Saturday, June 09, 2007

Population Explosion

One of the interesting things about a farm is that it's a place to grow things. Pretty basic, right? We grow corn, aubergine, cucumber, tomatoes, dates, all sorts of eating things. We also have chickens, turkeys, ducks and rabbits, not to mention a flock of highly fertile parakeets. My previous flock of chickens produced a fair number of eggs, but bird flu culling got them before we got any babies. This year has paid back for all the lack. Our first arrival was Negmat Sallamat on the evening of March 8 (see "New Arrivals" post). Then we had three of our goats give birth in fairly quick succession. I have one nanny, a red goat that I call Pippi due to her resemblance to Pippi Longstocking. The others belong to my driver and one of my grooms. Mohamed's were the first babies, two adorable black and white females, who quickly began running and bouncing all over the goat pen to the delight of us all. The next to arrive were Pippi's twins, Golda and Sharon. (I didn't name them. Don't blame me.) Golda was born with a twisted back leg, something that happened to her in utero, and despite my concerns she has turned into an active athletic kid. When Golda and Sharon were about a month old, Mohamed's other female gave birth to twins a few weeks early. The female was stillborn and the male was a bit weak. His mother wasn't the most willing caretaker and had to be held to nurse little Bush (again, I didn't do the naming). He's come along quite well and now there are five little popcorn balls flying around the paddock to the delight of visiting children. All of the goats have discovered that children are a brilliant source of treats and scratches...they donkeys got that sorted out months ago.
We started out with four rabbits last winter and now have three litters of babies with more to come. The first litter are almost as big as their parents and are sharing space with the chickens and turkeys to give the younger litters space. The chickens were a bit put out at first but they've figured out that bunnies don't bite birds, and life in that flight cage is pretty calm. The mid-sized bunnies are the favourites for cuddling. At about a month, they are hand-sized and cuddly. The older ones are better at twisting out of a lap, and the adults are not that thrilled with humans.
This morning I had a riding lesson for the daughters of some friends, and after the lesson we all went to the bird house to visit bunnies. The girls are five and eight, prime bunny age, and they played with furry things while I checked food and water for the parrots and other creatures. I went to check on Oprah, one of my turkey hens who has been very determinedly sitting on some chicken and duck eggs for the past few weeks. The turkeys don't have a male so their eggs get collected regularly for breakfasts. When I reached under her, Oprah's response was rather less than welcoming...a hen turkey pecks pretty hard...and we found a pair of baby Muscovy ducks. This is the first time I've had baby ducks that small and they are criminally cute. We moved them to the duck cage where Daphne, one of the female Muscovies was hiding another six nestlings under her wings.

A natural question is what we plan to do with all of these little creatures. Well, this is a farm and I do have staff to feed and people who are very interested in being able to buy clean fresh meat. Personally, I eat some poultry and fish with fruit and vegetables, so I can't see myself chowing down on Bush or Sharon. The male goats are castrated and raised for meat, while the females stick around for milk and breeding. I do like rabbit and find that adult rabbits seriously drop on the cute scale...but then I won't be doing the slaughtering of them though I will ensure that it is done quickly and cleanly. The ducks, being Muscovies, are the best for meat production and again get a lot less cute as they grow up. They will most probably be sold when they are about half grown to people who will feed them to slaughter weight. Maybe it seems a bit heartless, but who's to say that it's any worse than eating peaches?

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani