Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goat babies are on the way!

This is what Sassafras looked like last summer.

This is what she looks like today. The poor girl can't hop up onto the milking stand without help right now!

We are definitely seeing signs of our impending goat babies. Sass is huge, of course, but we are also beginning to see some small changes to her body that are alerting us to the arrival of her kids. She's had twins the last few times she's been bred (prior to coming to live with us), so we expect at least two. By the size of her, I'd guess more like 5, but we've read that the size of the goat really doesn't mean much in terms of number of babies. If she had one girl and one boy, we'd be thrilled as we already have a home for a boy (and we'd like to keep one girl).

This weekend was about getting ready for the birth. We started with the purchase of the remaining necessary items to build our version of a 'kidding stall'. Basically, we fenced off a small portion of the goat area using cattle panels and t-posts. We found a gate at our local feed store that was on sale because it was dented and installed that as well. We relocated the pole that we'd originally sunk to hold the goat's water bucket (last summer) and used that to hold the gate. And then we added a hook to the inside of the Quonset hut to hold the water bucket. All we have left to do is figure out a way to offer hay (inside the hut so it stays dry). We normally use a hanging net and we have a spare that we were going to use, but the hut isn't tall enough for the net. I don't think we'll need to have that much hay in there, anyway and will probably just settle for another large bucket.

The plan is to start keeping Sass in the kidding area at night starting on Tuesday. That is 7 days before her official due date, and that way, if she does give birth at night the babies are protected from a potentially rambunctious Buddy and they are born in a clean and fairly sanitary area (as opposed to the field where the chickens free range).

After we got the fencing installed, we gave Sass her 'birthing haircut'. Basically, using electric clippers that we bought for this occasion, I shaved her udder, her tail, part of her belly, the backs of her legs, and around her privates. In some areas, I left 1/4 inch hair and in others, I went more bare. Basically, the idea is to 1) help her be easier to clean up after the event, 2) make it easier for us to see the signs signalling a pending birth and 3) make it easier for the kids to find her teets. Apparently, it's not unheard of for kids to starve because they are sucking on long hair and not an actual teet. We also took the opportunity to shave the little beard that Sass was growing. This not only makes her look a little more 'lady-like' but it keeps her cleaner. That beard gets stuck in blackberry brambles and it can get caked with mud/water/baking soda/goat mineral, etc. In the interest of preserving our goat's dignity, I did not take photos of her 'hair cut' for posting on the internet. That, and I was so covered with goat hair that I was afraid it would get caught in the camera! ;-)

I also checked the list of the items we need for our kidding kit. We have everything, and we just need to collect it all into one place so that we can grab it and go. I'll be doing that tomorrow night after work. I think I'll put it all in an extra rubbermaid bin for safekeeping. I think we are ready!

Good news! When we were at the local feed store buying the gate, we asked about a butcher that will do chickens for us. There is a local one, so we are planning out our strategy for raising a few meat birds this summer. Additionally, we asked about offing our extra rooster, and the woman who owns the store said that she knew of someone who was looking for a full grown one! She has 4 hens who are about the same age as our rooster (8 months), so with any luck, our lower ranking rooster will soon have his own harem and I won't have to be the one to 'solve' the rooster problem. Phew!

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