Tuesday 5 April 2016

You are Kidding!

Flowering Cherry
When I 'went to press' on the last post, the last night of the village play was still going on and everyone was a bit anxious to give it their best shot and impress everybody. Well, I can happily tell you that like the other two nights, it went down a storm and was very well received by another sell-out audience. The cast and the whole team are delighted with it all and there has been lovely feedback and comment all about the place, so huge kudos in the village to all involved. They are all now wondering what they can do for next year and Liz fully intends to be part of that, possibly as "continuity" (that's what the programme said - she prefers just "prompt").

Half a dozen Khaki Campbell ducklings
We all needed a day to recover from the play and the new piggies, but that was all we got before the next bursts of excitement sploshed like pebbles into the calm mill-pond (ha!) of our small-holding life. A text from Sue early Sunday morning announced a "Clan Gathering" in her incubator - our duck eggs bought at Roscommon Poultry Sale a month back were all hatching. We needed to nip over and collect them and start the duck-owner phase of our lives. This also gave us a neat excuse to go admire the 6 (orphan?) baby lambs they have bought to bottle-feed, which includes a fine looking Suffolk lad who may well end up being our sire/tup/ram for this autumn.

Liz unpacks the precious cargo
We brought the ducklings home, cheeping away (yes, they do 'cheep' or at least 'pipe' at that age, rather than quacking) in a small expanded polystyrene box, quickly photographed them, and then let them loose in the baby chick's brooder where they could soon get warm by creeping under the 'electric hen' heat-plate. They got the same baby food as the chicks - finely mashed hard-boiled egg (incl. shell finely chopped) and commercial chick-crumb and they are thriving. They are little, very cute and utter charmers.

They quickly adopted the habit of climbing on top of the 'electric hen' instead of cosying down under it and the reason never occurred until Carolyn told me today. The electric hen works by having a warm plate facing downwards and running at broody-hen breast temperature (36ºC, I think). The top of the plate is plastic and well insulated from the hot plate so that birds can rest up there as extra space but only get mild benefit from the plate.

Of course (said Carolyn), ducklings have no instinct to burrow under Mum to get warm - Mum is generally swimming about on a cold pond with her feet underwater! That would NOT be a good plan for the babies. Instead they climb on her back and hide under a wing or the body feathers. Obvious once you have been told. Duck owners generally use the Infra-Red heat lamp option. It turns out that the Sitting Room is so warm here that the ducks are fine 'living' on the back of the 'hen' and only nipping down their with their chicken-cousins every now and then. I have even started feeding them their share of food up there.

Seconds old, the kid gets a good licking
If I had thought that ducklings, more log splitting and another testing archery session were enough excitement for one day and I needed to relax, then the small-holder gods were definitely not listening. We almost had supper on the table, and I had laid same and it was 7 p.m. when suddenly Towser started kicking off barking upstairs in a determined fashion. Suspecting that our stray dog might be about, I quickly got my wellies on and went to check. I could hear all manner of pained groaning and moaning coming from the top of the East Field and could see Nanny Óg rolling on the ground looking in distress. I now know that this is what goats DO in labour and all was probably well but I was straight onto some goat expert advice to check.

Mum cleaning up in the first minutes.
By about 7:15 p.m I could see a small white tuft protruding from Nanny's vulva, looking for all the world like an extra tail. Before I could react, Nanny groaned loudly once more, rolled over again, squirted the baby kid out onto the grass and stood up all in one movement. Apparently fast labour is another goat thing. I now raced to get Liz - the supper was stew, so that was not going to spoil - and we watched Nanny give the kid a thorough licking (plus tidying up the 'surroundings') while we sipped our wine the other side of the fence, only yards away from the action.

This was our first ever goat-kid so we were fascinated watching it quickly try to get to its feet (back legs first!)  and then to suckle, all the time being thoroughly licked all over by Mum who was grunting and chuntering away to the baby all the time. We were also wondering, of course, whether there might be more as well as needing to text the real owners of the goat (Carolyn and Charlotte) with the great news. It was also getting dark. We watched for as long as we sensibly could while the kid got closer and closer to the teat but then decided to leave them be so in case they were distracted by our presence. We'd check on them in an hour - we dived indoors for our stew.

Struggling to its feet - back legs first.
Well, safe to say now that this kid (which is male and has been named "Henry Óg" by Carolyn's young son) was indeed the only one, it did get to its feet and suckled successfully. It is still with us, is now 48 hours old and is thriving. It has been duly admired by all the interested parties. There is only one minor issue with this and we have read that this can happen with singleton kids. They can tend to favour one side of the udder and ignore the other, so that you need to help the Mum's comfort by milking out the un-used side for a few days, till baby gets big enough to start needing output from both 'barrels'. Nanny is a bugger to catch when she is out loose in a field, even when limited by not wanting to abandon the baby kid, so I have not yet been able to catch her, single handed. That is maybe one for tomorrow.

That was definitely enough excitement for that day and we are quite glad that there are no more births or babies due now till one of the birds goes broody.

No comments: