Early Sunday Morning Surprise

I knew that Sage and Lily were close to having their babies, but they had held off for so long that I quit being concerned about it.  So when I heard the loud baaing this morning, I knew that I probably had some new babies.  Sage and LIly were bigger than Ivy and Iris had been, so I figured that I might have some twins.  Well, when I heard all of the loud baaing early in the morning, I threw on a zip hoodie and ran outside, right into a dripping rain.  I had separated all of the spring mamas from the other sheep, and I had let them sleep in the backyard where they could get out of the rain under the shed.  Because of the freezing, cold rain, I had let the other sheep stay in my birthing shed.  Two of the mamas had already had their single lambs.  But I still had two preggie ewes.  For some reason, I didn’t move the two preggie ewes into the birthing shed and move the others out before I went to bed.  Go figure.  I paid for my mistake, because when I ran out to the overhang, I saw babies…lots of babies and mothers.

In my coffee-deprived brain, I am trying to make sense of what I am seeing.  I am seeing babies and four mothers milling around.  The two older lambs, Jacob and Azalea, were milling around with the rest.  I see a mama who obviously has just given birth, and then I see two lambs.  Oh, my goodness, twins!  Then I see a tiny lamb deposited in the hay box, and I freak out.  I think, “Oh, my goodness, I have triplets!”  So I start freaking out and running around.  I run in the house and get towels, and move the dog into my bedroom, because I think that I am going to have to bottle-feed the triplet.  I find my new lamb bottle and Pritchard teet, my bag of colostrum, then I run back outside with a towel.  When I get back outside, I realize I have a fourth twin.  That’s when the light bulb goes on, and I realize that both Sage and Lily have had their babies, and they each had twins.  No triplet.  Thank goodness!

I breathe a sign of relief, and then I start trying to separate the new mothers from the others.   I grab some feed and move the ram, Jasmine, and her two babies out of the birthing shed and out into the rain.  Then I try to figure out which twin belongs to which mother.  Lily has already identified her two lambs and started feeding and nuzzling them.  They appear to be cleaner and older than the other two.  I decide the other two must belong to Sage.  I grab the smallest lamb out of the hay bin and take it (haven’t checked gender yet) to the birthing shed.  Then I run back and get the largest lamb which must be the other twin of Sage’s and carry it to the birthing shed.  Sage is standing in the rain baaing at me, but she is hesitating coming to the birthing shed.  So I grab some hay out of the hay shed and tempt her with it.  She finally comes, and I go back to move Lily’s lambs.

I manage to move Lily and her lambs, but Sage’s tiny twin is wandering all over the place and trying to nurse on Lily.  I had wanted to make a permanent divider in the birthing shed, but it hadn’t happened.  I decide to make it a little harder for the twins to go to the wrong mom by moving a cedar post and dividing the shed in half.  Hopefully, that would encourage the lambs to stay with their mothers.  If you have ever had lambs, you know that a cedar post is not much of a hindrance to even new lambs, but it seemed to work.

Sage was still in the latter stages of birthing and was not all cleaned up.  She was eagerly eating the hay and not really interested in letting her babies eat.  I was very concerned about the tiny twin that I found in the hay bin.  I was concerned she might not accept it, because she kept pushing it off while she was eating.  I was even concerned that it might actually have been a triplet of Lily’s because Sage was not cleaning it or accepting it and because of how much larger Sage’s other lamb was.  The tiny one would wander over to Lily and try to eat, but that wasn’t working.  I decided that regardless of whose it was, Sage needed to feed it.  I watched for awhile and decided I had better prepare a bottle of colostrum for it.  By this time, I had prepared some coffee and drunk it, so my brain was operating a little bit better.  After preparing the bottle, I ran back out (with my rain jacket on this time, because my hoodie was soaked) and saw that finally Sage was allowing the little one to eat and she was cleaning it.  Praise God!  Nature had worked again!

The Prodigal Hen

GoldieA few weeks ago, my two remaining hens both became broody.  My black Australorp, Maggie, took the safe course and laid her eggs in the chicken coop.  My Buff Orpington , Goldie, went a little wild and disappeared in the woods.  After the required 21 days, Maggie hatched two little ugly chicks.  She had been setting on four eggs, but two were chalk eggs, and much to her chagrin, did not hatch chicks.  Goldie had been showing up every 3 or so days to drink water in the front yard and eat a little food.  I was hoping she would show up with some little chicks in tow.  Never happened.  But then again, I kept thinking she wouldn’t show up at all and that would be that.  Hasn’t happened yet.

Yesterday, it seemed that it had been longer than usual since I had seen Goldy.  It’s getting to be hot and dry as usual for July in Texas.  I didn’t know how Goldy was making it in the woods for water.  In the meantime, my son had finished the chicken yard and I had cooped Maggie and Billy up in the coop and yard, instead of letting Billy run around the yard and sleep on the picnic table on the back porch.  That was an important move, because the back yard fence was also finished and my Great Pyrenees was allowed to run around at will in the back yard.  She still thinks chickens are great … but probably for eatin’.

Goldie hadn’t been around that much, so she probably wasn’t aware of the changes made in sleeping arrangements.  I decided yesterday that if she showed up again, I should probably catch her and put her in the coop, so that I wouldn’t lose her permanently.  Well, she showed up today, drank her usual water out of the pan in the front yard, eagerly ate the sunflower seeds I threw her, and laid around in the front flower bed.  Being a wily bird, she would get up every time I came outside.  I finally put a cat carrier with sunflower seeds in it in the front yard, hoping that she would go inside and I could catch her.  Didn’t happen.  She disappeared again.  I gave up on her and decided she made a nice lawn ornament when she showed up and helped keep the bug population down.

Imagine my surprise when I let my Pyr outside for the night and I noticed a strange lump on the picnic table.  I tried to remember what I could have left there that was that shape.  It looked like a ham-shape in a paper bag.  Then I realized it was Goldie come home to roost.  Unfortunately, she came home to roost on the picnic table in the back yard.  And as I mentioned before, my Pyr probably thought she would make a nice picnic lunch.  Before my Pyr could make a move for the table, I beat her to it and grabbed the hen.  Holding her flapping wings down I made my way to the coop with both dogs following me.  (Jonah, my shepherd/heeler mix, likes to herd animals, but poses no mortal danger to my hens.)  In she went.  I’m sure she was wondering who the new chicks were, but she settled down in the corner by the door.  I guess she realized it is just a little dry right now to stay in the woods.  I’m glad to have her home.  Hopefully, she will settle in and won’t try to roam again.