cats to rid the farm of pesky mice.
We also have a couple of rescued ferrets named Weasel and Hobbs. They are just for fun and provide hours of entertainment
We have an Anatolian Shepherd, livestock guardian dog (LGD). She is as sweet and laid back as they come. She watches over the farm and protects her home with a smile. She is very serious about her work. Even when the kids try to coerce her into the house, she lays down and grumbles as if to say, "Oh, you know I can't". And last but not least is Zoe. She is a little couch potato mix. She has been around longer than any of the other dogs that have come, eaten chickens and gone on to other homes. She has quite a lofty opinion of herself.