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How to handle animals safely video
Keeping and Raising Rabbits Successfully
Mini Pig Care
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Keeping and Raising Rabbits Successfully
By Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Homesteading practically with rabbits
Rabbits are a fairly cost-effective homestead animal but the cost is still as much or more per pound as chicken can be purchased for at the grocery store. Negating that cost should not include allowing your rabbit to free range as diseases are too common and risky. If you will subsidize the cost for raising rabbits for meat consider selling breeder meat rabbits to homesteaders,or raising a small breed and popular pet type rabbit, fiber rabbits, and registered rabbits alongside those breeds commonly used for the table. Market these pets to customers directly or approach local pet stores and even feed stores that carry rabbits .In this way the sale of a few can cover the cost of raising many. Consider alternative feed types for your grow out rabbits but only if they will not be used for future breeders and use only food stuff that will meet the rabbit's dietary needs without doing it harm. You can invest in such things as Alfalfa and Timothy by the baIe I have raised grow outs on cheap feed like C.o.b. I have even heard of raising them on goat's milk and bread but I have not tried it myself. One may also venture into selling prepared hides for home crafts and dog treats and in this way reduce the cost of rabbit meat by over 80%, making it quite affordable. You may also consider to become licensed to sell rabbit meat for use as pet food or for household use. I have had many people approach me and request raw meat sales for these reasons.
Homestead benefits of raising rabbits
The benefits of raising rabbits outweighs the cost in several ways. First of all because rabbit meat sometimes cannot be purchased at any price. It has its own unique flavor which is not the same as common meats like chicken and it is an extraordinarily lean meat. Rabbit meat is a great alternate protein source for your dog or cat's diet when common proteins prove to be allergens. Last but not least aesthetic benefits include sharing newborn and baby rabbit experiences with gleeful visitors ,they're a hit with kids every time.
Note :rabbits may be a good option for homesteading if you live in an area, whether city or county, where there are ordinances against chickens and other farm animals as rabbits are broadly counted as pet or hobby animals and are allowed even in strict areas.
What can you expect out of your rabbits?
One doe produces 25 to 50 rabbits per year or 50 to 100 lb of meat,though some say they reproduce 72 to 96 kits per year . Rabbits for butcher dress out as at around 50% -63%meat 47-50% waste. We use 25 lb of rabbit food for 10 days for the five does and 2 Bucks we maintain . But we'll use 25 lb of feed per 5 days with 2 litters being supported litters containing 12 to 16 kits. Each kit after weaning can be expected to eat around a quarter of a pound pellets per day.
Feed cost for raising rabbits is around $7 per butcher size rabbit including the parent buck and does care.Average litter size is seven or eight, doe should produce good size litters for 2-3 years you should replace them 5 months beforehand as your new breeders will need time to restart breeding .
To prepare for your rabbits , each rabbit will need its own cage / hutch from the age of 4 months as they will fight if kept together . Bucks need a cage at least twice the size of an adult animal . Does expected to breed will need a cage / hutch 4 times their size in order to accommodate their litter . Each cage should have 1/2" x 1" wire covering the bottom , this keeps kits safe , and allows the droppings to fall through . The bunny should have a resting place to get off the wire to avoid sore hocks. A nest box given to young does can serve as her place to get off of the wire , a hay bin , and sleeping quarters . Most does when they are a few months old will settle into not using it as a litter box , while males rarely do and will do better with a simple board placed on the cage floor . Either way the resting place should be on the opposite side of the cage from the rabbit's bathroom , as most rabbits will pick a corner to use and use it almost exclusively . A container can be placed beneath the wire cage to catch the falling droppings so that they may be used as fertilizer in the garden .
Rabbit manure is a great manure for plants as it is ph neutral , and need not be aged so it can be used right on the plants and not burn them . It can also be mixed as a manure tea to give excellent growth to spring vegetables . Droppings should not be allowed to accumulate however as they will mold , and mold isnt good for a rabbit's sensitive lungs . Solid bottom pens allow the animal to stand in it's own urine , and they are a maintenance nightmare . Cages kept on the ground are a breeding ground for diseases like Pasteurella . An elevated wire bottom cage is preferably roofed and has three solid walls , the hutch should be placed with the screened door faced away from wind and weather .
Each rabbit should have a food dish made of glass or metal , plastic will be chewed . It should have a large water bottle affixed to the outside of the pen . Water dishes tend to be spilled and are unsafe for kits . Bottles should be checked often to make sure they are full , as rabbits drink a lot . To be sure that they are functioning properly , touch the bead to make sure that water comes out .
Rabbits teeth continue to grow throughout its lifetime , so it must chew to keep it's teeth filed down . Lending your rabbit a stick of edible wood will keep your hutch unchewed . Note : willow is a good choice , be sure to remove all leaves .
To feed your rabbits , free feed kits until five months old ,offer adults five months and over a maintenance ration of 1/4 - 1/2 cup rabbit pellets daily (I use purina ) depending on the size of the rabbit . Give the doe with kits a double ration.Offer it grass hay in it's feed bin . Grass hay is important to a healthy rabbit.
Rabbits fed a "natural diet'' often aren't fed proper protein levels to induce breeding . A good regimen of feed should include a 16% protein pellet and grass hay, being careful to watch for weeds that may be dangerous to your Bunny. You don't need to purchase the rabbit hay that comes in the little bags, it is way overpriced, get a bale from a local field or feed store keep it stored in a dry place and you will find it stays good a long time . A dairy man I knew once told me alfalfa hay loses all the nutrition it's going to lose in the first few weeks after cutting and retains nutrition for years thereafter, just watch for signs of mold on your hay and don't have it exposed to direct sunlight or else it will bleach, which does take the vitamins out. There is a lot of talk going around these days about feeding your rabbits on a natural diet which equals to not feeding them at all as you are feeding it local forage only and if you want your breeding rabbits to keep breeding they require a better nutrition than that . However I have successfully reared baby rabbits for sale or slaughter on alfalfa hay alone,or on alfalfa pellets, or even wet Cobb ,but when I tried it with my breeding adults I found they stopped breeding ,this may be due to too much calcium forming urinary calculi in the buck or else it could have been it wasn't enough protein as the hay was second cut and second cut can be the worst you can get for protein content and second cut alfalfa ,according to my friend '' no dairyman or rabbit breeder should feed it to any animal that is expected to produce anything.
Check your rabbit's weight occasionally , and especially after having kits , you should be able to feel it's spine , but the spine shouldn't be standing up in a high ridge , if it is , it's underweight . If you find your rabbit is underweight , you should double your pellet ration until proper weight is achieved . Your rabbit should be kept at it's optimum weight , neither fat nor thin for its best longevity . If you intend to breed , a fat rabbit may be unable to conceive . If kept in good condition , a female should live around 5 years , a male longer still .
Emergency feed for rabbits
Emergency feed for rabbits can include wet cob, alfalfa pellets, grass hay, alfalfa hay. You can successfully raise kits on alfalfa pellets and alfalfa hay however you should not attempt it if you are going to use them for breeding later on. Pet rabbits have more latitude in feeding, but if for homestead breeding, rabbits should be fed a 16% protein feed to maintain breeding capability and body condition. If you're using an emergency feed, use it extremely temporarily on your breeding stock, when possible save the proper feed for your breeders and feed your growing kits the emergency feed so as not to harm your breeding program.
Treats may be given to rabbits five months or older ,everything in moderation ,don't give too much of anything at any one time ,be careful of high calorie or sugary things that will make your rabbits fat.
Methods often used with rabbits is a bludgeoning method ,this is done usually with a rod of some type, however you can also place them on the ground, the rabbit will stand still for a minute as it's frightened, and you can give it a swift kick to the head with your strongest leg, if it doesn't die immediately kick it again . This method works better for women I find , as bludgeoning with an instrument requires upper arm strength .
You can also use the broom stick method which is placing the rabbits chin on the ground holding his him by his back legs ,placing a broomstick over his neck just behind his head ,stepping on either side of the broomstick beside his head . Now pull up on his back legs ,unfortunately this breaks his back legs some of the time and does massive damage to the front while it dislocates the neck .The most pain free method as well as the surest however is to use a .22 pistol with the barrel right at the middle of the rabbits forehead pointed almost directly down. Be careful not to do this on concrete or gravel as you'll get bullet fragments coming back at you
snotty nose, sneezing, uterine infection, mastitis, conjunctivitis, abscess, pneumonia, septicemia, seizure, death
Pasteurella is highly contagious and you should disinfect with Clorox regularly and between litters. Do not allow rabbits on the ground as Pasteurella lives there, wire bottom cages are best. Pasteurella is a bacteria that most farm animals are susceptible to so don't allow other animals to access rabbits manure and dropped feed waste.
Pasteurella is tetracycline responsive and powdered tetracycline can be used as treatment, most things need to run their course and survivability may depend on the individuals particular strength and disease severity, consult a vet
diarrhea, appetite and weight loss, death
Cleanliness ,clean with Clorox or 10% ammonia,do not over crowd, You may wish to use anti coccidiostat as a preventative
sulfa quinoxaline .025% added to feed
Pure bred or Mixed Breed ?
The best piece of advice I got on raising rabbits , was from a successful rabbitry whose proprietor told me that the mixed breed rabbits far out perform the purebred ones . I have been breeding mixed breed rabbits ever since . So whether you're raising them for fun , or pets , for meat , or for profit , a mixed breed rabbit will do as well as any pure bred .
Does and bucks of most rabbits are ready to breed at around 5 months old , though males are capable , it sometimes takes them longer to become emotionally mature .One Buck can service around 10 does. A doe that came from a good mother may be more apt to be a good mother herself , nevertheless you can and should expect high losses on her first litter , up to and including the entire litter . The vigilant breeder can often save the kits if the doe is watched closely by making sure that she has pulled enough hair and no kits are on the wire .
Rabbits are what's called an induced ovulator . This means that exposure to the buck induces her to ovulate 8-12 hours after the first breeding . At this time she will need to be re bred in order to become pregnant . Trouble with breeding can occur if the doe is stubborn or inexperienced , or if the buck is inexperienced . Stubborn does can be held with the rear end slightly elevated to prevent her from tamping her rear down to avoid being bred . This can also help with an inexperienced buck which can't read which way to mount the doe . A successful breeding will result in the buck falling off onto the cage floor . Does should be introduced into the buck's pen when breeding . The buck should not be placed in the doe's pen because he will become distracted as he sniffs around the pen , and the doe may become territorial . One doe should be placed into a single buck's pen and left at the most only for a few days to avoid injury as they will fight . If the couple shows a lack of interest , placing a second buck or a second doe in the pen can induce them to become interested enough to breed . Remove the additional rabbit as soon as they show interest in breeding , don't leave them unattended . Hot days should be avoided when breeding rabbits , as the male is infertile at higher temperatures .
Preparing for the kits
28-31 days , typically 30 days after a successful breeding , the doe will give birth , or kindle . Litters are most often kindled at night. We recommend to breed by twos so that those with large litters can be divided between the those which have small litters. About a week or two before this , you will want to help the doe prepare for the birth , a quiet cage to herself and a nest box will help . Choose a nest box equal to or 1.5x the size of the doe , it needs a bottom and 4 sides which are at least 6" tall . A box can easily be built from scrap lumber . Place her nest box in the corner of her cage which she does not use as a bathroom . Place clean dry bedding or her eating hay in it . Giving them too little hay just before kindling can cause them to pull too much hair, giving them too much hay can cause them to pull too little . The doe will chop up the hay very fine , you may catch her up to 2 weeks ahead of time with it in her mouth running in and out of the nest box. The doe may or may not appear to be pregnant at that time , sometimes a more rotund appearance may be detected , sometimes not . Careful manipulation of the does stomach sometimes may allow you to feel kits which are about the size of a grape , if you feel smaller items , those are probably her manure pellets in the digestive tract . Some does will also pull a little hair at this time as well . But the bulk of the doe's nest building will happen the day before or the day of the birth .
Does can give birth at all times of the day or night , but most births I have observed seem to take place at around dark . Check your expectant doe several times a day to make sure no kits have been born . Be sure ahead to see to it she is familiar with your scent , and used to you opening and closing her cage , so she won't be troubled with your movements or your handling of the kits . If she is excessively nervous , you can place a little vick's vaporub on her nose to mask your smell , this is also useful if you have grafted another doe's kits onto her . For this reason , I breed my does in pairs , so I will have a recourse if one doe messes up . I pair my best mothers with new Moms so she can take the kits if she fails . If this happens ,remove the kits from the bad mom and give them to the good mom who has already kindled .
Some new does will deliver kits on the wire , and checking often for delivery can save the life of a kit . If it is cold and unresponsive , don't assume that it is dead , but warm it in a plastic bag in warm water , or with a hairdryer . It can cause damage to the kit if they are warmed too quickly . If the kit doesn't begin moving and squeaking fairly quickly , it is probably dead . Kits saved from cold need to be watched for signs of frostbite on the toes which may include blackened flesh , wrinkling and curling of toes . If the kit isn't thriving , it will need to be put down . Kits on the wire will freeze even in warm temperatures . By keeping a close watch on your kits and doe , you can continue to breed even through the winter . Kits that are born on the wire , once warmed can be placed in the nest box .
Some does will kill and consume kits or parts of them . I give new mothers three chances , if they have not had a successful batch of kits and cared for them properly by the third litter , I take them out of my breeding program . Be sure she has pulled hair , hair acts as insulation in the nest box . If she hasn't pulled hair you can carefully pull some yourself from her tummy . The hair doesn't pull the same when you pull it as it does when she pulls it . It may come out in patches , leaving large bald spots if you aren't careful . (if the doe pulled hair early on in nest building before her due date , I steal the hair and put it in a ziploc bag , or if an experienced doe has pulled too much hair , I take some of it and preserve it in case of emergency . ) place the hair in the back of the nest box , and kits inside it . Check them later to see if they have been fed and are warm and active .
Fat tummies and milk you can see through their translucent skin will tell the tale for at least the first few days . Don't worry if you don't see the doe in the nest box feeding them , she only feeds them a couple times a day , you probably won't catch her at it .
Count the kits a couple times a day to be sure none have crawled away in the nest box or hung on when mom jumped out crawling onto the wire or behind the nest box . Check them also to make sure the kits are not wet as they may urinate at the presence of the mother , or she may wet on them on purpose or on accident sometimes in the presence of a predator . If they are wet , dry them with a hairdryer , then remove the wet bedding and place them back in the nest . If the doe has pulled a great deal of hair more than she needed , I sometimes give it back to her at this time so she has dry nesting material again.
Emergency kit care, when to step in
If kits are sluggish ,unfed , scattered , or just not thriving and you think they're not being cared for , you can pull them from the doe and foster them on another mother with kits of the same age . You can also bring them into the house , place them in a box or dresser drawer , a heating pad without a safety shut off feature can be used to keep them warm , but I've had as good or better success at placing a rabbit hide fur side up in the box , place the kits on top , then place a second pelt fur side down over the kits as a cover , this way kits don't tend to over heat or grow cold having crawled away from the pad , and there is no fire risk .
In feeding the kits I have successfully reared them on an eyedropper filled with goats milk or canned milk , I do not recommend milk replacer because it can cause digestive upset. Best method however I have found is to take them twice a day to the bad mother , force her to lie on her side while they nurse , remove them when they are well satiated . Whether you are feeding them or she is , for the first couple of weeks , they need to be gently stimulated on their backsides to get them to urinate and deficate . The mother would potty them when she fed them , keeping the nest clean . Failure to do so will result in a stopped up kit that will not live . You can use a wet paper towel or a finger and gently wipe at the rear until it potties .
Care for mother rabbits
During lactation the doe should be fed a double ration of pellets , and her water bottle should be checked often as she will drink more water to keep up with her kit's demands for milk. If the kits have been taken from her due to negligence and her milk is no longer required , reduce or eliminate the pellet ration and replace with grass hay for a few days , check for signs that she is not drying up properly , her mammary glands being swollen or hot . Give cold compresses if necessary . If she is feeding her kits properly , continue her double rations until the kits are weaned .
Rabbit kits development and weaning
Kits eyes will open at 10 days , and they will be able to hear just before this . At 2 weeks they will be running around the box , and you will have to watch for escapes , put them back in if they fall out , because they need each other for warmth . At 3 weeks they should be getting in and out of the box by themselves . Add more pellets to the doe's bowl to accommodate the nibbling kits . At this point the nest box will probably have to be changed out entirely , a little hay and some hair kept aside can be put back in the nest area to show the kits where to sleep . At 4 weeks , kits should be eating and using the water bottle , be sure they are doing both before pulling the kits from mom . I wean at 4 weeks , as keeping them longer with the doe is harder on her , as they will now nurse at will . To wean them and avoid the doe's milk not drying up correctly , I take all but 2 kits on their 4 week birthday , the next day I take one more , and the next day the last kit . At the same time reducing her pellet ration to normal . This causes her to drop milk production . Keep an eye on the doe for a few days to see to it she isn't too engorged or feverish , if she is , return 1 kit for a few hours to relieve the pressure ,or do cold compresses , the former being most effective .
Keep an eye on the kits for the first few days after weaning, make sure the water level in the water bottle is dropping , and be sure they are all eating and making normal droppings . Kits should be fed as much pellets as they can eat for 5 months to gain proper growth . Don't give any treats for 5 months to avoid upset tummies , this includes grass hay .
Rebreeding after weaning
To recover the doe to proper body condition after her milk has dried off , check her weight , you should be able to feel her spine but it should not be standing up in a ridge , double her food if she is underweight until she returns to normal weight . Do not rebreed her until the kits have been weaned for at least 2 weeks .
The best way to produce the most kits without overwhelming your pens and feed bill
I have found that to avoid over crowding and to keep kits always in the grow out pen , you can breed a second set of does at the weaning date of the first set of kits , then you will always have kits available that are under 3 months of age. However kits may not be available during rabbits annual molt in and around October they won't breed for a couple of months while they're molting keep trying to breed until it takes usually in the spring however young rabbits ,around five months old that haven't experienced the annual molt yet will breed through the winter typically.
Mini Pig Care
by Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Keeping and feeding your pig
Homesteading practically with pigs
Pigs used to be called the mortgage lifter. They are an animal with large lItters which are good sellers. Pigs can make money for the homesteader and be an excellent meat source but only if there is a good resource of low or no cost supplemental feed to be had. Pigs raised exclusively on commercial pig food we have found to be cost prohibitive to a ridiculous degree, far more so than any other animal we raise. Pigs are…. well pigs ,they eat, and eat a lot.Even though they are supposed to have the best ratio of feed to meat of any animal, they are still prohbitive to breed and raise. Homestead pork is likely going to cost more than a commercial grocery store for unless you hunt out good and close to free resources of off homestead feed. In which case you will be the closest to free to raise of any homestead animal. Approach local restaurants, fruit, vegetable, and dairy farms, grocery stores, and Minit Marts, you can also approach bakeries. Obtain permission to pick up their waste foods on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, this will bring exorbitant costs back into the range of what is sensible. Consider to raise mini pigs instead of standard pigs or alongside them. Mini piglets sell for two to four times more money than standard piglets. They can be consumed by the homesteader or sold for pets ,in this way if you are raising a dual purpose breed you will not be stuck with piglets that did not sell as pets and the carcass is more easily handled for the homesteader and no butcher need be used.
Homestead benefits of pigs
Home raised pork is far more flavorful than pork purchased from the grocery store. you will know your pork has been raised ethically humanely and exactly how it was handled birth ,to death ,to freezer. Aesthetics include cute piglets which are always a winner with homestead visitors. Pigs can be used to till the garden area to prepare for planting ,they can be used for land clearing as well where you don't mind clearing down to bare ground. Pigs are good trade power, people will trade homestead items for pigs in both directions more than they will for any other homestead animal, both to get pigs or get rid of them. We have traded pigs for hay, a pony cart and harness, young laying hens, and we have traded a litter of rabbits for a registered Kune boar.
On our homestead we keep miniature pigs having tried their larger cousins we prefer their small size for ease in housing and handling and less expensive feeding as well as them being dual purpose as meat for the homestead and for sale as pets.
Pigs can eat nearly anything humans can eat , they all have their own preferences , and if a vegetable is refused raw , it will often be eaten cooked. Exceptions to what vegetables pigs can have raw include raw potatoes , they need to be cooked just as we would cook them for ourselves.
A pig's diet should be limited in salt and meat however , as too much meat can lead to bad behavior . Salt content needs to be limited because pigs have problems with salt and can get salt poisoning, especially when water is not readily available to the pig , and only made available after the pig has eaten, this can lead to salt poisoning , which if it is bad enough , can cause seizures and death.
Pigs should be fed a mixture of produce and leftovers , and feed designed for pigs. Mini pig feed, which is made specifically for mini pigs is low protein to help limit the pig's growth potential . We feed our pigs a 16% protein pelletized pig grower designed for standard pigs , so that the pig will get all of the protein it needs to grow normally . This is a personal choice in feeding your mini pigs. Regardless of what you feed your pig , we recommend to feed by weight , feeding your pig 3-7% of its body weight daily , depending on age , and condition . We feed 2 times a day , soaked pig grain at one feeding , and produce at the other.If it is your intention to butcher,adding lunch will increase piglet growth.
Pelletized feed can be fed dry , but we soak ours in order to keep pigs from choking , and to enable us to feed milk , a favorite with pigs , without being spilled. We soak the feed at a rate of 4lbs feed per 3/4 or 1 gallon of milk to make a nice gruel . You can also soak your pig feed with juice from canned goods , broth , etc. I count the weight of the juice or milk in the 3-7% of the pig's body weight . Some pig owners free feed pigs , this can lead to excess waste in the pig's pen , of both food and manure , and also excessive growth of the pig , and excessive fat on the pig , as pigs will consume far more than their body needs. When feeding produce , or leftovers , be sure it has not spoiled , as pigs are vulnerable as we are to food poisoning , and you wouldn't want your pig to be sick.
Feeding pigs economically includes seeking out feed sources outside of the homestead and within it,plant your garden with pigs in mind,plant something like mammoth mangel beets which take up little space and are a good food resource.Search out viable options for pig feed like restaurant leftovers,grocery and minute marts,bakeries' food banks etc any of which may be excited to donate produce or expired goods to a local farm rather than to throw it away. Be aware of gas money expense versus feed gains. Watch out for your animals feed quality, explain you don't want raw meat or trash put in with your pig scraps and bring up other issues as they emerge. Be patient in your search for a source, other farms may have them locked up,return to ask again in future as other farms may quit and the restaurant or store may need someone again.
Emergency pig feed
Part of the great thing about pigs is they're extremely versatile in feeding, if there is some kind of a shortfall financially or a shortage in commercial feed then you can just feed people food, canned goods ,food out of your own larder , kitchen scraps ,vegetables, fruits ,baked goods etc.
Water dishes should be spill proof , as pigs love to dump water dishes over . We recommend where possible not a dish but a water nipple that the pig can bite down on to gain needed water. This can be attached to a water line or inserted in a 5 gallon bucket. Water should be available to pigs at all times if possible to avoid salt poisoning , which is caused by a lack of water , and then a sudden introduction of it particularly after eating food.
Fencing and Yard
Pigs can be tough on fencing . We recommend pig's fencing be made of chain link pulled tight and well secured so that the pig won't slide under the fence , which is how they usually escape . Other good fencing includes security style panels and hog panels . We have also used recycled lumber 2x4 or 2x8 spaced close together with some success. If pig security is paramount and escape would be disastrous , a line of hot fence a few inches from the bottom of the fence may be a good idea though the fencing should be checked daily to see to it that the pigs have not dug a hole and tossed dirt onto it shorting it out. The pigs should have at least a small yard , bigger if you can make it bigger, preferably with some shade and a spot to make a wallow , as pigs have no sweat glands and in 80 degree weather can expire , the mud being useful to cool them . Some people use kiddie pools also or wet the pig with a hose to cool off. Elongated pens enable pigs to use natural habits which include urinating and defecating as far from their feeding and sleeping area as they can get . Pens should be cleaned daily in order to keep pigs urinating and defecating outside of their housing and in the same place. Food scraps not consumed by pigs should be cleaned up daily in order to avoid unpleasant odors of rotting food matter,as well as attracting predators and vermin, if you keep a clean pig-pen pigs need not be smelly.
Pigs can be kept in the house and potty trained to a litter box or to or to go to the door , they can also be housed in an outbuilding with an attached yard which is how we house ours. We recommend a 4 sided structure with a door to lock pigs in at night to keep them safe from predators . Even the neighbor's dog can be a threat to your pig. You need a structure large enough for the pig to move around even on a wet day. Some pigs don't mind to be wet , others do, but all pigs are susceptible to pneumonia , and so proper housing is preferred .
Pigs love to play in water and dump water dishes , they are curious and mischievous , they chew on things , particularly on wood , particularly in the winter. Pigs like to root and dig , and can dig up substantial areas (this bad habit can be used for good by employing them in garden tilling.) Pigs don't have what is called Bite inhibition , something every other species has , it means that they don't know what is to eat and what isn't , so sometimes they will bite as a puppy does to see if the object is edible. so watch your fingers !! Also un spayed females can be moody around the time of their season
Pigs and other Animals
Pigs should not be kept with prey animals ,as they are a predator , and will take advantage of a situation. If you keep them with chickens or small ruminants ,they may eat them. Pigs can be trained to get along with dogs , but probably should not be left alone with them , as pigs are both predator and prey , as an omnivore , they may bite the dog , or the dog , recognizing a prey animal , may bite the pig.
Pigs have some behavior that are similar to dogs , but they are not dogs , and you will love your pig much more if you realize it is not a dog , and won't expect it to behave as one. Many people get pigs as a pet and give them up because they have misunderstood the animal. Pigs bark softly when they are alarmed, they wag their tail when they are happy, they hold their tail erect when they are upset , they clack their teeth when they are angry or upset , and raise the hair on their back when they are defensive . They have many other snorts and squeaks that mean many different things.
A Few Facts About Mini Pigs
Healthy mini pigs should be 50-200 lbs adult size , any smaller and they are unhealthy or starved , with few exceptions . They need their hooves trimmed periodically , pigs don't like their hooves trimmed . One method is to hypnotize your pig with a method called forking . This takes advantage of a natural behavior of pigs , massaging one another with their noses behind the shoulder toward the stomach , this can eventually cause the pig to fall over and fall into a trance like state of relaxation and when they are like this , it's a good time to work on hooves . The term forking is because you can use a fork to just lightly tap your pig , (not hurting it ) but you can also just use your hand .
Pigs are susceptible to internal and external parasites , and should be treated a couple times a year at least with ivermectin wormer to combat this , ivermectin horse paste can be used hidden in a treat that they like , but often they can smell it and don't like it , and it is not as effective as ivermectin injectable , both of these are dosed by your pig's weight.For external parasites , they should be treated every 10-14 days for 3 treatments , for internal parasites 2 treatments is usually enough .
Pigs can be vaccinated for certain pig diseases , speak to your local vet that 4-h kids use / farm vet for options . Mini Pigs live an average of of 15-20 years .
Pigs can be taught tricks like a dog and trained to walk on a harness . Most things you want to teach your pig you should teach it before it is 6 months old . Pigs should be started in their new home in a small area and they will acclimate to humans better.
Pigs will establish a bathroom in one corner of the pen , as far from their food and rest spot as they can , only if the pen's shape and size are not adequate will they use the bathroom where they sleep and eat, for this reason , and elongated pen works best. The bathroom can be established by you by seeding the area with the pig's manure and keeping it wet .
You should learn to dominate your pig , by at once pushing it behind it's ear when you enter into the pen . This is how they dominate each other .
Pigs choke easily , and they should be fed soaked food , food in smaller pieces , and have water available to clear a choke.
A pig that is a mother , or has had babies is called a sow , an unbred female who has never had piglets is called a gilt . An un neutered male is called a boar , boars grow larger tusks than the neutered males and females , tusks are used for fighting other boars , they can be trimmed every couple of years if desired . Neutered males are called barrows
Unspayed females can be testy during their cycle every 21 days. Females can be spayed , but anesthesia does not always work out for pigs .
If Bought a Pig From Us Our Policy as Homestead Pig Sellers
We sell mini pigs that have been socialized , though pigs are naturally skiddish and some may not be as friendly as others , personalities vary greatly . Some will need more one on one time than others that they will have to get in their new home. Our mini pigs are dewormed 2 times as long as the pig was 6 weeks old at time of purchase . The parents were on site to be viewed , our Mother pigs are knee high , averaging 80 lbs , Our one boar is same height and weight as the females , our other boar (who is full bred kune kune ) is larger , at around 100-120 and a few inches taller than the other adults. We say this so that there will be no surprises as to how large our piglets may become in adulthood so our buyers will be prepared and adjust things like pen and housing size accordingly . Our piglets are all either 1/4 , 5/8 , or 7/8 kune kune , Kune Kune is a pasture pig of New Zealand origins with a larger size but a nice personality . Also in their ancestry is Potbelly and Juliana . Potbellies are known for their Pot Belly and swayed back . If your pig is a male , your pig has been neutered at 5-7 days of age unless otherwise specified . Females are not spayed . We always tell all of our pig buyers we will gladly assist you if you have any questions or concerns at any time in the future . And we will take the pig back upon request if you want to return it , but we will not give a refund .
Pig normal Vitals
⦁ Normal pig temp - 101.5 - 102.7 . Depends on age and situation , weaning aged piglets and nursing sows may have the higher end of temps .
⦁ Respiration - Adult pigs 13-18 , finishing pig 25-35 , growing pig 30-40 , weaned pig 25-40 , newborn piglet 50-60
⦁ Heart rate - Adult pigs70-80 , finishing pig 70-80 , growing pig 80-90, weaned pig 90-100, newborn piglet 200-250
Injections on pigs can be a challenge depending on the pig , it may be a good idea to have a partner help you wrangle the pig if needed . Our boar is great , just give him some food and he doesn't even seem to notice when you give him a jab , but some others we have had were pretty terrible when Injecting and it took two people to get them hemmed in a corner and do the injection quickly. Please note that a pug's skin is tight , meds can leak back out when you inject. Our pig mentor told us to slap the skin a couple times after injecting this seems to help the hole from the injection close back up , another method some people use is to push the skin forward a little before the injection , then let the skin snap back when the needle is taken out .
Subcutaneously or Sub Q / under the skin
A Sub Q injection on a pig is given at a 45 degree angle so that the needle goes in under the skin rather than into the muscle , best injection sites Sub Q for a small piglet is inside the thigh beneath the fold of the skin , or beneath the skin just behind the shoulder. For growing pigs and adults , the best injection site is in the neck behind the base of the ear 1-2 ".
An intramuscular injection on a pig can be given at a more direct angle so that it goes into the muscle ,
one if the most usual intramuscular injection sites in growing pigs and adults is in the neck 2-3" behind the base of the ear. Piglets are often injected into the ham because there is not much muscle on the neck. This is not recommended in grower / finishers because of the possibility of abscesses.
Intravenously / in the vein
Your vet may choose to use this or other methods to more effectively treat your pig .
Frequently piglets will need a smaller needle than a growing pig or an adult
Piglet : Sub Q injections , 16 or 18 guage 1/2” , intramuscular injections 18 or 20 guage 5/8″ or 1/2”
Growing pig : Sub Q injections , 16 or 18 guage 1/2” , intramuscular injections 16 guage 3/4” or 5/8”
Finisher : Sub Q injections 16 guage 3/4” , intramuscular injections 16 guage 1"
Adults : Sub Q injections 14 or 16 guage 5/8” or 1" , intramuscular injections 14, 15 or 16 guage 1” or 1-1/
Productive lifespan:8 years but with smaller litters
Euthanasia ,putting down the pig
If you choose to use a firearm rather than sticking the pig ,a firearm is a method I use , be sure to use a .22 rifle not a .22 pistol , the pistol doesn't have the speed brought on by the rifling of the barrel and will not kill the pig . The reason pig slaughter is so difficult is that if your shot is not just right , then the pig will not go down quickly and it certainly will not go down quietly . Pig slaughter, just as in putting down every other farm animal ,the immediate objective of the homesteader should be a humane kill .
To start , know that it will take time to get the right shot , and therefore patience is a must . Pigs are constantly moving , constantly looking around , digging with their snout in the dirt , they are never still for long . Lure , try not to chase, your butcher pig into a small area where the movement will be limited , if you choose to feed the pig on the ground to keep it close to you and keep it somewhat still, be aware its head being tipped downward can impede your shot . The pig will likely be intimidated by the barrel of the rifle being pointed in its direction , as is the same with most animals . Stay calm and take time in your shot , wait until it is a sure thing . Shoot the pig off center and toward the right of the pig's skull between the eyes ,if you take any other shot you will miss the pig's brain pan . Pigs have a very thick skull at the back so if you tried it kill it in the same wise as you would have sheep or a goat you will find a poor effect . If the pig does not go down with the first shot ,add a second shot as needed, be aware you should have another bullet loaded or even 2 in case it goes awry . Take a second shot quickly but carefully because they will be vocalizing and panicked at this point .
Once the pig is down let its body kick and twitch without disturbing the pig because it is a powerful animal , even a mini pig is , and you may become injured trying to move it or bleed it too soon . Be aware these movements do not indicate that the pig is still alive ,these are just nerve reactions, to be certain it is dead check for breathing.
Diseases and Ailments of Pigs
A word on vaccines ;
We advise you talk to the vet that your local 4-h is using to determine which diseases in your area are prevalent and need to be vaccinated for . The closest farm vet to us told us there are very few pigs in our area , therefore less diseases are really troublesome , he only advised us to vaccinate for circo and erisepylas , mentioning that other areas have more problems due to higher pig populations .
Pigs can be susceptible to abscess usually caused by the presence of bacterial infection. Abscesses could be ruptured or lanced , iodine acts as a drying agent and should be applied for a few days after lancing , injectable or oral antibiotics can help to cure the topical infection.
This is a respiratory disease caused by several viral infections brought on by nose to nose contact with other pigs
Symptoms : sneezing , sniffling , blood from nose, discharge from eyes , later in the disease the snout may swell or twist. The indirect effects of this virus are slow growth in young pigs and susceptibility to pneumonia due to snout damage.
Prevention: vaccinate you herd but continue to vaccinate once you start .
Treatment : antibiotics.
This fortunately is a disease that is now highly uncommon .
Symptoms : abortion and stillbirth , weak piglets , infertility in males.
Treatment : Cull
Clostridial enteritis type C
Symptoms : in young pigs new born through rearing ,diarrhea which can be bloody, note there are many causes for diarrhea in young pigs.
Prevention: good sanitation, vaccines .
Treatment : injectable antibiotics.
Type A of this disease
Symptoms: mild diarrhea to none, lack of growth and weight gain
Treatment:if disease causes problems treat with injectable antibiotic but it usually clears up on its own.
This is usually a secondary symptom of another problem ,typically diarrhea.
Symptoms : skin is pinched up and stays in a tent rather than relaxing immediately.
Treatment: keep warm, dry , hydrated with Pedialyte or Gatorade , or homemade electrolytes.
Make sure the pig has enough fiber in the diet . Make sure that the pig always has water available .
Hunched over , bloated/distended belly, straining to defecate with little or no results.
Mix fruit juice with water.
Offer Gatorade Mixed with water.
Mix water into food pellets .
Metamucil – start with 1 tbsp power in yogurt every 6 hours. Gradually build up to 1 packet every 6 hours
DSS / docusate sodium (stool softener) – 200-240 mg per pig twice a day
Pediatric suppositories (available at pharmacy) 1 once a day
Mineral oil (can be given orally or rectally)
Miralax 2 teaspoonfuls twice a day can be given safely. Can add to drinking water.Limit the use of laxatives , you don't want diarrhea .
If no significant stool in 48 hours, see vet
Bacterial infection rarely affecting suckling pigs.
Symptoms : loss of appetite, fever , stiff gate , arched back , small multiple red diamond shaped patterns on skin , swollen Hocks, non-symptomatic death .
Prevention : vaccinate , do not expose your herd to other pigs or raw pork products .
Treatment : oral or injectable antibiotic
Symptoms : may show respiratory symptoms when exercising
Symptoms : after weaning diarrhea, bloody diarrhea.
Prevention: do not wean early
Treatment: See a veterinarian
Symptoms: listlessness , off feed
Provide roughage , too fine a feed can cause ulcers , ulcers can bleed ;
keep the pig from stress.
Symptoms : Asymptomatic until pig is stressed by temperature or weaning , usually strikes piglets under 10 weeks , can be fatal. The chronic form causes fever, difficulty breathing, swollen joints, lameness.
Prevention : vaccine if vet recommended
Treatment : antibiotics
Greasy Pig , staph infection on the skin
Symptoms : untreated mange mites or skin injury can cause skin infection , prior to or just after weaning . Skin flakes, cracks and becomes crusty with a smelly dark secretion. Pigs can behave listlessly and stop eating , can be fatal.
Prevention: treat all skin ailments properly and promptly .
Treatment : antibiotics Medicated shampoos , Clorox dip , proper nutrition .
Symptoms : shock
Treatment : do not wet the entire pig as it could be too much of a shock to the system and death could result , place a little water around the pig's head.
Prevention: don't allow pigs to be chased , provide shade in the pen , provide a mud wallow for hot temperatures .
Hypothermia cold Pig
Symptoms : inactivity, sluggishness , shivering.
Prevention : proper piglet box when pigs are born and good housing and bedding for insulation in winter when pigs are older.
Treatment: Warm your pig slowly with a hair dryer, under a towel , give a heat light.
Symptoms : lameness on one or more limbs caused by introduction of bacteria in the womb , or from the navel , surgery or injury . Can also be caused by organisms in the nose that move to the joint and causes swelling .
Prevention : care for all wounds carefully and vigilantly, avoid concrete flooring with nowhere to rest , and which damages the legs.
Treatment : antibiotics early in the disease . If some forms of this infection don't respond well to antibiotics , consult a veterinarian if no improvement.
iron deficiency occurs if a swineherd is not exposed to soil , allow piglets after three days to run around on soil ,they will actually pick up dirt and consume it this prevents iron deficiency , as most dirt contains iron.
Symptoms : lack of growth , listlessness , pale nose , diarrhea , breathing difficulty , long hair .
Prevention : injectable iron , expose to soil.
Treatment : injectable iron
Transmitted through infected rats , swine , dogs , or cows . Absorbed through the broken skin or mucous membranes .
Symptoms : fever , appetite reduction , diarrhea , abortion , stillbirth , weak piglets .
Prevention : vaccine , this is short-lived however , clean environment .
Treatment : antibiotics
Lice and Mange Mites
Symptoms : Itchy , bumps , scabs around front legs and chest , around head and ears particularly around the abdomen when the infestation is bad . Pigs can be carriers of mange mites and not develop symptoms until they are stressed.
Prevention : keep a clean environment , dirty layered bedding promotes mites and lice , use Ivermectin injectable twice-annual to deworm and kill possible parasites . quarantine new animals .
Treatment : Ivermectin injectable, retreat in 10 days , and 10 days again .
Spreads with direct contact through the air , usually seen in 12 week or older piglets .
Symptoms : lasting dry cough especially when exercising . As infection grows , they may develop a fever, loss of appetite , stunted growth .
Prevention : vaccine is available but not always necessary
Treatment : pneumonia usually clears up on its own if the infection isn't too severe , but pigs may suffer from secondary infections . If the infection persists treat with antibiotics.
Do not overcrowd your pigs , provide a clean stress-free environment for them .
Symptoms : infected umbilical area which can spread to other parts of the body including the joints .
Prevention : repeatedly use iodine on navel until 3 days after birth .
Treatment : antibiotics
PRRS porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome
Symptoms: thumping in breathing , secondary bacterial infection , lack of oxygen which turns the ears blue called Blue Ear Disease , abortion , spread from pig to pig contact and airborne , can be fatal.
Prevention : quarantine new animals , avoid exposure to fungus occurring in feces .
Treatment : usually clears up on its own in two months
Symptoms : abortion , weak piglets , pneumonia in weaned pigs , fever , seizure , death in unweaned piglets , adults may be asymptomatic or have pneumonia and fever . Contagious to other farm animals dogs and cats all species experience mad itching this is virus is generally fatal to other species besides pigs .
Treatment : antibiotics for secondary pneumonia infection , but no treatment for the actual disease .
Prevention : injectable preventive , reduces symptoms , but may not prevent its spread . Animals treated with this preventative will afterward test positive for the antibodies to this disease as a false positive which prevents sales .
Symptoms : Virus causes diarrhea in newly weaned piglets , poor growth in piglets still nursing , usually accompanies other infections.
Prevention : Vaccine however these vaccines do not cover all strains , the best prevention is a stress-free environment with a nutritional well-balanced diet.
Treatment : Treat for dehydration if diarrhea is present , treat secondary infections with antibiotics .
Symptoms: Depending on the strain of salmonella ; diarrhea , pneumonia, coughing , difficulty breathing , sepsis , loss of appetite , depression , fever .
Prevention : Avoid contact with infected pigs , maintain a sanitary environment , avoid feeds that may be contaminated with salmonella when possible , however grains can be infected without your knowledge .
Treatment : Antibiotics , this may require vet assistance to identify the strain of salmonella.
Symptoms : Blindness , deafness , convulsion , death .
Prevention : Keep water available at all times . Salt poisoning occurs when the pig has been deprived of water eats food that has salt in it and suddenly is exposed to water this causes swelling on the brain.
Treatment : for early on, steroids to stop swelling of the brain , later on baby the pig through with soaked feed and water steady nursing can pay off ,we have seen at work .
Symptoms : Increasing splayed legs after birth
Prevention : avoid slippery floors after birth, avoid poor genetics
Internal parasites or worms
Symptoms: Low weight , lack of growth , visible worms in stools .
Prevention : Keep a clean pen , do not feed compromised produce
Treatment : Treat with Ivermectin , retreat in 10 days to get worms in other life cycles .
Symptoms : Usually seen in growing or finishing hogs , yellow / grey feces followed by mucus and blood as the infection rages , possible fever and lack of appetite , death rate is up to 30% , spread by feces of hogs , birds , rodents etc .
Prevention : Sanitation , rodent control , vaccine ( vaccine has mixed results )
Treatment : Antibiotics orally, you may need a vet to determine dysentery .
Symptoms : Transmitted by pigs and sometimes can transfer to humans , deep dry cough , fever , loss of appetite , discharge from the eyes and nose , susceptible to secondary infections , and pregnant sows may have small litters that are poorly . This disease crops up seasonally in fall and winter .
Prevention : Quarantine new animals , prevent stress , and avoid exposure to raw pork products .
Treatment : Tlc , oral antibiotics for secondary infection
Tge a Coronavirus
Symptoms : Primarily in winter , primarily with young pigs , vomiting and diarrhea , dehydration and death . Older pigs may develop a fever , most older piglets and pigs will recover.
Prevention : Avoid infected pigs , practice biosecurity between pens , practice biosecurity when you visit other farms and return home.
Treatment : keep pigs in warm dry place .
Symptom : No symptoms detectable until butcher , this is a parasitic infection caused by undercooked meat or garbage
worms may be found in the meat at butcher .
Prevention : Cook scraps thoroughly for pigs, half an hour at a boil is sufficient , control rodent populations , do not allow pigs to have access to animal carcasses , and prevent pigs from biting tails or cannibalism in your herds .
Treatment : Widely considered to be no available treatment in pigs , however there are some references to be found
suggesting that some success has been had using Albendazole to eliminate the worms in live pigs .
Make sure to cook pork thoroughly to 160 degrees internal temperature to kill Trichinosis in meat .freezing at lower temperatures for longer also kills the parasite
Common Medication Dosages
Caution : If you are using medications on animals that will be used for meat , you need to check for withdrawl times !
Penicillin G - 5 cc per 100 hundred lbs. For gram positive organisms that are not resistant .
Tylan 50 and 200 - dosage for Tylan 50 is 1 cc per 12.5 lbs Tylan 200 1 cc per 50 lbs Do not inject more than 5 cc in an injection site . For swine pneumonia, erysipelas, arthritis, and scours .
LA 200 oxytetracycline 200 mg / ml - 4.5 cc per 100 lbs which does not need to be repeated for 72 hours. It can also be administered at 1.5 or 2.5 cc per 100 lbs daily . Do not exceed 5 cc per injection site. For pneumonia and scours .
Lincomycin 100 or 300 - 1 cc per 20 lbs for Lincomycin 100 and 1 cc per 60 lbs for Lincomycin 300. Lincomycin 300 is only labeled to be used in pigs over 300 pounds. For arthritis and Mycoplasma pneumonia .
Draxxin - 0.25 cc per 22 lbs For swine respiratory disease and majority of bacteria that cause respiratory disease very good for pneumonia.
Baytril - 3.4 cc per 100 lbs , For respiratory disease in pigs.
Naxcel / Excenel RTU / Excede - All three of these are the same antibiotic in three different forms
Naxel - 1 cc per 22 to 37 lb and repeat daily 3 days . This is a dry powder mix with water. After mixed is good for 7 days if refrigerated or freeze for 8 weeks but once thawed discard any unused medicine .
Excenel RTU - 1 cc per 22 to 37 lbs for three . This is the same as Naxcel but ready to use and shelf stable . Shake it well before use.
Excede - 1 cc per 44 lbs Single dose effective for 7 days , Do not administer more than 2 cc per injection site.
Polyflex - 2.72 mg per 1 lb . This is a powdered Ampicillin for injection. Good for ear infections. Powder and can be mixed with water for different strengths . Consult a veterinarian .
Anti inflammatory and pain Meds
Banamine S - 2 cc per 100 pounds IM this is a prescription non steroidal anti inflammatory used for fever related to respiratory disease.
Dexamethasone - 1 cc per 40lb IM or SubQ , this is a prescription steroid anti inflammatory. Because it is extra label use when used for pigs you may want to consult your veterinarian before using . Use caution , with Dex you can't come off of it quickly you have to gradually step down the dosage .
Buffered aspirin – 5 mg per pound of body weight 2 x per day. This needs to be buffered and should be given with food. Do not give for more than 3 days .
Metacam -(injectable) 20 Mg/ml - 1 ml per 100lbs IM injection repeat in 24 hours. For use with lameness and inflammation , pain relief from infectious arthritis along with antibiotics .
Meloxicam Oral- 15mg/ml - 1.2ml/100lbs or 0.07mls for piglets repeat in 24 hours if needed.
Tramadol or buprenex - can also be prescribed by your veterinarian .
Warning : The use of Tylenol and Ibuprofen or Ketoprofen in pigs is very controversial . While instructions for use are easily found , many of those are from the UK or other countries , in the US , it is not recommended by veterinarians .
Tylenol / acetaminophen - 5 mg per pound every 8 hours. (If children's Tylenol, give 1 cc per 6 pounds). This needs to be given with food. Do not give for more than 3 days .
Ketoprofen Bioveta 100 MG/ML solution for Injection - 3 mg of the active substance per 2.2 lbs , i.e. 3 ml of the product per 220lbs single intramuscular injection. treatment of inflammation- MMA syndrome , mastitis, metritis, agalactia, respiratory infections, along with antibiotic treatment, if necessary. Treatment of fever.
Wormers and other Parasite Control
Ivermectin - 1 cc per 75 lbs , This is a commonly used wormer for pigs, but is not considered a broad spectrum wormer . It is used for gastrointestinal roundworms, lungworms, lice and mange mites in swine
Safe Guard Swine- 3 mg active drug ingredient Fenbendazole per 2.2lbs of body weight per day, times (x) 3 days
Wazine 17 / Piperazine - For each 100 pounds (45.5 kilograms) of herd weight: give 1 fluid ounce (30 ml) of Wazine-17 per U.S. gallon (3.8 liters) of drinking water. Treat sows and gilts breeding and up to 2 weeks before farrowing, treat boars at any time, and treat pigs 1 week after weaning and every 30 days thereafter.
LevaMed Soluble Pig Wormer/ levamisole hydrochloride - Add water to powder in bottle. Mix thoroughly. If solution is left over, it may be stored for up to 3 months in this tightly capped bottle. Add 10 ml of solution into 1 gallon of water; mix thoroughly. Allow 1 gallon to be medicated water for each 100 lbs body weight of pigs to be treated. No other source of water should be offered. Pigs under condition of constant worm exposure may require retreatment within 4-5 weeks after first treatment due to reinfection.Broad-spectrum anthelmintic effective against certain nematode infections in swine, including large roundworms, nodular worms, lungworms and intestinal threadworms.
Oral (tartrate) Gastrointestinal roundworms 22-25 mg per 2.2 lbs ; max 2 g/animal
Oral (tartrate) Oesophagostomum spp 22 mg per 2.2 lbs or 800 g/ton of feed
Oral (tartrate) Ascaris suum 96 g/ton of feed or 2.6 mg/2.2lbs per day during 3 days
Prolate - Topical spray for mange and lice.
Vitamins / Supplements etc .
Iron Dextran 100 ( 100 mg per ml ) - 1 ml IM at 2-4 days of age; Treatment: 1 ml IM. May be repeated in approximately 10 days
Vitamin B Complex injectable / high level b complex -(100 mcg B12, 100 mg niacinamide, 100 mg B1, 10 mg B6, 10 mg d-panthenol and 5 mg B2 per ml.) 5 ml per 100 lbs body weight.
Vitamin B 12 - The most common formulation is 3000 mcg /ml but there are at least two other strengths so look at the label. The usual dosage of the 3000 mcg/ml product is 1-2 ml per head SubQ . Stimulates appetite , usually used along with other treatments . You will need to have a prescription from your vet to get this .
Bo Se - (Vitamin E and Selenium ) 1 cc per 40 pounds IM or SubQ . For treatment and prevention of Vitamin E and Selenium deficiency. This may not be needed depending on how much selenium is in the soil at your location . BoSe is a prescription you will need to get from your vet .
Upset Stomach -vomiting / off feed /diarrhea
Omprazole ( Prilosec ) – 5-10 mg once a day
Famotidine (Pepcid ) – 0.25-0.5 mg per pound
Ranitidine (Zantac) – 150 mg twice a day
Pepto bismol – 1 cc per pound
Kaopectate – 1 cc per pound
Maalox liquid (use for gas) – 2 cc per 5 lbs
Diphenhydramine / Benadryl – 1 mg per pound every 6-8 hours.
Calcium Gluconate 10% – 20 cc subcutaneously in several different spots helps uterine contractions during labor
Children’s cough syrup – (dextromethorphan 15 mg per 10 ml) – 10 ml per pig twice a day helps with coughing .
Hydrogen Peroxide 3% – 5cc per 10 pounds of body weight can be given orally (by syringe) to induce vomiting in some cases of poisoning.
Activated charcoal – adult pigs over 30 pounds – 0.5 ml per pound , young pigs less than 30 pounds – 0.1 ml per pound . Can be repeated in 8 hours. For Poisoning , this adheres to toxins in the digestive tract and prevents pig from absorbing it – liquid or powdered form is best.
Miralax - 2 tsp twice a day can be given safely. Can add to drinking water.Limit the use of laxatives , you don't want to cause diarrhea .
Pigs : Breeding , Farrowing and Piglet Care
Most female pigs (gilts) should not be bred before six months of age , some people wait longer and breed at a year old . Sometimes , depending on breed , males can take longer to come into maturity than females . Males can become fertile anywhere from 3 months to 9 months of age , and can be used for breeding as soon as they become capable , but great care should be taken on when to breed your young female pig .
The general rule of thumb on choosing both male and female breeders is to choose pigs with more teats , at least 12 is preferred , but the more the better so that they are passing on genetics with more teats for raising larger litters if they have them . Choose your female from a sow who was a good mother with successful litters . Do not choose runts or weak animals for breeding . We tend to choose large robust piglets to raise as our future breeders , taking special care to also choose pigs with nicer personalities and a respectful disposition .
Make sure to check your boar when you are choosing one to buy and make sure he is in fact a boar and not a barrow ( castrated male). Some breeds are easier to tell than others . Our pure bred Kune Kune boar was very hard to tell , because their testicles do not protrude as much as some other breeds . They were there , we just had to look closer for them ! If you are raising your own piglets , take care to make sure when you do your castrating that if you are leaving a boarling that you can easily identify him so that you do not mistakenly sell him to someone as a barrow . We try to pick one with some distinguishing feature or marking so that he is easily identifiable , then if we can we will separate him from the piglets for sale pen sometime after weaning , we typically move him with a male friend for company .
If you do still have young intact males in with young females for too long , ( you will see breeding behaviors quite early on among all piglets regardless of sex ) , but if you see your young boarling extending , you will need to remove him asap just as a safety precaution for your young gilts . You don't want unauthorized breeding , you want scheduled litters that you can be prepared for , at the time of your choosing . For this reason all of our boars are housed separately .
Be aware that keeping pigs that you intend to breed together before they are proper breeding age , they can become too accustomed to one another and this can cause unsuccessful future breeding . They need separate pens to maintain proper interest in one another later for breeding . Just ahead of coming into the age where you are going to be breeding them , many people say it is valuable to have boars where they can see gilts to display courtship , and then to continue being housed near the females . This can also be a help to you in spotting heat cycles in your gilt . But initially what it comes down to is absence makes the heart grow fonder , and we have seen this one in action on our own homestead . Pig breeding may not be quite as easy as one thinks , a witnessed breeding does not necessarily guarantee a successful pregnancy .
Do not keep sows long term that are difficult to get pregnant , nor boars that are unsuccessful at settling your sows . Our rule of thumb is they get two chances , if they are not pregnant on the second try , we don't keep them , and even at that a lot of time and resources have been put into a pig that ultimately did not produce . Conversely , do not over use your good sows , we keep 3 sows and alternate breedings to a degree , so that none of them are bred too often . Currently we actually have one sow that farrows alone , and two that farrow together .
Some people utilize a practice called flushing for 10 days to 2 weeks before breeding to increase ovulation , which increases the chances of pregnancy , you can increase out feed at this time up to 50% , after breeding , go back to normal feeding . It may be helpful also for homesteaders to realize that in your pigs normal feeding , it is very important not to let your breeders become overweight , because too much weight on an animal can effect the chances of successful breeding .
Gilts / Sows , cycle approximately every 21 days , and they will stay receptive to a boar for only 2-3 days . Or if a sow has recently weaned a litter , as soon as her milk dries up , the sow may come into season , probably around 3-5 days after weaning . Many people say take the sow to the boar so that the boar will not be too distracted in his new surroundings to do his job , but that depends on your pigs , our sows tend to be oppositional and troublesome at times in the boar's pen , but our boar is very laid back , so we handle it opposite of most people .
Signs of heat and receptivity include in early stages ; restlessness ( often in the form of pacing ), The vulva may swell and even change color and be more red , there may be discharge , middle stage when she is most receptive and most likely to breed successfully she will possibly be mounting other pigs or other pigs may mount her , she may have less swelling , but still may have discharge , her ears will be very erect , and the most important sign "standing heat " is when she will stand still even when you put pressure on her back . We have often seen our sows standing still just staring at the boar at this stage .
When mating , the boar may be up there a very long time , we try not to disturb them during this time to let the boar have the time he needs and not become distracted . The last stage coming out of heat you will see the swelling going down further , and she will not stand still for pressure on her back . We tend to go ahead and leave the sow and boar together for two cycles (42 days) to make sure they had an adequate chance to get pregnant on two ocassions , and if she later does not show signs of pregnancy , such as coming back into heat , we don't keep her .
Gestation for pigs as a rule of thumb is 3 months , 3weeks , and 3 days ( 114 days ) however there are always exceptions to this , its just a good average to go by so that you can calculate when you might be expecting piglets . This gives you a target date so you will be ready ahead . If our sow is not already in one of our pens that is ready for piglets , we will move her a couple weeks before her expected farrowing date . Make sure she is not overcrowded in her farrowing stall if you have multiple pigs , depending on your pig , she may like to be alone for farrowing , or she may want her friend . Don't take her friend out then put her back in however , because this can cause major territorial problems and stress on your sow and or her new piglets and can lead to injury .
Ahead of farrowing , have a place set up for piglets to get away from the sow , a place she cannot get to , but they have free access in and out . When the piglets are old enough you can start giving them their feed inside their box where the sow can't eat it . The box away from the mother is important so that she does not accidentally lay on piglets . Some people use farrowing crates , we just have a smaller stall with an enclosed box , ours is about 3 feet tall to the ceiling of the box , and probably measures about 3'x 4' , it is placed on the other side of the wall . Inside it has a heat lamp ( make sure your heat lamp is safed off to prevent fires .) We do not put bedding inside the box . A little short doorway for piglet access . Have your light running and ready for piglets ahead by at least several days if not more .
The temperature inside your box needs to be about 90-100 degrees F . We normally put a thermometer on the floor under the light to see how warm it is to determine if the light needs to be higher or lower . We use a 250 watt heat bulb. The heat lamp is another reason to keep the sow out of the piglet area , so that she doesn't break it . If your stall for the mother is too big , the piglets may have trouble finding their warm box when they are born. Our stall has 2 sides so that we can close the door and have the mother in the smaller side at first so piglets can easily find their way back and forth , and then when they get situated after a few days we open the door into the bigger side so that the sow has more space and has access to the outdoors .
You may find that a baby monitor is useful in your farrowing barn so that you can listen for early morning piglet deliveries . For even up to a couple weeks prior to farrowing you will see growth in the mammary tissue and swelling of the vulva , then there will be teat enlargement , and veins will become prominent on the udders . When she is getting ready to farrow , the sow will be restless , there will be milk in the teats , she may start to have discharge .Sometimes the sow will become very destructive before the birth happens when she is in the early part of labor , we give her some hay , not a lot , but some , to distract her , she may display some nesting behavior . When she becomes very near to farrowing she may be laying down and shivering . We sometimes put up a heat lamp short term only for the sow during this part of farrowing . If you at all can , try to be present for the birth , it may take time , but if she needs help , being there could be important .
Be aware that during the birth and afterwards when the sow is raising piglets , she may undergo a personality change , it will be up to you later to decide if you feel your sow is too aggressive for you to deal with , some sows are more so than others , we have had ones that we found too mean to keep breeding , and others are more mellow . During the birth piglets normally are born at intervals of 10-30 minutes . The sow will not clean the babies or tend them at all , this is completely normal . All she will do is lay down and grunt to the piglets to come and nurse . If you can do so safely , you can very carefully get each piglet as it is born , and clean them up , clear the airway , trim and iodine their umbilical cords , we usually check sexes at this point . ( Just like with a dog , females will have a rectum and vulva on the backside , males just a rectum ) Then we put them in their warm box under the heat lamp . When there have been no more piglets for some time , and the sow seems more settled and is grunting to the piglets , she may be done with the birth . At some point the sow will expel the placenta .
We have been known to go to great lengths to get the piglets after the birth . Even with one of us sitting on top of a ladder with a large lightweight leaf rake to gently scoot the newly born pig to the gate , where the other one of us opens the gate a crack to grab the pig . Even a gentle sow can become agitated if you disturb her and upset her piglets , so definitely use caution !!
Watching the sow's behavior will help you determine when she is having trouble during farrowing . When there has been too much time between piglets , she may be showing clear signs of discomfort , her breathing could be heavy , she may have bloody discharge but still no more piglets coming . There can be many reasons for such distress . If some time has passed and you are worried about her lack of progress you need to check and find out if there is a problem . Wash your hands before going in and trim and file your fingernails smooth , make sure to use lube of some kind if you go in to check . You may have to reach in quite a long ways to determine the problem .
Special Instructions for delivery stuck piglets and piglets with incorrect positioning and other problems
Normal position for piglets being born is head first with front legs folded back against the piglet's chest and back legs extended back , or back feet first with front legs extended forward . Abnormal positions can mean trouble . Here are a few examples .
Sometimes a piglet becomes stuck that is simply too big , but usually with gentle pulling downward , the pig is able to be successfully delivered . The easiest option is to use a long piece of nylon cord. Tie this in a slip knot then using some lubricant enter the cord into the vagina and behind the piglet's head . The cord should be looped around behind the ears and then down around the jaw. Tighten the loop . Pressure can now be applied by pulling downward to pull the piglet out. The large piglet blocking the birth canal is a very dangerous mal presentation because other piglets are behind that pig and can easily die if the large piglet is not pulled quickly . This is an effective method , and practicing ahead with a cord around a correct sized object to master looping around the pig one handed may be helpful to you at a later time .
Two pigs coming together
Sometimes in this presentation the two piglets are coming out together both head first , sometimes one is head first and one is back feet first . Sometimes both are back feet first . You will need to reach in and try to dislodge one pig , which may require pushing the other one back a bit , grasping on to one , pull it out , then pull the second one . The sow will usually not be able to resolve this position on her own .
Piglets born backward can sometimes be in a breech (butt first with back legs pointed forward ) position , this can be hard for the sow to pass on her own because the piglet can get stuck on the sow's pelvis . This is also one of the most common complications . Sometimes the sow may be able to pass the piglet anyway without assistance , but if she can't you will need to try to push the piglet forward and unfold the legs before you can pull the piglet out .
Folded in Half
This is similar to Breech but more extreme and very difficult to correct . In this position the back legs will be folded further forward and the butt will be tucked somewhat under . The danger if this is that the arched back can become stuck . Try to get underneath with a finger and see if you can catch hold of and unfold a leg with a finger while pushing the pig forward Aeith your thumb so that you can bring the piglet right , if you are not successful , this is a C section situation .
Other serious situations
Rotation of the horns
This can happen when a litter is particularly large , one horn of the uterus can cross over the other , trapping some of the piglets inside . If you are able to reach down and then back , you may be able to pull some of the piglets which could be difficult , Once those have been pulled , try to get the sow to a standing position lay your fist against the side of her belly and swing it , this may reposition the horns and therefore the piglets , it may take a little while to restart delivering , if she has not made further progress in half an hour , you may need to go in and see if you can pull the piglets .
This is one of the more common farrowing problems , Uterine Inertia is when the uterus fails to contract . This can be hormonal , it can be a nutritional problem , sometimes even mineral deficiency . This can also happen when the farrowing takes a long time to complete and the sow becomes exhausted , the uterus can simply stop contracting . Try to reach past the cervix and if the piglet is forward facing , grasp it with your palm on the top of its head and the first and second finger locked around the nape of the piglets neck . Try to pull the piglet out . If the piglet is backward , try to raise the back legs and use your first and second finger to hook around the hocks , try to pull the piglet out .
If a sow is constipated , the full colon can crowd the piglets against the birth canal and make it difficult for the piglets to pass through .
If the sow's bladder is over full it can push against the birth canal blocking the piglet's exit . Some use oxytocin in this situation , but getting the sow to a standing position can encourage her to urinate and relieve pressure .
If a sow is overweight , she may have fat obstructing the birth canal and blocking the piglets exit.
Particularly when a sow has a large litter , the uterus can become dragged down and positioned into a curve beneath the pelvis . The uterus may not contract strong enough to get the piglets over the curve if this happens . If you can reach in and get one piglet out , the curve will often straighten and the birth can proceed normally .
Small Sow / small pelvis
If a sow has a small pelvis , you may need to help pull to get the outlet through . If she is too small , it is possible she may be injured during the birth or even break her pelvis , and this injury may heal back incorrectly causing problems in future births which may then require a C section .
Soft Tissue Injuries
If a birth is difficult a sow requiring a lit of help may be injured and develop vaginal swelling which can by itself narrow the birth canal . They can even develop a blood clot that blocks the birth canal .
Helpful notes :
When grasping a stuck piglet you can take hold of the snout and a finger inside the mouth , you can also grasp it at its lower jaw by putting a finger inside the mouth and the thumb under the chin . Another way to grasp the piglet if you have room is to place your fingers over top of the head and your thumb under the chin . A piglet snare or a nylon cord can be a helpful tool to have available in a pig birth . Some people also have forceps . Be aware that you need to be gentle and slow in piglet births to avoid injuring the sow . Always use lube going in to avoid injury of having a dry birth canal .
If a piglet is not breathing when born you can Insert a small piece of straw up the nose to cause coughing which may clear the airway , or you can carefully swing the piglet by its back legs , supporting the head and neck with your other hand to try to dislodge mucus . A nose bulb may also be used to clear the airway . Vigorous rubbing of the chest or ribcage may also stimulate breathing .
If you have assisted in the birth and gone into the sow to do so , or if any of the piglets have been born dead , a course of antibiotics is a good idea just as a safety . After the birth , you should deworm your sow , stress of labor can bring on a bloom of parasites , make sure to reworm 10 days later .
As noted above , it is a good idea to clear the airway , dry the piglets off, dip umbilical cords in iodine after the birth , and put them under the heat lamp in their warm box. It is essential that the piglets are warm enough , they are unable to regulate their body temperature when they are small , and if they become chilled they can easily die.
Piglets need to have colostrum soon after birth , weak piglets may need help to a teat to make sure they get opportunity . On average a newborn piglet needs to receive at least a minimum of 100 ml of colostrum per 2.25 lbs bodyweight within the first 16 hours of life . Colostrum is needed for energy , the immune system / antibodies , and to build strength . It is essential that the piglets receive colostrum and not milk for the first day if you end up fostering , after the first day , the sow will be producing milk . It cannot be stressed enough how critical that first day with colostrum is to the survival of newborn piglets .
After making sure the piglet has had colostrum ideally for 4-6 hours , if a piglet needs to be fostered to another sow this should only be done with a sow that has also just given birth and it needs to be done within 24 hours . Never allow more piglets than there are teats .
Keep a close watch on new piglets to make sure they are doing well and getting enough , gaining weight etc . It is essential to act quickly if you notice a piglet not thriving . Small piglets are much more likely to die than larger ones , so pay close attention to the smaller piglets . At the first a weak piglet may be very carefully syringe or bottle fed , the feeding can be done , but this is something that you may need to carefully research before undertaking . In general , if you are fostering a piglet it is advised that rather than bottle feeding , trying to train the piglet to pan feeding , because the danger of aspiration is very likely in piglets .
Iron supplementation and Anemia
Many people give iron injections in the first few days to a week after piglets are born , some choose to give oral iron supplements or an iron lick instead . Sometimes there is enough iron in the soil to prevent piglets from becoming anemic , if you have higher iron content In the soil , you may not need to give iron supplements . If piglets are indoors , dirt can be brought in for them .
How to recognize anemia in piglets : Weakness , heavy breathing , pale skin color , pale color of eye membranes and mouth .If the piglets are exhibiting symptoms of anemia , they need to receive iron asap , or death may be the result . If piglets do not receive iron and needed it , and they survive , they will have slow growth and will be weak and more easily become sick .
Our pig mentor told us that while some people do clip the sharp teeth piglets are born with "needle teeth" that it is not always necessary . We followed his lead , our philosophy is you should only clip the teeth if they are injuring your sow,(sow's injury can lead to her reluctance to nurse the piglets. ) Our piglets never injured our sows , and we never did have to clip the teeth . Clipping teeth is not without risk to your piglets , it can be painful , teeth can break , and it can open your piglets up to infection . There are specialized tooth clippers for this job if you decide to proceed . Most people do this very early within a day or two of birth .
Clipping the 4 pairs of 2 sharp teeth at each corner of the piglets mouth , they can be clipped just above the gum line . Some choose to grind the teeth rather than clipping .
If you choose to use a grinder , you can just grind the point of the tooth off . If using clippers , make sure your clippers are sharp so that they will cut the tooth rather than crushing it , sanitize your clippers before use , have a sanitizing dip container to dip clippers between piglets . Having a helper to hold the piglet may be helpful . Use proper holding methods , make sure the piglet is secure , hold the piglet's head still and the mouth open , be careful not to clip too close to the gum or to cut anything else inside the piglet's mouth . Make sure that the tooth is not jagged after clipping , if it is you may need to even it up .
Castrating the piglets
Whether you decide to raise mini pigs or standard hogs , whether you are breeding for future food for your homestead , for the public , or breeding for sale as pets or for 4H , you will need to have control of your swineherd and protect against free breeding among juveniles and adults . You need also to protect against boar taint in your meat and future problem behaviors that arise from uncastrated boars .
I have seen people who keep swine herds who do not castrate and the young boarlings were free breeding with their siblings and their mothers which led to 3 month old gilts being bred and having unsuccessful pregnancies and mothers having piglet litters one atop another with no breaks in between . All of this having been said and the necessity of castration being established , instructions and how to go about it are as follows .
Castration need not be done by a veterinarian , and if you choose to have one perform the surgery , be aware that they may try to use anesthesia and pigs don't deal well with anesthesia and so surgery should not be performed using it without due consideration to the possible consequences , which include possible personality changes and death . Pig castration cannot be accomplished by banding as the testes are more internal than in some other animals , so the castration that must be performed is in fact surgical . You may feel somewhat intimidated at the thought of performing surgery , you may feel you are not qualified to do it , but I can assure you that you need not feel intimidated as this has been performed for centuries by home farmers. If you can use a box cutter you can perform this simple surgery , and furthermore you should do it for the sake of your piglets and complete your office as a responsible homesteader .
To begin with , castration should take place very early in the piglets life as their pain receptors are not fully developed yet and The piglets are not so strong you won't be able to handle them physically as they later will be quite large and quite strong . Standard Breeds of piglet should be castrated at 3 days old , mini pigs should be 5 days old . You'll find some people hold both kinds should be done at several weeks or even months old , but we have found having done it all three ways that it goes better for the piglets by way of stress and pain , healing time , and bleeding to do it earlier , as well as being easier on you physically and mentally . Piglets sex should be determined first off by examination , two holes at the back side indicate the pig is a female the male piglet will have the wee on the stomach like a dog . Testes may not be entirely visible on the backside so don't look for them as a sign that this is a male animal .
