How to Tell If your goat is In Labor

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Now that I have been through three goat deliveries I fancy myself as some what of a goat labor expert *sarcasm* .  So I’m going to share with you how to figure out if you doe is in labor.

What you will Need:

  • Pregnant Doe
  • Magic 8 Ball

Directions:

  • Go over and place one hand on the doe
  • With the other hand hold up the Magic 8 ball and say ” is my goat in labor?”
  • Wait for response

This method may seem very left up to chance, but that’s kind of what it’s like waiting to see if a doe is really truly in labor or if she just doesn’t want you to go into the house.

Aside from this method there is one other SURE FIRE way to know if your goat is in labor.  Look on the ground beside her.  Is there a baby goat?  If so, congratulations she was in labor.  If not, nope she wasn’t try asking again later.

See where I’m going with this?  It isn’t always easy to know whether or not a doe is really in labor.  But to be honest it wasn’t easy for me to know whether or NOT I was really in labor with any of my 4 kids either so I don’t blame them entirely.  But I do blame them a tiny bit because they follow “The Doe Code” (check out this video by The Goat Mentor), meaning they make it their life mission to NOT have their babies until we are a frazzled mess.

But all joking aside here are some SIGNS that your do may be nearing labor/delivery:

  • Swollen Vulva- Now take this sign with a grain of salt because the vulva can be swollen long before delivery (ask any pregnant woman–TMI…sorry).  But typically as a doe nears delivery her vulva will become particularly puffy (how’s that for an alliteration…grammar).
  • Bagging up- You will notice that her udder went from being what you thought was plump and full to TRULY plump and full.  Like shiny and ready to burst.
  • Discharge- For my goats no discharge was present until it was delivery day and they were in labor.  However I have been told that discharge can show up days, or even a week before show time.  Sometimes you won’t see that actual snail trail, but you will notice that hay is stuck to them where it has dried.  Hay stuck on the rear end of your pregnant doe is a good sign.
  • Loss/Softening of Ligaments- One of the best ways to know whether or not your doe is getting close to labor is checking their tail ligaments. The area will soften and loosen up.
  • Sucked in sides- Usually after ligaments loosen and the babies start to shift into position the belly will “drop” causing their sides to suck in and their hips to look hollowed out.
  • Vocal- All laboring women are different, and goats are no different.  Some goats will whine and become very vocal during labor.  Some will be quiet.  Some goats will demand ice chips and scream that they hate you and no matter how much they beg, you should never take them to be bred again, it just depends on the goat. You know your goat best.
  • Excessive Pooping- It’s the cleaning out for labor stage.
  • Going off on her own- A lot of goats will wander off from the herd (if not already separated into their own birthing stall),
  • Can’t find a comfortable position- If you notice your goat pawing the ground, getting up, laying back down, moving around and stretching those are typically signs that she is trying to get the baby into position.
  • Staring into space- The stage that I’ve noticed all of my goats go through before they start pushing is the “Zone Out” stage.  They just kind of stare off into space
  • Talking to baby- Sometimes you will see your doe laying down and making small noises in the general direction of her belly.  From what I’ve been told she is quietly talking to her baby.  I imagine that it goes something like this, ” Look kid you can have all of my grain ration if you just please come out.  I’ll even share my chaffhaye and my favorite butt scratching spot if you just GET OUT” I remember having negotiations with my own baby not too long ago myself.
  • Contractions- You will see their stomach tighten, their vulva suck in, and their legs get very stiff and “posty”.  Don’t ask them any dumb questions right now like “Does it hurt” or say “wow that was a really big one” or they will tell you to shut up.  Well deserved really.

If your doe is displaying some or all of these symptoms congratulations your kids will arrive….eventually.  Remember to practice your Lamaze breathing, pushing will be exhausting for you both.  Yes you will absolutely be pushing with her, I HIGHLY recommend using the restroom before this starts so you don’t have any unwelcome accidents if you know what I mean…you definitely know what I mean.  But don’t worry Obstetricians everywhere agree that pooping during labor is perfectly normal, so I’m guessing pooping during someone else’s labor is okay to.  I won’t judge you.

Good luck with your babies and I pray that you have an easy and successful delivery.

Happy Birthing…I mean FLOCKING!

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I had to Bury One of my Best Friends

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Even though yesterday was an exciting day filled with new life it wasn’t without its hardships.  My favorite hen, my beloved Hei Hei fell ill and passed she passed away this morning. HeiHei

I have had HeiHei since she was two days old.  Early on we noticed that she had a crossbeak and knew she would have her challenges, but she rose to the occasion.  HeiHei was sassy and spunky.  She had the personality of a dog and was loyal and followed around at my feet.  She even came when I called her.  And in true HeiHei (Moana) fashion she was just a little bit (or a lot of bit) derpy.  But oh I loved HeiHei with all of my heart.

Yesterday I was doing morning chores and I noticed HeiHei standing hunched.  I wasn’t sure what that was all about but I went about going to the shed to get their feed when I hear AJ say, “Mama dat chicken dead”.  I dropped the feed bucket and came running, when I got in eye shot of the chicken run I screamed.  I scooped up my beloved HeiHei and she moved.  Thank you God, she was still alive. I was crying hysterically running into the house, stopping impatiently every few feet for my toddlers tiny legs to keep up.  I burst threw the door where my husband met me, because he heard me crying, with a terrified look on his face.  Honestly I expected him to be relieved when he saw that it was “just HeiHei” but the look of terror remained because he KNOWS that HeiHei is my favorite, she is my FRIEND.  He asked me what happened, and I thought I was explained it to him, but it came out as more of hysterical squeals.  She was deteriorating fast and her eyes were closing and there was NOTHING I could do.  I knew she would die.  I fixed up the hospital kennel and fed her electrolyte and probiotic water in an eyedropper.  A few hours later she was STANDING.  I had hope for a moment that my beautiful HeiHei would live.  But I knew it was foolish.  I could tell by the way that she was standing that she wouldn’t survive and honestly I was probably just prolonging her suffering.

Then I began to think the unimaginable.  Was I really about to have to “put down” my best friend?  With my own hands.  My husband offered to do it, but I couldn’t bear the thought. If she was going to be culled it would be me. It had to be I owed her that.  She layed down and went to sleep and I decided to give her until morning.  More for me than her, but she had perked up once before maybe she could do it again.

This morning HeiHei was gone.  I haven’t cried any more I think I did all of that yesterday.  But I also haven’t spent much time with the chickens or working in the run.  It just isn’t the same without HeiHei running up to my feet.

HeiHei wasn’t some stellar show bird since her face was deformed and she wasn’t an excellent layer, after all she was almost 1 and NEVER laid a single egg.  But she was simply perfection and my flock will never be the same without her.

Fly high my LOVE!

Toffee Gives Birth—Video with a close up view!

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The day has finally come.  Sweet Toffee, our Mini Nubian has given birth.  Click Here to see the birth video

It all started last night (Sunday the 20th).  I was doing evening goat chores and milking when I noticed that Toffee had discharge hanging from her.  Her ligaments were gone and she wasn’t acting herself so I figured this was the big day.  We kept a close eye on her until  midnight.  At midnight I had a feeling that she was still a little ways off and new decided to go to sleep.

When I woke up this morning (Monday the 21st) I looked out of the window and didn’t see Toffee, which meant she was laying down in one of the goat houses.  I quickly got dressed and went out to check on her.  She popped up and came over to me…NOTHING.  I figured that she was just playing me and it’d be a few more days.  Every time I checked on her throughout the morning she seemed slightly off, but mostly fine.

Closer to around 11 she started having harder contractions and zoning out and I knew that today really would be the day it was just a matter of me having patience.  A watched pot never boils after all.

So to find out what happens check out the VIDEO.

And if you want to know more about what we do AFTER delivery check out the link on Post Partum Care for Goats.

Food Saver

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It finally happened. I got tired of all of my meat getting freezer burned. I got tired of wasting food and money. I FINALLY started vacuuming sealing my meat and I can’t go back.

I always planned on getting  a Food Saver because I knew I would want to start processing meat birds and I knew the best way to preserve the meat that I had painstakingly worked to raise, would be by vacuuming sealing it.  But today solidified how necessary it really was.  Today I decided to clean out my freezers   I am DISGUSTED at the amount of meat that had become freezer burned.  Not just the meat that we left in the store packaging, but even the meat that we put into freezer bags trying to protect.  It was heart breaking.  In the past we tried adjusting the freezer temps, changing where in the freezer we put items, and different methods of wrapping it.  We even tried only buying tiny portions of meat at a time.  But I have 4 kids and don’t have time to run to the grocery store every time I need to make hamburgers.  Not to mention I like to stock up when I see a sale.  So the time had come, we could put it off no longer, we needed to be come “Food Savers” (see what I did there?).

It’s so easy!  Like ridiculously easy.  As long as we’ve had it I’ve put off using it because it just seemed overly complicated.  It’s not.  You literally just put the food in the bag, close and lock the lid, and push a button.

