Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Welcome Guinea Hens

The newest Bee Haven Acres additions arrived while Jack and I were at the beach. A small "peeping" package arrived to our brother-in-law Mike containing 13 tiny, assorted guinea hen peeps. He thinks there are three varieties represented, however if peruse the picture you will see white ones and grey ones. Apparently there are some subtle differences amongst the greys. It is going to be great fun to watch these tiny babies grow into the unusual grownup versions.

At this time, Mike is gently acclimatizing the peeps. Their temporary nursery is the greenhouse and their "incubator" is a water trough. Here, Mike can regulate the temperature of their environment and slowly wean them down into cooler temperatures. We are presently in the middle of a heat wave, but these little peeps whose species originated in Africa don't seem to mind!

It is our hope that once these girls grow up, they help to diminish our insect population - ticks being one of their delicacies! They may also serve as a security alarm system for our other foul as these birds are quite loud in the presence of predators.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Face of Fear

Let me first say that we don't espouse cruelty of any form on Bee Haven Acres. However, we were forced to participate in an activity that felt cruel in the end this weekend. You see, in order to register fainting goats, so that we can breed them and sell them, we had to photograph each of our babies in the midst of a "faint" as evidence of their breed. Up to this point we have avoided purposefully scaring our babies into a myotonic state because we have tried to provide a stress-free environment for their transition into their new home. Now that is not to say that they have not had a few instances of stiffness and even a few occasions of "falling over". But, none of these have happened intentionally.

Well it was apparent that the only way we would be able to photograph this phenomenon under the specified conditions was to make it happen when the camera was ready to shoot. Becky and I positioned ourselves with our cameras while Jack was in charge of startling O'Malley and Chip (our new buck has a name, now). We crouched down, focussed on Chip and Jack jumped and shouted at him. Instantly, Chip jumped, froze, fell to his side and rolled onto his back with his stiff legs pointing to the sky.

Next was O'Malley's turn. It is important for you to understand that O'Malley has earned the title of "Princess" on the farm. She is the youngest and cutest of the goats and she really knows how to work it. She has everyone wrapped around her little cloven hoof! She has a precious little bleating call and loves to be held close. When the others pick on her, she calles out and whoever is nearby comes running to her rescue. So, you can imagine it was hard for any of us to try to purposefully frighten our little Princess! Once again, Becky and I were poised with our cameras and Jack began his jumping and yelling. O'Malley turned towards Jack with her big golden eyes and said in her sweet little voice "maaaaaaaa - maaaaaaaaaa", almost as if to say "why are you doing this to me?" Oh, how sad that made us, but we still had to get the picture. After 3 more unsuccessful, pitiful tries we decided that we would all have to jump and yell at her in unison.....O'Malley was just too trusting. 1 - 2 - 3.....and "AAAHHHHH" we each yelled and jumped towards O'Malley. With a look of unbelievable terror, her eyes widened, her joints stiffened and she fell over paralyzed. And I have never felt so horrible in all my life. I quickly (after first snapping her photo) scooped her up in my arms and held her close like a baby. Her little heart was beating like the fluttering of a hummingbird's wings. I stroked her and kissed her and used my best calming mother's voice until once again her limbs were pliable and her heartrate slowed. I vowed after witnessing the fear that poor O'Malley endured that I would never intentionally scare any of our goats again. I have never before been so touched by the face of fear. I can only imagine what they would experience in the presence of a predator.....being fully alert but completely paralyzed and aware of the fate that awaited them.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Finally, the long-awaited arrival of Fainting Goats

What seems like a forever wait has finally come to a close and our goats have arrived. After a several-day trip across country in the back of a horse trailer, our O'Malley, Jack(a wether), Jill, Missy, Myrtle and a yet-to-be-named buckling arrived on Friday night at 10:30. How exciting! We carried them one by one from the trailer and introduced them to their new home. They curiously scoped out their "barn" and pasture and began munching on the thick green grass. They appeared unscathed by their arduous journey and settled in for the night.

The next morning they gave a display of their myotonia in unison as one of the dogs ran barking from the house to their pen. Almost as if on cue, they all fell over onto their sides. This is the unusual behavior that is the characteristic of this particular breed of goat. They don't actually faint, but when they are startled, their muscles stiffen and they fall to the ground. They were bred to be used as "sacrificial lambs" for the rest of the flock. However, our goats are going to be bred for use as "yard ornaments".

Next year we will breed our girls and begin selling their kids. Our one little buckling is going to be a very busy guy when he grows up!

Here is a picture of our youngest.....O'Malley. She is a little redhead who was born St. Patties' Day week this year. She is so little and absolutely adorable!
Here is our little Buck....what a lucky guy. He is already sweet on O'Malley...can't wait to see their "kids".

This is Missy. She is a yearling.

This is Jack and to his left is Jill's back end.

Last but not least is Myrtle...notice the Mickey Mouse head on her side. She has one on each side......she should probably have been named Minnie instead of Myrtle!


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