Male pigs should be separated , placed in the carrier and taken away from their mother in order to prevent her becoming too stressed at their cries . While there are commercial or handmade holding boxes for piglets to keep them still while you operate, I recommend having a partner to hold them instead . Place two chairs facing one another, lay a towel across the knees of the person who will be holding the pig in case the pigs poo or bleed as well as to provide a cushion in case the pigs legs kick free during restraint .
Tools you need include: a box cutter with a 45° angle blade or a scalpel . Be sure your chosen tool is just disinfected with iodine or rubbing alcohol before using . You may wish to wear ear plugs as the piglet will scream loudly with just it being handled . Wear surgical gloves to prevent contamination of the wound and rub iodine on the pigs hind quarters just below the bum hole where the two testes lie just at the back of the hams . The person holding the piglet should grasp a back and a front foot in each hand and placing the head downward , gravity works against you in this method, but some say it prevents herniation ie the intestine popping out of the incision after the testes are removed . We moved to this method after experiencing 30% herniation in our bloodline of our mini pigs and after switching over, never experienced herniation again . In the other methods the head is upward and the rump is downward. if your piglet herniates , do not feel it is your fault , some say a piglet which herniated has a weak wall and it was always going to herniate even without the castration . If it happens that they herniate , there are only 3 choices , First take a stitch or try superglue in order to close up the wound, knowing you must ultimately consume that piglet for a certainty , you may also opt to take the piglet to the veterinarian , however my view and my response is that it's better for the pig and for you to put the animal that has herniated down at that point , following procedure as for slaughter in the butcher section . With the exception that a .22 pistol will work in this instance as the skull has not hardened to the degree it will later in life .
Now that your pig is in position the one doing the castration can now proceed , take your razor knife or scalpel and make a small incision just below the bum hole to the left and right where you can likely see a little bump under the skin which is the testes . The incision should be made in an up-down Direction from the anus toward the head, extend the incision up to half an inch which should be about long enough to pop out the testes. Be sure you were on the backside not venturing toward the stomach even if the teste floats down there or you may eviscerate your pig . Once the incision is made on the one side make it on the other as you will pop the testes out of their own hole. Pinch open the incision with one hand while using the other to push the testes up to the opening . It may take some finagling as the testes are slippery , if they don't pop through and if you can see they appear slightly strangled in trying to do so, you need to ensure the membrane that is beneath the skin has been cut through all the way by making a second deeper incision following the same line as the first. This is another reason for early castration as the membranes are much thicker and the skin is as well in older piglets . If the testes don't come through on the first or even second or third try ,don't panic , try again, you may have to attempt it several times , if they still won't pop out and you feel they don't fit through the incision you may need to cut the incision a little larger , again be aware of where you were cutting , don't cut too far toward the stomach area . Try not to rupture the testes as things will get messy if you do . Once you have worked the one testes through , it is shaped roughly like a kidney bean , and you should have both sides visible, now grasp it in your one hand and gently draw it upward away from the piglets body , just enough to expose the cord .
At this point there are two methods, the grab and pull method, where the person literally quickly rips the testes off ,snapping the cord in one quick movement , it is said this method reduces bleeding ,however for our part we don't care for the pulling method and we instead expose the cord just a little , then place the blade of the scalpel or razor blade against the cord make several small cuts cutting through it and 3 or 4 passes this reduces bleeding where single cut would promote bleeding . Now repeat the process by drawing out the 2nd teste from the other incision, the second one will be a little more difficult as it doesn't have the pressure of the presence of the first teste to push against .
After both testicles have been removed , place a little iodine over the open wound on both sides and leave the wound open to drain . Do not take a stitch and no painkillers are needed . Now quickly return the piglet to it's warm box where it can recover and it will seek out its mother , after only a few minutes young piglets will seem to be pretty well recovered , however they may seem a little mopey for a day or two .
Castrate all male piglets , unless you will keep one as a boar or keep one for sale as one , be aware you will need to separate intact boarlings from your gilt and sows however by 3 to 9 months on mini pigs and around 9 months on standard pigs. Keep castrated piglets from venturing outside as they will have a tendency to rub their behinds in the dirt as their incision will be itchy, and you do not want the incision to get packed with dirt. Continue to put iodine to the wound for the next 3 days to stave off infection .
Creep Feeding and Pre weaning
At 2-3 weeks of age , piglets will start really wanting more than just mother's milk , and they will be getting more seriously interested in solid foods . When we start seeing piglets interested in food , we start offering a grower feed soaked in milk at first in their creep feeder / warm box area . We place a shallow dish that the piglets can't dump out in a cooler corner of the box away from the doorway if possible so mama doesn't try to stick her snout in and get it . We also have a shallow heavy water dish at this time , or install a very low bite nipple waterer for them . Soaked feed will need to be replaced often to make sure it does not go bad . Don't give other things to the piglets at first when you are giving solids , only give the soaked softened pellets . They will likely be getting into their mother's food as well , and after they start to eat more , when you are adding things like produce , make sure to include an ample supply of soft and sweet things to the mother so that when piglets do eat it , it will be easy to eat . Take care that your creep feeder / warm box is kept clean , some piglets may use it as a bathroom , and any spilled feed needs to be cleaned up .
Piglets will need a heat lamp for probably 2-3 weeks , but this may be variable depending on time of year . We tend toward leaving the lamp in until after weaning some time . They get better growth if they have the lamp for longer . We gradually put the lamp higher and higher therefore lowering the temperature inside the box . Then graduate to something like turning the lamp off during the day , then back on at night . Do not just try to cut the piglets off of their light cold turkey , that will be too hard for them to adjust to .
As more solid food is consumed and the piglets are seen drinking water on a regular basis , you are working closer to weaning . There is much controversy about what weaning age should be , many people say wean as early as 4 weeks on standard piglets , up to 8 weeks , and on mini pigs , a great variation in weaning times are seen among breeders 5-12 weeks . It should be mentioned that weaning time will depend greatly on not just the piglet's readiness , but also on the condition of the mother . If your sow is struggling to keep weight on due to the demands of her litter , wean them on the earlier side . We tend to wean our smaller kune kune cross mini pigs at around 5 weeks if they are doing well eating and drinking . We will often leave her a couple of piglets for a day or two to help draw down her milk more slowly , or take the piglets away for the day then let them back in with her to relieve her . We also give mama a ground sage and honey sandwich for a couple days after we take the piglets because sage is known to decrease milk . It seems to help a little . You may want to limit pig feed and feed more produce for a couple of days to help her milk dry up .
At 6 weeks old , we deworm our piglets using an ivermectin based wormer . Others use other types of wormers . This can be done with an oral ivermectin wormer , but it is generally thought to be more effective on pigs if given by injection . Make sure to reworm 10 days later .
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
^^^Dominance over your pigs , you need to be the pig boss^^^
by Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Goats , the center of our Homestead
Lifespan:6-13 years for intact males, 10 to 20 years for females
Productive lifespan:10 years for females the duration of their healthy lifespan for males
Homesteading practically with goats
Goats can be a great multi purpose animal for homesteading. Goats can be used to assist in land clearing, they can be a help to the homestead by way of producing food for the homestead family, and kid sales can be used as a viable source of income to help subsidize less profitable portions of homesteading. Pet type goats like miniatures and registered goats can bring better money to the homestead. Goats can be costly to feed when in milk as the animal's body requires substantial amount of supplementation during those times. Goats should be fed the best hay that can be afforded and those goats on high quality hay can require no additional grain if they are in good shape and not producing or elderly. But for poor quality hay and low mineral environments some supplementation of grain should likely be fed to all goats. Goats do not require large property and can be kept in small pens since grazing is not required though of course it is much appreciated. Elderly goats should not be kept by the homesteader past 10 years at 8 years old their teeth begin to wear down and break and their grain consumption grows to be cost prohibitive.When purchasing a new goat, ask health questions, do not just ask if the goat is tested for the big three CAE, CL, Johnne's disease ,ask if symptoms are present within the goat herd not just with the individual goat you are purchasing, ask if any goats in the herd have had any abscesses, any unexplained weight loss, any pneumonia issues, swollen joints, diarrhea with no known cause, this is more likely to keep your herd at home safe when introducing new goats as these diseases cannot be quarantined for and most take years to develop.
Home steading benefits of raising goats
Goats can provide milk and dairy products for the homestead and have no replacement for those who are lactose intolerant. It can also provide the homestead with meat and even fiber if the right breed is chosen making it a Tri purpose animal. Goats are great income producers for the homestead and last of all goat kids are great fun and great comic relief.
For the love of goats
Every homestead has its centerpiece, it's central focus. Whether for financial reasons or for nutritional reasons or for reasons more aesthetic. Our homesteads central focus is goats partly because they provide sustenance in so many different kinds of ways ,partly because it is an animal that yields a good monetary value. You can often sell goat kids when you can't sell sheep, pigs, etc. And most of all because it was part of our spiritual journey and suggested to us by a scripture.The lambs are for thy clothing and the goats are the price of the field and thou shall have goats milk enough for thy food and for the food of thy household and the maintenance of thy maidens. proverbs 27:26
Our goat section is lengthy and fairly comprehensive ,we have made it our business to know and understand goats inside and out.Though there is always more to learn, we have endeavored to share what knowledge we have come by because we are excited to see others share in the adventure that is goat ownership and the journey that is becoming a shepherd to a goat herd, in good times and in bad. Goats are great as homestead animals because they provide dairy products which are tolerable to those who are lactose intolerant and it is more economic versus homestead cows milk. The milk serves as nutrition in the homestead household as well as support for other homestead animals. It assists in pig rearing and is an excellent substitute for any animal in need of bottling and hand raising and a nutritional treat for chickens as well as for household leavening. Goats can also be used for a meat source and an income source, they are great for supplying fertilizer that is the best in the world for your garden and will enable you to have a complete system and life cycle on your farm with nothing needed from the outside as far as fertilizer goes. This reduces risks of breaches of bio security. It is a great overall animal and best of all provides homestead joy. It is tough to be sad even on a bad day with cute baby goat kids jumping around and supplying much needed homestead comic relief. More than any other homestead animal our goats provide us daily joy as well as a glimpse into the intricate relationship between us and God . For all these reasons and more we keep and love goats and wish you all the same joys we have found in it.
Goats are a dual purpose animal , many people use them for milk and or meat. If you have a fiber goat like an angora they are tri purpose . We use our goats for milk and sell off kids for pets in order to reimburse for their mother's feed through the year . As far as breed goes that is up to preference . Meat breeds like Boers and Kikos typically are not used for milk , I've heard people say they shouldn't be ,but I have also heard other people say they do milk them , so that is up to you .
We encourage people to value mixed breeds as well , as your best milk goat may be a mixed breed brush goat somewhere grazing on a hillside . Our best goat was a former brush goat , Lucy was a mixed breed doe , that was at least part nubian , she was our herd queen and best milker , as she milks through . Most goats have to be bred and have a kid yearly . The goal is then to get them to milk for 10 months . A goat that milks through can milk for years , (7 in the case of our old girl) without being re bred after the kid is weaned. Lucy was our first goat, we got into milk goats because we had read a scripture in proverbs that said the lambs are for your clothing , and the goats are the price of the field , and thou shalt have goats milk enough for thy food , for the food of thy household , and for the maintenance for thy maidens . Proverbs 27:26-27
Milk is a whole food , and if you had milk and potatoes , you could live the rest of your life and not be deficient in anything , or so I've heard . I would have to at least add bacon and a little onions to have potato soup if I was going to live on it for the rest of my life . Getting goats turned out to be pretty convenient for me because I am one of the many people who are lactose intolerant , and goat's milk can be drank by people who are lactose intolerant because the milk is closer to human milk than cow , and the fat globules are smaller and more digestible.
Most of the world drinks goat's milk and eats goat meat as opposed to cow milk or eating beef . Goat's milk contains less bacteria than cow , and if handled correctly (cooled quickly after milking , and having the buck far enough away , not keeping the milk too long ) it tastes no different than cow milk . If it tastes "goaty" you've done something wrong in its handling . Goat's milk is the equivalent of naturally homogenized , the fat globules are already small so the cream doesn't rise to the top like unhomogenized cow milk does. There is some evidence that mechanically homogenized cow milk can be bad for your health and the chemical produced during the process can break holes in your arteries .
Goat's milk has been prescribed for years for health issues including ulcers and insomnia . Goat's milk soap is sworn by to to produce "the best complexion " boasts many an elderly lady, and those who suffer from skin issues can often benefit from goat's milk soap. I tout our handmade goats milk soap as being better for your skin because it is a soap that adds oils to your skin , where soap from the supermarket is actually a detergent and removes oils from the skin .
Our preference of milk goat as far as standards are concerned is a nubian for the high butter fat content , but in general we prefer miniature nubians,Nigerian dwarf, or kinders for the high butter fat and the smaller more handleable size. Mini Nubians are a cross between a Nigerian Dwarf buck and a standard Nubian doe . Sometimes the roman nose and floppy ears come through great , other times you get slightly floppy "puppy ears" or long ears that stick straight out "airplane ears" either way , they milk well and sell fine. A little girl milks 2/3 of what a big girl does on average , and she does that on 1/2 the feed and taking up 1/2 the space . Mini Nubians for the most part retain the long legs , slender "starved" appearance that is the classic body type of the standard Nubian . Kinders are a Nubian / African Pygmy crosses , and were bred for being a good miniature meat goat having a better meat to bone ratio than other goats . They also make great milk goats . They have a big barrel like pygmy belly , the stick out "airplane" ears , and short little legs. They also inherit a good butter fat in the milk from both sides .
We like our "big girls" ,our standards but love our ''little girls'' ,our minis , because they are more efficient for feed and space as well as handlability. If a "little girl" doesn't want to do something , or go somewhere , you can pick her up and make her go if you have to . Ours are 30- 60 lbs . If a " big girl " doesn't wanna '', at 80-120 lbs , you can't make her as easily , nor can you pick her up to put her anywhere . And if a little girl steps on your toe accidentally , you feel it , but a big girl , you're hurting.
Handling your goat safely
After having chosen your goat , you should now know how to handle it . Goats can be led on a collar and leash like a dog , there are those who walk them for exercise and adventure .Goats are said to be good pack animals , packing 25% of their own body weight , while your dog can comfortably pack 10% . Goats can also pull 4 times their weight . In the old days , little kids would go around with their cart goats , usually a wethered goat harnessed up to a cart , just like the adults had a horse and carriage . So a harness can be used on them , they make goat halters as well , but be sure not to leave it on them , as unfortunate accidents an occur, as I learned the hard way . Collars left on can have unfortunate results as well,if any of the goats have scurs or horns . I've seen my herd queen pick up subordinate goats by the collar and choke them until I ran to stop her. And when you are leading them by the collar , they can pass out if they pull too hard , and goats are pretty good at pulling when they are motivated.
One way I sometimes handle a goat , a nubian or mini nubian in particular is by their ear. Use it as a handle or a leash , holding it gently. The goat will only pull so hard against its ear, in Africa this is the method of choice to hold and lead a long eared goat ,however goats don't like their ears handled as touching an ear is discipline in the herd. You can also grab the goat by the scruff or skin on the back of the neck and in this way lead it where you need it to go. Horned goats can be held by a horn and a hand up underneath of their chin, this is a good and safe method for transport of a difficult goat with horns.
Be careful if you ever tie out your goat on a collar and lead , as it can as it can lead to tangling , and many is the goat that has strangled to death out on a lead line .Only tie them out with caution , being sure there is nothing to tangle on , and supervise them while they are tied to avoid sad endings.
If your goat ever gets loose , try to lure it instead of chasing , a goat accustomed to receiving grain responds well to the sound of grain being shaken in a bucket or cup , they will often come close enough to be caught , or return willingly to the barn for the special treat . Most people that own goats develop a certain call that they use when you are trying to get the goats to come into the barn , ours is "Come on Girls !" in a high , loud tone , often accompanied by clapping . If you chase the goat it becomes the prey and you the predator, in its mind . You will only provoke a flight response . Remember that your goat can probably run faster than you can. If a chase is unavoidable , try to direct the goat back toward the herd , the goat is a herd animal , and the herd means safety . It will feel more comfortable with others of its own kind . You can also put another goat on a leash and let it eat the grain that you brought , your escaped goat will soon join it .
Feeding Your Goat
Most people feed twice a day . Allow the goat to see you feeding it , so it will understand that you are to be trusted , and that you are its shepherd , the fastest way into a goats heart is through its stomach . We always recommend as general feeding practice to feed a good grass hay , that is the base and the biggest part of your goat's diet .Feed 1-4 lbs of hay per day per adult goat , depending on weight and condition , and then split that between 2 feedings . You don't have to get the most expensive hay , if you are on local hay in a nutritionally depleted area you'll need to supplement .
This is somewhat subjective to goats size and body condition but we have found that miniature dairy goats in milk cost is 1.5 50 lb bales of hay per month , 50 lb of grain for 25 days . Not in milk 1.5 50 pound bales of hay per month , 1/3 lb a day of grain ration . Double this for a standard goat.
Weeds in the hay
The grass hay need not be weed free, but try to take note of the weeds that are in it , become an amateur botanist , and know local plant life , having a good region specific plant identification book is useful . Sometimes it an be a challenge identifying every weed , because in hay , they will be dried up and shriveled , and may be absent of flowers , leaves , or some other features .
We had a small weed in some hay from the feed store that ended up being very dangerous for our goats , do not assume that feed store hay is safe , do your research as an amateur botanist . Learn what is poisonous and what isn't .If you find a weed in your hay , try to identify it before feeding . Don't worry yourself to death , just do your best .
Often local hay men are feeding their own livestock and if they care about their animals , or their wallet , or your animals as their customer , they will be careful of what they allow to grow in their hay fields . But be aware , not all hay men are created equal .
By and large goats are pretty tolerant of toxins , brush goats are often used to clear land before cattle are brought in , as they have a higher threshold for toxic weeds that may harm cattle , but try not to take chances , never purposely feed something you know is toxic . Some toxins or irritants are neutralized by drying , as in the haying process . Others are concentrated . Still other toxins are accumulative , and your goat may seem fine for a very long time , then suddenly reach a danger threshold when it builds up .
A good grass hay will have some green in it , and not be all yellow . If it's yellow , then it has nearly the same nutrative value as straw , which is good for little . Get a grass hay that's seed heads are not full blown , an old dairy farmer I know told me , as the grass produces a seed head , all of the nutrients move up the stem to the seed , and there is nothing left but a dead yellow husk , describing what the bible calls ''the field being white unto harvest" If your hay is all yellow , it means your hay man cut his hay too late in the season .
Feed Alternatives in times of shortage
You may substitute 1 lb of grain for 1.5 lb of hay ,keep in mind the rumen and the need for 10% or more of roughage in diet . Willow leaves may also be substituted for hay in times of shortage , this was done by farmers in Australia during drought , however care should be taken , as I have heard that willow when harvested too hard may put out a toxin .Beets and turnips were also fed with some success. Of course graze and browse can also be used , but always be aware of what you are feeding , Take care thet the browse is not toxic or accumulatively toxic . and realize this is not a long term solution , only a short term one if hay is unavailable . If possible grain should be used to supplement because most browse is low in protein , low nutrition value .
What not to feed
You may ask , can't I just put my goat out to graze or on brush and won't that be enough nutrition for it ? And the answer is no , goats need more than grass or brush . Think of when you mow your lawn , grass is mostly water . Mown grass shavings shrivel up to nothing when it is dry . A goat or other animal , especially in wet climates can starve to death on knee high grass . When we feed hay , we are giving larger quantities of dry material with a concentration of nutrition in it . There is nothing wrong with grazing or browsing your goat in addition to daily feedings of hay .
Goats very much appreciate the fresh feed , but they need to be able to take what they need of grass hay as well. If you have a green pasture for your goat , try to limit how much really wet grass it consumes , as this can cause frothy bloat . Try feeding your goat hay before letting it out to graze , as this will limit the probability of bloat . Daily before letting your goat out on graze , check for any poisonous plants or mushrooms that may harm your goat.
When considering alfalfa hay for your goats , which is a good idea to keep a proper nutritional balance , be careful how much you give to wethers and bucks , as it can cause urinary calculi (stones) but it is necessary to keep the proper balance between calcium and phosphorous at a rate of 2:1 . However for bucks and wethers make sure alfalfa is no more than 25% of the diet , usually urinary calculi is more from imbalance than from the actual alfalfa itself , but be cautious .
When considering to feed alfalfa to lactating does , as a dairyman of 60 years advised me , be sure it is first or third cut , because second cut does not have enough nutrition , and fourth or fifth is too rich in alfalfa leaves and will give them diarrhea . First cut is traditionally considered the premium cut for dairy animals , as it has been growing since last fall , and the longer something has been growing , the more it is packed with nutrition . It may however be stemmy , which the goats may object to .
If you can't find a good cut or your feed store can't tell you what cut they have , purchase alfalfa pellets for horses , as a general rule , anything of fodder or medication that says horses on the label , is ok for goats . Alfalfa pellets also give you and insured protein percentage , whereas alfalfa hay can be widely variable . But the alfalfa pellets are a little large , and goats tend to choke on them , so soak them in water before feeding to soften them , soak them at least a half an hour . I pick up the pellets and make sure they easily break in half in my hand . A good way to avoid the nutritive pregnancy disorder pregnancy toxemia / ketosis is to feed wet alfalfa pellets , and top dress molasses . Molasses being fed is both the preventative and the cure for pregnancy toxemia / ketosis .
Grain is the other key feed requirement for goats. Do not feed whole feed grains , dried whole corn can damage the stomach . Whole grains of other kinds pass straight through the goat and are of little benefit to it some people feed rolled grains to combat this . Grain in a goat slows down the system and suppresses good bacteria in the gut , while allowing bad bacteria like e-coli to grow . I have heard it said that this is why our commercial beef can be so bad about carrying e-coli . They feed mass quantities of grain to the cattle in feed lots , which is unnatural for their system .
Grain needs to be fed sparingly to bucks and wethers , as it too can cause urinary calculi. For boys , if you plan to feed it , then we use one that already has ammonium sulfate in it , or add ammonium sulfate to their water , this will prevent the stones forming . Some people also find apple cider vinegar useful for this , but we choose to minimize grain , and to use one with ammonium sulfate in it , we use purina medicated goat grower . Don't discount the necessity of grain in your buck / wether's diet . If the quality of the grass hay has something to be desired , and particularly in breeding season , he will need the extra calories , just take care in how much you give to him .For a miniature goats we max out at 1/3 lb of medicated goat grower per day per kid or adult male goat split that between two feedings . It will be more for standard sized goats up to 2/3 lb per adult goat per day split between two feedings . If a male goat is underweight you can temporarily double his grain ration to try to bring his weight up but do not do this on a permanent basis because it will increase chances of him suffering from urinary calculi .
Grain is essential to a lactating doe , and a doe preparing to kid. She should be fed a maintenance ration for the last several weeks before she kids to give her and the kid enough to support them . A standard doe should be given a maximum of 1lb a day and a miniature should be given a maximum of 1/2 lb , this should be split between two feedings . You don't want her to get too fat while pregnant , or for the kid to grow too large to be safely birthed , but you do want to adequately support her . After kidding and to support her milk production , we give a standard doe between 2-3 lbs of grain split between two feedings , and a miniature maxing out at 2 lbs per day . The rule of thumb for goats in milk is 1 lb maintenance , and 1lbs of grain additional for every 2-3 lbs of milk . But you can over feed grain , even to a lactating doe . So we follow a lower regimen to prevent acidosis and diarrhea . If they do get diarrhea , back off of the grain until their stool returns to normal . Immediately after a doe kids , feed her minimal amounts for several days so her system can recover .A lactating doe needs grain to keep producing milk for her kid and for you if you're milking . Feeding a 16 % protein ration pre prepared for goats that are in milk is a good idea . We use purina dairy goat . Stay away from anti cocci medicated feeds for milking does , these are grower feeds typically , also 16% but medicated , as the milk may be unsafe for you to drink . No harm to the goat , but dangerous for you . If a doe is having a tough time maintaining a healthy weight , while feeding the kid or after the kid is weaned , or any time of the year when she drops condition , I have found Wet COB (COB = corn , oats and barley with molasses) will put on weight pretty effectively , we feed up to 50% wet COB when needed , but be careful feeding too much because the sugar content can throw off balance in the rumen stomach .
Both cattle and goats are ruminants , ( they have multiple stomachs) The first stomach is called the rumen , the rumen stomach needs plenty of roughage (hay and browse) to continue to function properly . Goats chew the cud , they instinctively eat quickly in the field or at the feeder , possibly because of fear of predators , and they don't chew their food well . Later when they are relaxed , and only when they are comfortable or unafraid , they will bring back up their rumen / cud and re chew it . This is the point at which they wil expel any foreign objects they should not have eaten . Having re chewed their food , they swallow it back down , eventually the food moves on to the other stomachs . The rumen stomach needs to keep the proper balance of good bacteria if the animal is to digest. All animals and humans have an inability to digest plant matter , they need bacteria to do it for them . Grain changes the chemical environment in the rumen stomach , and can kill good and beneficial bacteria while allowing bad bacteria to flourish . Yogurt has historically been given to the flock by wise shepherds in order to keep good bacteria going in the gut .
How to feed
Check your goat's weight periodically , feel the spine up by the shoulder , if it stands up in a high ridge , the goat is too thin , and you will need to go up on grain to compensate . Whatever you decide to feed your goat , feed it as well as you can , the eye of the master fattens the cattle . Feed in feeders and not on the ground . Multiple feeding stations should be offered in order to avoid too much fighting . Do not use hay bags , goats are notorious for getting tangled in them .
We don't free feed , to avoid excessive waste , and we feed twice a day fresh hay at the same times , because goats like predictability and routine feeding twice in smaller amounts minimizes waste , while feeding once in a larger amount will often result in the goat pulling it out on the floor and stomping it. Adjust to feed more in winter , as the animal will keep warmer when it has more hay to digest . Heavier stemmed hay is good to feed in cold weather as it takes longer to digest and warms the animal . If your goat is pulling the hay from the feeders and trampling it instead of eating it , back off of the amount of hay until it eats most of what its given . If it finishes too quickly , or is underweight , feed more .
Don't depend on the goat's good sense to tell you when it's hungry , goats will over eat , and they never know when they have had enough . Over eating can lead to obesity , and overeating (typically on grain ) can cause over eaters disease , which is the flourishing of bad bacteria in the gut . Over eating can also lead to bloat . Feed the goat the best you can afford to , as my old dairy farmer friend said , you will get out what you put in . Don't feed them on the cheapest thing you can find , and ignore nutrition , and expect the animal to produce . The number one reason we refuse a person who wants to buy a goat from us , is because they don't want to feed it , they want to put it in a field , put nothing into it , and expect it to thrive . Put in what you expect to get out . If you want a quality product for your homestead , put something into it .
Emergency feeds when milking
In order to milk your doe you will need to give her some grain for her support as well axs for her mind while you milk,we do the best we can for our animals spending what we have to to provide what they need but sometimes life throws us a curveball and what they need or are accustomed to cannot be had . Whether this is from feed shortage ,simple lack of availability ,or financial issues. Our feeds routinely can take a month to get into the feed store, in these times our animals have to simply make do ,we have learned overtime during trouble, to try not to panic . We have learned a good substitute for goat grain needed by lactating goats is a homemade granola with reduced sugar, it isn't the proper protein 16% but it is the same as our wet cob feed which we typically feed during winter and for the molasses to prevent ketosis ,and sometimes you have oatmeal in your home for your own family, just not feed. You can also use cut up fruits and vegetables,be careful about bread products as they throw off the rumen, and try not to use these measures too long as you will pay and lack of milk production.Remember these are emergency, extremely temporary measures only,designed to ease the milking goats state of mind.
Kids start eating hay at just a couple days old , mostly playing with it , but they should be exposed to it from the start . They can be fed grain from 2 weeks old upward . When fed by hand , grain helps them tame down if they are skiddish . I recommend a 16% medicated grower grain , we use purina goat grower medicated. Again , watch how much grain you give them . Kids on grain seem to grow better and stay healthier , maintaining a proper weight more easily and making a smoother transition from milk .We max out at 1/3 lb of medicated goat grower per day per kid or adult male goat split that between two feedings .
To have a balanced diet , goats should have a loose goat mineral . Mineral blocks do not work for goats , their tongue is not rough enough , and blocks can damage and break their teeth . There are lots of good brands , just make sure its labeled for goats , because only goat minerals will have a high enough percentage of copper .
Additional Feed Information
Try not to change feeds quickly , always leave yourself some of your old feed or hay to mix with the new to make transitions easier . Too much of anything new, whatever it may be at one time , can make your goat sick , the best advice is , everything in moderation . Also , avoid if at all possible changing feeds at all during pregnancy and right after kidding , as this can trigger pregnancy toxemia / ketosis . Now a few words about mold ... be very careful about feeding moldy hay , and never ever feed moldy grain. Moldy hay can cause abortions , stomach issues and possibly death . However , as my dairy friend said , sometimes in a wet climate you may not have much choice . But don't MAKE them eat it , have options available .
A good practice , is to walk the fence line of your enclosure often to be sure it is still secure . Goats look for weak or vulnerable points in fencing through which to escape . The old adage being , toss a bucket of water at your fence , if the water goes through so will the goat . So while this of course is going a little far , goats do love to escape . Though in my experience a happy goat , a well fed goat , doesn't feel the need to. Good preventative of escape is a good fence . If a 5 year old child can crush your fence by standing and climbing on it , so will the goat . The only fencing I am prepared to recommend , is recycled board fencing , boards placed 4" apart , or chain link , with plenty of posts and pulled tight to them . If you have a large pasture , you may have no choice but to use something like woven wire due to cost , but be aware , that they may break it , bend it , stuff their head through the holes and get stuck (especially if they have horns ) and small kids may fit through the bottom easily and escape . Watch for places your goat can slip under the fence . As this is how goats generally escape .
Latches and Gates
Gates should swing inward to avoid the goats pushing on them and bowing them out . Gates should be secured with a latch that goats with prehensile lips can't figure out how to work . This can mean securing them with a carbiener or a snap clip , as goats can learn to work most easy latches .
Goats need proper housing , a four sided structure , a door where they can be closed in at night . The house should be attached at least to a small yard where they can have free access in and out during the day . The structure needs to be large enough that the goats can comfortably move around in it during rainy days because goats hate the rain . The structure needs to be dry inside as goats can easily get pneumonia , a wet goat is a dead goat . The shelter should be well ventilated but not drafty .
There are many types of flooring you can choose from inside the barn . We chose a board flooring as I had already had tried a dirt floor and found it too difficult to maintain a healthy environment . We clean the inside of the barn and the yard daily , using either a 7"plastic shrub rake or a scraper with a shovel to scoop . You don't want your goats eating in their own manure , as it encourages parasites . Goats as a rule don't like to eat off of the ground , a God given gift that allows them to stay healthier . All manure cleaned up goes directly to the garden plot in fall and winter .
We personally do not use bedding on the floor , as we've found the goats try to eat it , and it is much easier to clean without it . If you use bedding , we recommend using grass hay , the same hay they are being fed . If straw is used , they will eat it , and it has little nutritive value . Do not use wood chips , as the goats may eat them , and this could lead to digestive problems .
Face your structure doors away from prevailing winds and blowing rain when possible . Where we live most storms come from the west or the south , so we try to face doors to the east or the north to avoid the pen becoming over wet .
Herd Dynamics and Breeding
Every goat herd has a leader , a "herd queen " If males are present , around half of the time , they will be dominant even over the dominant female . The female with the most kids seems to be more often followed as the leader , though not necessarily dominant ,her kids follow her , and goats tend to follow one another ,so if most of the goats are following one particular goat ,then others tend to follow the herd . Herd dominance can follow these lines as well , and herd rank does seem to involve having kids .If a doe does not kid , she seems to lose rank in the herd .
Every fall during breeding season , there is a struggle in the herd for supremacy , to re-stablish dominance and for some to advance in the order of things , which gives the doe ,and her new kids when they're born , a better position in the herd . Herd dominance is continually being reasserted . The queen enforces the rules , namely where everyone feeds , ie , not in her feeder , and her feeder , is whichever feeder she chooses to feed at . She charges in , and most of the time , the goats scatter to a different feeder , or in some cases a different room entirely as our barn has multiple rooms , so that a room can be closed off when needed for privacy of birthing and mother kid bonding.
Herd rank isn't necessarily ruled by size of the goat . The largest goat isn't always in charge. I have seen a 30 lb knee high buck back down a 120 lb waist high wether , and make him cry and run because he was being mean to him , kicking him out of feeders etc. Our smallest milk doe , is dominant over all but the top 3 goats . You can tell heirarchy when you are feeding and particularly feeding grain . We feed grain individually , and let each doe out to have her turn , even when not in milk.
Everything you do for your goats , like milking , and grain reception , should be done according to herd rank . Watch herd dynamics for changes. If a goat is crowding the door , demanding to be let out ahead of certain others , butting them when they approach , let her go ahead of the goats she is beating back , as this signifies herd rank . In our herd , we had 2 herd queens , the retired herd queen retired after her last kidding season , though she continued to milk for years . She had the respect of queenship , but she didn't have all of the work . The secondary herd queen , was beating all of the others back , and Lucy was relaxing in her retirement . When the secondary herd queen had a tough kidding season , involving triplets , the original herd queen took it back , because she was unable to do her job. Our herd queen was the oldest member of our herd , though the herd queen isn't always the oldest or the biggest or the strongest , just the spunkiest .
The herd queen seems to keep the balance , the herd seems to draw comfort from the presence of authority . I once watched the herd spook and run in a panicked stampede away from their grazing area and toward the barn . And the herd queen stopped the senseless panic . She turned the herd by stopping right in the middle of the stampede and challenged the second in rank , rearing up on hind legs , and offering to butt heads . The whole herd of panicked does stopped to watch the queens fight .
Goats can get into pretty good scuffles , especially around breeding season ,(sept-may )We find our are more like aug-Dec. they butt heads together , and they end up with little bald spots on top of their heads like a friar , sometimes even a little bloody spot . When its the daughters of the head queens , we call these the princess wars. Dominant goat's offspring are aware of their mother's rank , and they are trying to battle it out , in this case a competition to see who the real princess is .Most goat tiffs need no intervention and they will work it out themselves , a squirt gun can be held handy as my goat mentor told me , to break up any real disagreement .