I remember when I was a kid in the early 2000s (a MILLION years ago) if I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and couldn’t sleep I would watch informercials and the FoodSaver commercial as very popular at the time.  I loved people over acting with excitement.  Admittedly as a kid and even as a young adult I thought it was a gimmick and seemed unnecessary.  It’s all fun and games until you have your own home.  Now I know the error of my ways.  I want to make up for all of the lost time and wasted meat.

Not to mention the ORGANIZATION.  My freezer looks a thousand (maybe even a MILLION) times better now that all of the meat is nicely packaged and can be nicely stacked and organized.

It didn’t seem to me at first that this was an OBVIOUSLY homestead type product but it really makes so much sense for a homestead.  Packaging and preserving meat.  Freezing extra fruits and veggies from a harvest.  Even packaging your dog’s raw meals.  This one is a game changer guys check it out.

To get your OWN Food Saver and see for yourself click here.

Harvest Day—Bittersweet

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(Don’t wanna read the whole blog and just skip to the video CLICK HERE)

I don’t honestly know where I want to start this post. Honestly I’m nervous to post it. I understand that there are people who don’t eat meat and who find the practice of butchering and eating meat barbaric and I don’t wish to offend anyone. For me, a meat eater, it seemed imperative that I took this step. This is my experience.

As everyone who has read any post of mine knows, I like to make my how-tos very basic so even I could do them. The items that I used to harvest my chickens we as follows:

  • Purple cooler (my husband has been trying to throw this cooler away for a full year (it came with the house) but I vowed that I would use it for harvest day and I did)**note that your cooler doesn’t have to be purple but it helps
  • Rope of some sort–I used baling twine from our hay.
  • Puzzle Table (you can cover it with trash bags like I did but if you hate puzzles as much as I do and your husband tries to make you do them with him this could be your chance to ruin the table– I won’t tell if you don’t) **Tip-I taped an open trash bag to the side of the table for easy clean up

  • A water source
  • A pot of scalding water at 160 F (big enough for the birds to fit in)
  • Kitchen shears
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Ice
  • Dog (optional) they help with clean up

Before I started it was important to me to thank the chickens for their sacrifice and pray. This is a respect measure that I do but obviously it is 100% optional and you can decide how you go about honoring your bird for their sacrifice.

Next I had to choose a spot to do the dispatching. If you’ve been following awhile you know that I have a small backyard homestead– which means I have neighbors. I didn’t think everyone would be down for watching me “prepare dinner” –so to speak– I wanted to find a secluded area. I ended up choosing to do it in the wooded side of my yard which unfortunately is in my chicken run. I worried that it might seem disrespectful or insensitive to dispatch these chickens in front of the other chickens but at the end of the day it was what was most practical–albeit morbid.

After I selected a spot I secured the chickens feet into a slip knot hanging from a tree. (There is no shame in having to watch the YouTube tutorial ‘How to Tie a Slip Knot’ more than once, I’m a farmHER not a pirate. ) When chickens are upside down they are calm. We personally believe that the most humane way to dispatch a chicken is to slit it’s throat. This causes them to pass out and die [more] peacefully.  Once the chicken is dead I remove the head completely with kitchen shears and allow it to drain over a bucket of water.

The first day I butchered three chickens this was the day of learning curves.  For some fool reason I thought it made the most sense to process each chicken to completion before starting on the other bird–did you guess the problem with that?   Mt scalding water got cold.  Meaning I had to skin the last two birds instead of plucking them because the skin was tearing as I was plucking.  LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE.  Work in an assembly line fashion.  Dispatch all of the birds, dunk and pluck all of the birds, eviscerate all of the birds.  Trust me it will make your life much easier.  I did this process with my last three birds on day two and it was a much smoother harvest day.

So dunk your beheaded and drained bird in scalding (160 F) water for about thirty seconds.  Swirl the bird, lift it up and down, and really swish it around.  To be sure that they are ready do a test pluck.  If the feathers are removed easily take the bird out of the bath.  Then get to plucking…and plucking…and plucking.  If I had a lot of money one thing I would SPLURGE on would be an automatic chicken plucker, but I don’t so here I am hand plucking.  You know the old saying “many hands make light work”, well obviously they don’t know my family because NONE of my munchkins nor my husband came out to do any plucking, but I bet they’ll be the first in line to eat.  I digress (the bums).

Eviscerating is my favorite step.  It takes me back to biology class and doing dissections.  Not frog dissections because I refused to do that one because…well I’m terrified of frogs, but all the other good ones.  This is the order I follow for eviscerating my birds:

  1. Remove feet
  2. Identify the esophagus and trachea and try to separate the membrane so that you can pull it through the bottom when you remove the innards.
  3. Make a small cut into the bone on the “tail” being careful not to cut into the intestines.
  4. Flip chicken over and cut into the area under the breast.  Make a very shallow cut taking special care not to nick the intestines and spoil the meat.
  5. Once the cut is made stretch open the cavity, insert your hand and carefully remove the entrails.
  6. Cut off neck.
  7. Rinse bird and store in cooler
  8. Repeat.

I know it’s hard to really understand how to eviscerate a chicken from written directions so I really hope that you watch my video (Click Here)

***please note that it may  NOT be suitable for some viewers due to it’s graphic nature***

The dog comes in during clean up.  We don’t typically eat the gizzard, liver, heart, neck, or feet so all of those lovely bits and bobs go to Rhaegar the diligent farm dog.  Remember that RAW chicken bones are safe for dogs, but cooked chicken bones splinter and can pose real health issues for your canine friends.

I may be hot sweaty and covered in chicken blood and feathers, but I am pretty proud of myself.  When I started my homesteading journey I was convinced that I would never be able to butcher a chicken.  I cried when baby chicks died for goodness sake.  I just knew I didn’t have it in me.  No one had faith that I could do this.  Everyone thought that  wasn’t cut out for it.  Homesteading has made me strong.  Both physically and mentally.  It has built a great deal of confidence in me and I’ve found strength and talents that I didn’t know I had.  This year I made a list of 2018 Homesteading Goals and on that list I said that I wanted to raise meat birds and I DID IT…START TO FINISH!!

Happy Flocking!!!

The Suffering: Pollenpocalypse– Allergies and Farming

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It finally happened!! Spring has SPRUNG and we have been impatiently waiting for it to get here.  During the winter we sat around fantasizing about the warm days where the sun would kiss our skin and we would dig in the dirt and plant the first seedlings in our wonderful gardens.  We recalled everything we LOVED and ADORED about Spring, the warm weather, the new life, all of the potential.  We skipped outside to welcome Spring with open arms and then …*BOOM* Spring hit you like a ton of bricks.  But instead of sun kissed skin and dirt under your fingernails, it greeted you with wind storms of pollen and red puffy eyes.  Not quite what you imagined right?  If you’re like me every single year you can’t WAIT for spring to get here, but you totally BLOCKED OUT the fact that Spring is a miserable BLUR of antihistamines, tissues, and trying to garden and care for animals through swollen eyes.

By this point into the season you have gone from thoughtfully measuring a teaspoonful of Benadryl to pouring it over ice and sipping it through a straw, like Will Smith in the movie ‘Hitch’.  Long gone are the days that you carried around a small packet of tissues to blow your nose.  That dainty pocket pack has been replaced by a roll of paper towels you carry under your arm that you use to replace the two tissues you have shoved up your nose, when they become too soggy. You have gone from gingerly dropping eye drops into your eyes to wishing you could remove you eyes and soak them overnight in a denture cup beside your bed. If you are in the trenches with your allergies and asthma today I encourage you to go back and read Dealing with Allergies and Asthma while Homesteading.  That post offers many practical methods for dealing with allergies and asthma and still leading the farm life you want to live.

Allergies have always been a huge part of our lives.  We are always trying to find new ways to improve on them so that we can continue doing what we love.  Some days it works and some days (most spring days) we feel crummy, but we do love homesteading and are determined to find a way.

THE HUGE FARM ANIMAL SWAP

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Gilmanor Swap 2.JPGI have been looking forward to this for 5 months.  It’s a HUGE swap where everyone comes together with whatever farming and homesteading items they have (goods, services, animals) and it’s a huge networking event for the agriculturally minded.  To be honest I was in heaven.  It’s like the two best parts of the fair combined, animals and food…no sketchy midway rides or rigged games needed.

Plans changed, we were supposed to go as a family, but my husband was doing a famer’s market with a friend so I ended up going alone.  Which proved dangerous.  I am now the proud owner of a donkey, an alpaca, a peacock and my husband has left me.

KIDDING.  I was actually super responsible and only left with a few chicks. And of course the goat that I went to sell.  It seems as if all of the selling spots got sold off the day before and it was no use trying to sell there today.  No worries, RC Cola will find his forever home.

It was so funny to see people walking around holding chickens and rabbits in their hands.  The real genius of the whole swap was the guy who sold boxes.  He banked on the fact that people would need something to put their animals in. I see you box man.

It took EXTREME will power not to buy a pot bellied pig and a Nubian goat, or Mini Cow today, but right now our backyard homestead has about all it can handle.

If you want to see the footage of my adventure look no further…CHECK IT OUT !!!