Goats are a herd animal and are more at their ease and comfortable in a herd . We learned when we got our nigerian buck , and placed him in his pen , that he would cry and cry , so we put a friend in there for him . Every buck needs either another buck or a wether for a friend to avoid the pain of a life separated from the herd . After we added a second goat to the pen , the 2 goats cried together , though they did cry less. Then , when we added a third goat , they stopped crying and felt satisfied . So we adopted a saying , two's company , three's a herd . As we tell people , we will sell you a goat , just one , (some people will sell goats only in pairs because they are a herd animal ) But we sell in singles with the caution that they will be lonely and need a lot of attention . Most people end up changing their mind after buying a single and find it is in fact necessary to come back and buy their goat a friend .Goat friendship generally runs along family lines but the relationships can be very complicated, a combination of friend and enemy at times, what we call frenemies.
A goat can make a good companion for lots of different kinds of animals , horses in particular , goats have often been kept with horses . The saying got your goat , comes from the fat that race horses , sometimes had a goat companion that travelled with them , and if you wanted to mess up the horse for a race , you would steal the race horse's goat friend . While you can keep mixed herds , the goat's best companion is another goat . They speak the same language , are encouraged to eat better , and certainly thrive when they are in herds , even if it is a mini herd .
Herd queens and dominant goats , seem to form defensive lines when predators are present . Once we had the opportunity to observe this for ourselves ,as there was a 180 lb bear stalking the goats from an elevated root ball of a fallen tree , and staring into the goat pen . The top ranking females did not call for a retreat into the barn . They seem to be aware that they can be trapped inside , they don't go in when there is a threat ,but stay outside . The lead does formed a front line of defense standing shoulder to shoulder .Every goat standing alone but together, as the British did in the American revolution,which gave the Americans the upper hand as we hid in the trees. Lower ranking does and kids stayed behind them . They stood and sneezed , which is their alarm call , and kept their eyes on the bear .
If you listen to your herd , they will often warn the presence of danger , watching the perceived threat with ears pricked forward , tails up (a sign of dominance) hackles sometimes raised , just as with one another in a dominance fight . They will sneeze , blowing a pretty loud blast out of their nostrils , and stamp their feet . Had we not been watching and listening to the signs , the bear may have had the opportunity to do much more than he did. Goats have no natural defense against predators even if horns are left intact . You are their defense , and as their shepherd , there well being is your top priority.
Just a note to new goat breeders ,do not breed if you do not intend to go in to pull out the kid if the doe in labor needs assistance, do not depend upon a veterinarian to do it for you as a veterinarian may not be available at the time.
For seasonal breeders , breeding season begins in september and ends in may ,though it can be shorter . Aseasonal goats like some pygmies and nigerian dwarf goats can breed all year round . Prime breeding season is october - november , the bucks are smelliest at this point as with deer and elk , this is called the rut . The does have their heaviest heat cycles at this time . A few weeks prior to breeding , get your buck built up on grain , topping out at 1 lb per day for a standard buck , 1/3 to half of that for miniatures . And start "flushing " the doe , giving her a full maintenance ration , 1 lb for standards , 1/2 lb for miniatures , this will increase fertility for both sexes .
Each doe comes into her heat cycle every 21 days , and remains in heat for about 2 days . Heat can be detected by clear liquid dripping from her swollen and pink vulva , persistent wagging of the tail , and sometimes vocalizing . If she has a buck nearby , she may go stand at the fence and wag her tail , for some reason feeling that he is attractive as he pees on his face and head the urine is testosterone filled and therefore attractive. The gland on the top of his head produces a sort of a really smelly oil which is difficult to remove from skin and clothing . Salsa works to remove it somewhat , (ask me how I know )But she just adores him .
If a buck is unavailable , or if you mean to use buck service (paying a buck owner to bring your in season doe to him for a fee) then you might obtain what is known as a buck rag from them , to help you percieve seasons . A buck rag is a piece of cloth rubbed on the buck to get his scent , especially up by his head . A doe who is in season will be interested , one that is not in season will be offended . Keep your buck rag in a ziploc or in a jar to keep his scent fresh . This is not fail proof . However nothing really replaces having a buck on hand for breeding season . It's much less guess work and much less hassle ,as you don't have to run the doe to him every time you think she may be receptive only to find she isn't .
The other option being to leave her with the buck for a cycle or two , the drawback being you have no idea when kids are due . We have tried it both ways and far prefer it to keep our own buck . This way we have easy access to him , and by watching our does closely , we usually know when they are in season . Some goats on rainy days won't go out to see the buck because goats hate the rain . You can also keep a teaser buck in your doe herd to try to assist with this . That would be a wether (a fixed male) who will often have courtship behavior toward in season does even though he is fixed .
By watching our does closely and knowing when they are in season , we only put them in with the buck for breeding , that way we know 145-155 days later , we will have a kid , and it takes the guess work out of it . We breed a miniature doe for the first time at 8 months old , and 35lbs for minis ,larger breeds will need to be bigger , research on the specific breed may be helpful before determining whether she is big enough to breed .They will typically only have one kid their first time as a mother. If you wait until their second year , they will usually have two .
Young does often have silent heat cycles and don't give good signs of being in season . Sometimes even when you take her in with the buck . Some will stand at the fence and wag their tail at the buck , others will insist they are not interested at all even in a full heat . A teaser buck can sometimes be used effectively on a first year doe , and she may be less intimidated by him and show good heat signs when he courts her , but other times if you want to insure pregnancy , you must witness a daily breeding for 21 days in a row to be sure she will kid in spring .
The buck's courtship includes urinating on himself , sticking out his tongue and wagging it at the doe , raising a foreleg to touch the doe , and chasing her with his head lowered while he whoops and hollers . Sometimes fighting with real or imagined rivals , challenging fences etc. A successful breeding needs to take place twice while the doe is in full heat and receptive to the buck . We breed them twice in a day , two breedings per time , and try not to allow the doe to urinate right away , or that can negate the breeding . If she is still in season the following day , we breed her again .
If the breeding has taken and the doe is pregnant , 21 days later when she would have come into season again , there should not be any heat signs , if there is , then breed the doe again . However , up to 10 days through the 21 day span , the doe may come back into a mini heat, whether she is pregnant or not and may show moderate heat signs , but she's usually not very receptive to the buck . You might look for a white plug in the vulva one or two days after a successful breeding to be sure she is bred, though this doesn't always take place . 3 months into the pregnancy , kids can be felt kicking on the doe's right side ,the left side is the stomach . So always feel on the right side , just in front of the udder . You can sometimes accurately predict multiples by feeling kicks in different places on the doe.
Preparing to kid
During pregnancy and before kidding , is a great time to acclimate your young doe to the milk stanschion . A doe already trained to the stanschion will make things much easier on you both when it's time to milk her . Train her to stanschion by letting her see you put the grain in the bin attached to the milk stanschion ,call her name , encourage her to jump on the stanschion . You may have to place grain on the stanschion , and then closer and closer to the feed dish with a very timid doe , or lift her up there and show her the grain in the dish . Once she grows comfortable eating in the dish on the stanchion , over a period of days , start closing her neck in the stanschion head hold so that she is restrained . She may panic , but should go back to eating grain again. Acclimate her to what will happen on the stanscion later when she needs to be milked . Brush her , and simulate all the steps of milking so she will not be as liable to protest as strongly when she is milked for the first time .
During the last few weeks of pregnancy if your does are not already on a ration of 16% protein grain , put them on it . And also give them a couple of tums per day , tums provides the necessary calcium to build up mom and to avoid / prevent milk fever (hypocalcimia) We feed our does on the stanschion at this time to retrain the veterans to the milking routine . We use the same herd rank system as during milking time . Everything should be done according to rank . Goats like routine and consistency , they love to know what will happen next , as it is comfortable and comforting to them .
As kidding dates approach , does will grow more and more uncomfortable as tummies expand . Udder growth will take place , in fighting in the herd will often peter out , as it seems things are more settled , which is good , as being butted by another goat in the belly is the number one reason a doe might miscarry . Another reason for miscarriage can be feed related , moldy hay , or feed , or eating pine boughs , also of course a number of diseases and std's can cause miscarriage . Does which don't like dogs will grow even more aggressive toward them as their time draws near .
In the days leading up to kidding , your doe may pick a corner that she has decided to give birth in , she may stand with butt in the corner guarding it and driving out goats that try to come near . She may grow very affectionate with close friends and relatives or with you . 4-6 hours before kidding , she may groom other does kids where before she would push them away . We have one who steals her sister's kids during this time , encouraging them to nurse etc.
You should have a birthing kit ready in days leading up to birth . Your kit should contain : sterile gloves , paper towels to wipe away the initial goo around the kid's nose and mouth particularly but also initial wipe down of it's body (keep these away from the doe , she may eat them ) , a bath towel , a heat lamp for the new kid , oil lube for lubricating around the doe in case she is having a tough time pushing it out , or if you need to go in .Unflavored dental floss for tying umbilical cords , tie one inch from the body . Use blunt tip scissors or medical scissors for cutting the cord just below where you tied it . Use iodine for placing on the cord 2-3 times a day during its first couple days . Have a nose bulb so you can suction baby's nose and mouth . We have a lamb puller and a soft cord if we need it to help get baby out . Have on hand a calcium drench (we use cmpk ) and keto nia drench , and a drench syringe or a large syringe with catheter tip if you will be using preventative drenches . Have a baby monitor available if possible so you can listen for your doe if she needs you . You should also prepare a birthing room if possible , which can be closed off from the rest of the herd in the barn .
Labor and Kidding
At day 145 , her first possible birthing day , start placing the doe in her special room at night only , so she remains part of the herd during the day , but has the comfort of a secluded place to be in case she kids at night . Hang the water bucket higher or have a small one gallon bucket so kids can't fall in and drown . Put the doe's best friend in the birthing room with her for company . Give them good hay , kid proof the birthing room and the main goat pen , looking for holes baby can go through 4 inches or larger , and cracks tiny feet can get stuck in and legs broken . Some does seem to go on about day 150 , but you don't need to worry if they go all the way to the end of the spectrum at day 155 . Those with multiples more toward the earlier date .
Signs of labor include , vocalizing , restless , pawing in the corner , looking back and touching their stomach with their nose and talking to it . They may groom you or their goat friend , they may try to steal other does kids , or display nervous eating . Later in the labor , they won't be able to stand up against the wall on hind legs , they'll stop eating and chewing their cud , they will grow increasingly anxious and nervous . Sometimes they will call out and complain when you leave the barn . They may grind their teeth , smack their lips , and press their head in a corner , walk stiff legged , lay down , get up , etc .
At first signs of labor drench with keto nia and calcium , and repeat again 6-12 hours after the birth , if she is not already in her birthing room , put her in there . Do not leave the property at this point , watch for signs of physical contractions , her hind end will suck in , tail will arch , sometimes the back will arch , when you see them a few minutes apart , don't leave the barn . When they are finally ready , they will settle in a corner , almost never with front legs folded completely under them as usual , but they will brace themselves , back legs against the wall if they can . They will curl their lip in pain , and they will eventually start to push .
Remove their pen mate at this point as they will be irritating to the doe. Some does kid standing up , some laying down . At any point here a long string of goo may start to hang out , while pushing , a bubble may appear if it doesn't burst internally first , with a gush of liquid coming out . The bubble will be like a baby goat in a snowglobe . The doe may scream in pain as she struggles to produce the head . She will sometimes get up and run around , then lie down again repositioning , the bubble or the kid may go back in several times before it's out enough and the doe is settled enough to push .
Correct kid presentation will be two hooves and the kid's nose between them . Also acceptable is two back hooves . Incorrect presentation could be a tail and no feet , or a head and one hoof , or just a head , anything but normal presentation will require repositioning for the kid to be born correctly . If you have to go all the way in , a doe will need a course of antibiotics as a precaution .
In normal presentation , carefully take baby by the two feet , bursting the bubble if necessary , pull only with contractions . Help the head be born by gently working it through the opening , working back the flesh which you have previously oiled or lubed . After the head is born , the kid will slide out easily , with or without contractions .Clear baby's nose and mouth immediately with paper towels ,and use a nose bulb on the nose and in the mouth,if necessary hold the kid by its back legs and swing it supporting the rib cage with your other hand this helps swing out some of the amniotic fluid, as mom might be in a daze at first , particularly if she is still in labor with another kid .
You can tell delivery is imminent , when visible contractions (the vulva sucking in visibly ) are a few moments apart , delivery should be within the hour . Once she's down and pushing , if she's had no result , and will allow you to approach , do a finger check , place 2 gloved fingers inside the opening , and see what you feel. If its a bubble and she's still straining with no result , you can burst the bubble and check the presentation . Do not be shy to do a finger check , or to reach just the hand in , many kids have died because their owner was too timid . Based on what you find , proceed as stated , deliver with the contractions according to how it's presented . With any presentation correct or not , if baby is not out in 30 min. to an hour of hard labor with your assistance , consider calling a vet
Ring Womb / Failure to dilate during Labor
It is possible for a doe to start into labor , and then when she is not making progress to discover that the cervix has not dilated , that you can only get a couple fingers in , which is not a large enough opening for the kid to pass through , if this occurs , if it is an actual case of ring womb the only option is a c- section , but if it is false ring womb , stretching the cervix can help it open so that the birth can procede . Use some lube vegetable oil is fine , go in and try to encourage the cervix to open. In between contractions , insert a couple of fingers into the opening , be gentle , but apply pressure , and travel around the cervix . Hopefully as it begins to open you will be able to get more fingers in , keep adding more fingers and working slowly around the cervix until you can get your hand inside , this process takes some time , but keep working on it if you can see that you are successfully widening the opening . Be patient it could take 30 minutes. If you have been doing this 45 minutes and have made no progress , the doe needs a c -section or intervention by a vet .
If the uterus is torn during labor this is a dire situation for your doe . Though some people have said that small tears may heal up , or the vet may be able to help , from our research , most cases of torn uterus will not end well . If you are sure the goat has a torn uterus , you will probably need to consider putting the goat down to make sure they don't suffer . If there is still a baby inside stuck when you put her down , you will need to make an incision and get the baby out within only a couple minutes to have any chance of saving its life .
During pregnancy and before kidding , is a great time to acclimate your young doe to the milk stanschion . A doe already trained to the stanschion will make things much easier on you both when it's time to milk her . Train her to stanschion by letting her see you put the grain in the bin attached to the milk stanschion ,call her name , encourage her to jump on the stanschion . You may have to place grain on the stanschion , and then closer and closer to the feed dish with a very timid doe , or lift her up there and show her the grain in the dish . Once she grows comfortable eating in the dish on the stanchion , over a period of days , start closing her neck in the stanschion head hold so that she is restrained . She may panic , but should go back to eating grain again. Acclimate her to what will happen on the stanscion later when she needs to be milked . Brush her , and simulate all the steps of milking so she will not be as liable to protest as strongly when she is milked for the first time .
instructions for delivering kids with incorrect positioning below the videos
Goat Labor Pre Birth Behavior Nell ^^^
Goat Birth Nell ^^^
Special Instructions for delivery stuck kids and kids with incorrect positioning
Large kid / large head but correct presentation of a head and 2 front feet ;
To remove a large kid , use practical knowledge of how you would get into or out of a tight place if it was you personally stuck . First try using an outward and down pulling action . Try pulling to the left or the right so the kid goes through at an angle .Assist by pushing the skin of the vulva upward toward the rectum , this is most helpful when the kid is stuck in the pocket below the tail . If this doesn't work , try drawing one leg out , and pushing the other back just to the start of the opening , then push the skin of the vulva back and try to get the head through , then pull out the other leg and pull out the kid , once the head is through , the rest should be easy. You can also try pulling side to side the same way we would wiggle from side to side to get out of a tight space . You can put the doe on her belly on top of a hay bale front legs over one side , back legs over the other suspended to stretch her body out some , giving you more space to work the kid free .
Head and one leg back
You can use a lamb puller or a soft rope tucked behind the kid's ears , around inside the mouth. Attach another soft rope to the one foot that's extended , push the head and the leg back in, just far enough for you to get your hand around in there . Reach down , find the second leg , carefully extend it , and bring it forward with the other leg and head . You're using the lamb puller or cords so that you don't lose the leg you have and or the head and you have a way to get it back . You can lay the doe on the same side as the leg that was out properly so that the turned back leg is upward , this makes it easier to manipulate the leg .
Head and no feet presented
Attach a lamb puller , same as above , push the head in far enough to get your hand in , bring the legs up one by one into position , hooves pointing outward with the nose , if you can't get your hand past the head , put her on a hay bale with the rear more up than the front and try again once you have the feet , then pull the kid out as normal.
2 feet no head
This presentation is extremely difficult , and often cannot be rectified without a vet or without surgical removal , by all means do try , we have seen this only a couple times in over 13 years and over 200 kids . In the end we did remove the kids on our own without a vet's intervention , but only after they were dead , and one had to be dismembered and in all cases the mother had a torn ueterus.
To attempt to deliver the kid place a lamb puller or soft rope one around each of the front legs , push them back , find the head , try to pull it forward ,nose facing out , pull downward gently on the legs with the cord, keeping ahold of the head , you aren't able to have two hands inside , so you are using the cord as your second hand . If the head does not come easily , it may be too big , or the kid could be on it's back , you may have to push it back and turn it so the legs are pointed normally ie faced downward , then you may be able to pull it out .You may consider putting a noose over the kids lower jaw or around the head behind the ears and through the open mouth,though this can be difficult at best, in an attempt to prevent the head from turning back again when it is pulled forward.However do not be surprised if it cannot be pulled out ,sometimes this presentation occurs when the kid is dead. Do not attempt to turn the kid all the way around to get the back legs instead as the doe may tear.If you can't get the kid out and she is in hard labor for 30 minutes to an hour , consider calling a vet because your doe is in big trouble at this point.
Hind feet only
This is widely considered a normal position and can be born easily , but also can get stuck at the rib cage . If it becomes stuck , wiggle left to right until it's past the rib cage . When it is past the ribcage pull the kid out quickly so that the cord will not get pinched which is dangerous for your kid .
Tail no feet (Breech)
You can use a hay bale for this , reach in , push the kid all the way back in , reach under , find the hind legs , one by one bring each foot forward into the canal . Take care not to be too rough as you could tear the ueterus.When the legs are out , pull out and down , she will need antibiotics with this maneuver .
Coming out sideways
With this presentation , you won't see anything , she will be pushing , with no result . Reach in , you may feel the back or the rib cage , try to find 2 legs , if you can determine back legs , back legs are better . Use the legs to direct and turn the body , and pull out as described above . If you grab the front legs , you'll have to help the head come as well , this is more difficult . If it's upside down , you may have to do a slight turn to turn it right side up .
This could be twins , or it could be one kid , all 4 legs . You can deliver either by grabbing the hind legs and delivering backward , or grab the front legs and pushing back the back legs , you'll have to help the head come . You can attach a lamb puller to the legs before you push them back to position the head . If its twins coming together , locate the 2 feet that belong to the same kid by tracing it back inside the doe until you find where the legs attach , tie onto the 2 front feet of the one kid and push back the other kid , then escort it out of the canal , then deliver the second kid.
Twins , one backward , one correct position Or two backward
Pull out the backward one first , if both are backward , just pull the closest to the opening , checking to be sure both legs belong to the same kid , then pull the second kid .
Twins coming together
If you detect twins coming together,ie multiple feet or heads,push back one and deliver the other.If one twin has presented poorly and you have had trouble extracting it or determine it is dead,consider to deliver the non problematic twin first.
Dismembering a kid
Obviously no one wants their birth to end in this way, but sometimes there is no choice when the kid cannot be removed in another way and the mothers life is at risk. Plainly this should be a last resort and you will lose the kid for sure and possibly the doe still. To proceed, deliver one shoulder, cut free, the shoulder is attached by muscle alone. Attempt delivery,if it won't come, remove the other shoulder. Another version, particularly to resolve head back is to deliver the curved neck,insert a knife and cut off the head. Be careful with the knife in either case not to cut the doe and do not insert in the does vulva.The doe may tear on her vulva due to this procedure,and she may go into shock,treat with antibiotics and for shock.
Contracted tendons / muscles
Sometimes , particularly if a baby has been stuck a prolonged time , they may be born with their legs contracted , a shot of oxytetracyline (LA-200) might help aid in a quick recovery , and the legs may start to relax after 24 hours . A kid may also simply be weak or selenium deficient . A dose of selenium and vitamin E gel , OR BoSe may be helpful , but read directions and dose very carefully , it can be very toxic if overdosed . If the problem persists with leg problems after birth , you may need to consider splinting the legs . (Note : if you choose to use BoSe , you will need a veterinary prescription )
OK , so you have cleared baby's nose and mouth immediately with paper towels whatever position he might have been born in . First time mothers need to be monitored closely and you should try to be there at every birth , but especially with a first time mother , as she won't know what has happened , and will need help to get the kid out of the sack before it suffocates . Dry the kid with a towel and a hairdryer if desired .Some does take exception to the sound of the hair dryer and are disturbed. Tie off the umbilical cord with unflavored dental floss ,about 1 '' to 1 1/2" from the tummy. Cut the cord just below the tie , treat with iodine , retreat 3 times a day for 3 days in a row and watch for signs of infection . If the cord snapped back short and is bleeding or pooling , ( if we feel it is too short we don't tie it off . ) You may have some success at pinching the cord with your fingers for a couple minutes to stop bleeding , keep a close eye on it to make sure the bleeding doesn't start again . Give the kid back to its Mom , and turn on a heat light with cord safely hung out of mom's reach and make sure the bulb is high enough that it won't hit her if she walks under it .
If the mother is done giving birth , and it has been a half hour or so and no signs of further pushing , you can bump her to be sure there is no other kid inside . Do this by placing both hands under her tummy and pressing upward , let the stomach fall back down into your one hand . If there's a kid still left inside , it should feel like a baseball hitting your hand . If there is no kid , clean up the dirty bedding from labor , give fresh bedding so the kids an get to their feet without slipping in fluid that may still be on the floor .
The doe will usually get to her feet , start talking to her kids , which will eventually stand to their feet , and try to nurse everywhere but where they should . You can encourage them onto a teat if you like , hold the kid and the teat , squirt out the first bit of milk , this will break the seal on the teat , making it easier for kids to nurse . It is essential for them to get colostrum as soon as possible .
Nursing stimulates contractions to expel the afterbirth , they expel this a couple of hours later , and it is generally a good sign that she is really done kidding . She may or may not consume it . Try to be sure you see that it is delivered ,and not retained internally . Discard it when you find it , safely away from predators . If the afterbirth is retained , or you have reason to believe it is , sometimes you'll see a little bit of it hanging out , then treat with a 7 day course of antibiotics , our antibiotic of choice for this is LA 200 injectable , penicillin can also be used . The kids will usually sleep under the heat light for only the first day or two , after this unless it's really cold we turn it off.
If you have reason to believe that there has been a retained dead kid that you are not able to get out , you may need to consult a vet.
Practice video delivering a stuck kid with big head
Multiple kids can be a challenge . Does can manage 2 or 3 kids , though 3 is hard , as she only has 2 teats to nurse them on . If you decide it's best for the kid and doe to take away a kid or 3 in the case of quints , milk colostrum from the mom , and start them on a bottle on the first day , some kids refuse the bottle flat out . We normally try to leave kids with Mom and just bottle supplement to make sure they are getting enough , this way if there's one or even two that will use the bottle it's not a big deal. If the kids must be pulled for their own good ,such as a Mother is violent with her kids , or in the case of illness or death of the Mother, or if you simply feel it is too overwhelming , we had to do so when our lowest production doe dropped quads , if the kids won't take a bottle , try covering their eyes with your hand it simulates being under the mother. If they still simply won't take the bottle try them on another lactating doe placing her on a milking stanschion , so she can't refuse the kid . Give her grain and let the kid nurse, though not too long as they can get the milk scours (diarrhea ) repeat this often , feeling tummies to be sure they are staying full . Some kids are so stubborn you will possibly need to use this method with a doe on a stand , but also keep in mind that you will need to be patient when teaching a baby to take a bottle , it can be hard at first for them to get the hang of it , be persistent .
Just a word of caution if you are making a decision whether or not to actually pull a kid from it's Mother to bottle raise . Be aware of the consequences before doing this . Baby goats need the social presence of other goats . Bottle babies have a tendency to be disrespectful and they don't always follow social cues or rules , and this can make them an outsider in a goat herd , especially if they have not been around the herd enough . Without the nurturing of a goat Mother , bottle babies also sometimes may be effected in their own future motherhood . We have seen this happen in our own herd . The worst Mother we ever had was raised as a bottle baby . We have also had some bottle babies that made good Mothers , but they sometimes seem lacking in a deeper connection when compared to Dam raised goats . There can also be physical consequences to a baby goat being pulled and bottle raised .There can be a size difference from other kids their age , either larger or smaller . If you are bottle raising in the house , be aware that their lungs are very sensitive , being indoors too much can make them develop something similar to stable cough . Baby bucks can get confused if they have been raised a bottle baby , they can be hesitant as adults to breed does . We had this happen when a gorgeous little blue eyed buck fell in love with us and didn't seem to have any use for female goats . Unless you have to pull a baby goat to bottle raise it is not necessarily the best for the baby to pull it . If you do pull it , you may find you end up with a better result to leave it with the herd , and take bottles out to the baby .
If kids cry during bottling they may be angry or afraid ,this may be due to too much or too little milk flow, check the hole in the nipple to be sure you're getting proper flow. If bottle raising , raising on goat's milk is best , but next best is whole cow's milk (with the red cap ) from the store . Many formulas do not work well for kids .
Bottle feeding is variable for each individual kid , some seem to need more than others do .Feeling the tummy to make sure its firm , but not sunken or too full . There are many bottle feeding charts to be found online , but the best luck we've had has been to follow a percentage rule , feed a percentage of milk to the body weight of the kid or lamb . Percentages may range from 10% -15%- 20% . You will need to keep an eye in your babies weight , which is a good idea even if they are nursing on their Mother so that you can spot babies that may need supplementation if they are not gaining weight . Again , baby will need Colostrum for the first 24 hours .
Do not heat milk in the microwave . Heat the milk in a pan on the stove , or submerge your bottle in hot water . Your target temperature is the same as goat's body temperature , about 102-103 degrees . Do not feed milk to a baby who has a low body temperature , warm the kid to a normal body temperature first , then feed .
1.Feeding frequency will need to be every 2 hours around the clock for at least the first 24 hours
2.First week 5-6 bottles a day
3.2-4 weeks 4 bottles a day
4.4-8 weeks 3 bottles a day
5.8-10 weeks 2 bottles a day
6.10-12 weeks 1 bottle a day
If you decide to wean earlier than 12 weeks just adjust this a bit for a faster draw down . We do not recommend weaning before 8 weeks .
10%-15%-20%. OVER A 24 HOUR PERIOD
Start out with one of the lower percentages and adjust from there .
Examples - a 4lb. Baby (64oz.) at
10% would get 6.4 oz per day split between feedings at appropriate frequency over the whole day.
15% would get 9.6 oz per day split between feedings at appropriate frequency over the whole day.
20% would get 12.8 oz per day split between feedings at appropriate frequency over the whole day.
So again using that 4 lb baby as an example , if he is under a week old and you decide 15% is working
well for him , and you are still doing 5 bottles a day as per frequency chart , you would be
dividing that 9.6 oz into 5 parts , (9.6 divded by 5 = 1.92) each bottle is only going to be 1.92 oz .(I would do 2 in this case to make it easy )
Checking weight and frequency needs based on age often , you will be adjusting this and doing the math constantly . I recommend using a calculator to help you .
Adding a little pinch of baking soda to the first bottle of the day can help keep baby's tummy settled , some do this and some don't . Baby will be constantly acting hungry , but be very careful because this is just how they are . Do not give in , keep to your schedule and amounts , do not exceed 20% of your babies weight in milk each day . Overfeeding is one of the leading causes if death and illness of baby goats , make sure you stay to the charts and don't reduce the number of bottles per day giving more milk per bottle when the baby is too small to handle it . This can result in overfed baby / floppy kid syndrome , found in the health section.
First days with Kids , Milking and more
Kids will start playing and romping their first day born , check the sex of your new goats . A hole and a slit on the backside (2 holes) is a female , it is the same on a goat as on a dog , one hole (rectum) on the backside is a male . Weigh your new kids ,record their weight on their health sheet , having a health sheet for all of your goats gives you something to reference , and gives you credibility with future buyers . Record date of birth , markings , parentage etc on this sheet , as well as all future treatments and medications . If the kid is a female , count the teats , be sure there are only 2 teats . If she will be a milk goat in the future , you may have to look into removal of any extra (supernumirary) teats .
Make sure the kid is peeing and pooing . The first kid poo is very sticky , and you may have to clean up the bum afterward if the mother doesn't do it . The doe needs to be de wormed right after kidding , we use ivermectin horse wormer orally , off label for our goats , dosing the goat at 3 x what's recommeded for a horse by weight , ie a 50 lb goat would be wormed as if she were 150 lbs , this is to be sure that it gets through the rumen . De worm the goat again in 10-14 days , this is vital , it catches any worms that may have migrated from the lungs , if you don't reworm , the animal can go down when the worms come back with a vengeance . Deworming after a birth is crucial as the doe is in distress , and parasites may take advantage of her system being low . We do not deworm often , only once or twice a year , so that the worms won't become immune to the de wormer . The doe may have birthing fluid discharge still for a couple more weeks , you may have to trim the hair on her tail because of the bloody discharge . All after care for the doe will be the same even if she miscarries rather than delivering full term .
In the first days , the kids will begin playing with and nibbling hay , have hay available from day one . Leave the kids and Mom alone in the birthing room together to bond for for 2-3 days . The kid gets it's feet under it , and it avoids the doe panicking when she joins the herd too soon . During the first day or 2 an orphaned goat may be introduced to a doe that has just delivered , and she may accept it . Does don't like other doe's kids as a rule , and they will try to stop their kids playing with them . They will give this up in time , but they may still discipline other doe's kids , by nipping a tail or ear if they are annoying her .
At around 5 days and no later than 7 days , you will need to disbud the kid . See details on disbudding below . The first few days after the birth , limit the doe's intake of grain , because her system can't handle it . A couple of days after kidding start the doe on a maintenance ration of grain , plus a milk ration , see graining section above for amounts . At 14 days old , the kid's rumen comes in . If you plan to milk the mother for your own use , the colostrum taste is out of the milk . Some people drink colostrum for their health , but it has a flavor I don't care for , so I sample the milk to be sure it doesn't taste like colostrum before I begin milking for my use .
We do not recommend pulling the kids to bottle raise so that you can have the milk , as it can remove the doe's natural mothering instinct , and can leave the kid mentally maladjusted though friendly . During the first few days after birthing , the doe may be overfull in her udder and uncomfortably tight , you can milk a little off for her comfort , and in a few days the kids will be sucking her dry . If there is only one kid , be sure it is using both sides of the udder. If it is only nursing on one side , the other side will go dry if you don't milk it .
Put the kid away at night at 14 days in order to get some milk in the morning before reuniting them . We used to put kids away at 10 days on recommendation of our goat mentor , but discovered at 14 days the rumen is coming in . As they can eat hay more efficiently now , they won't cry as much . Be sure the kid is using the water bucket before shutting them away . We recommend a short bucket so they can't fall in . You should start hand feeding grain to aid in growth , once they get the hang of it , place grain in with them . We use purina medicated goat grower , 16% protein . Screaming and crying is normal with kids shut away , this must be gotten used to , it's part of the weaning process . You can place them in with an older kid , or a dry doe as their comfort , to minimize their crying and stress .
Having put the kid away , the doe's udder will be full the next morning . Do not let her wait more than 12 hours from separation from the kid to be milked .Examine her overall health while in the stanchion . Brush her with a soft horse brush , this removes loose hair or debris so it won't fall in your milk , and also discourages external parasites like lice . After a doe has been brushed and is munching on her grain , (give her half of her daily ration in the a.m. and half in the p.m ) using a bucket of warm water , with a drop or two of mild dish detergent , and about a cap full of bleach (this takes the place of udder wash or teat wipes etc) wash the doe's udder and teats with a soft cloth , use a dry cloth to dry her . Now take a container , this is called a strip cup , place it under the doe , and prepare to milk off a couple of squirts from each teat . The first couple of squirts are bacteria laden and should be discarded . Goat's milk on average has far less bacteria than cow's milk , but still , examine the strip milk for anything unusual . Look for stringiness , cheesiness , or blood that may indicate mastitis . Home cure for mastits is to feed the doe her own milk , over grain like cereal works well , or drench with her own milk orally .
If the milk has been determined to be normal , begin milking into your milk pail , the milk pail should be stainless steel , which does not impart off flavors as plastics and other metals do . You can milk one or two handed , in succession , or timed together . Milk at a rate of 60 squirts per minute to imitate the kid , and gently bump or massage the udder to drop more milk down intermittently .
To milk the doe , close or lock off the upper part of the teat by holding it between thumb and forefinger in the crook of tour hand, you will feel the pressure now lower in the teat , like a water balloon. Hold firmly , don't let it back flush , squeeze down in succession with your other fingers , and squirt it into the pail . If you are new to milking , don't worry if it squirts the wall , the stanchion , or dribbles down your arm . Don't grow discouraged , this is normal . In time you too will be aiming your squirts at the bucket accurately , or even into the cat or dog's mouth .
If the doe is a new milker , or sometimes even an experienced doe , it will need to be retrained for the new season . She may be resistant to being milk . She may kick at your hand and the bucket , jump up and down , and be trying to slip out of the head lock on the stanshion , she may also squat . These behaviors can be curbed or overcome by holding the back leg that she is kicking with , by holding the bucket and milking one handed , be ready to move the bucket from danger . If the doe steps in the milk it must be discarded . In order to discipline the doe for bad behavior in the stanshion , use the correction methods and discipline used in the herd. Grab the tail or grab the ear , you can milk one handed and hold an ear to remind to behave . You can lightly tap the leg she is kicking with . If she's squatting , hold her up with one hand and milk with the other . For a well behaved doe , milking the doe generally only takes around 5 minutes beginning to end . Sometimes around 120 squirts , I've counted . Bump the udder when she slows down . When it pretty well stops , and you can't get more by bumping , she is empty , or as close as you're going to get . Wash the doe's udder again and dry her , and remove her from the stanshion , giving her a little treat .
After kidding , the goat will continue to go up in production for a while , and as the kid grows up , she will slacken off on her milking . You may reduce grain as appropriate , leaving her maintenance ration , but reducing the allotment of grain based on how much milk she is giving as stated above . Be sure to keep her on grain while milking , she won't produce well , or sometimes not at all off of it . Keep an eye on your doe's condition , don't slacken off of grain if her weight is low . Check her weight using a thumb and forefinger along the spine by the shoulders , if it stands up in a high ridge she's underweight . Kids take a lot out of their mom , and she will spend the rest of the season recovering . 3 years old is her peak in production , after this she will give less milk . At around 4 years , some does begin to grow harder to recover body condition . And while retiring at 10 years is recommended and in order for the doe to live until 20 , hard keepers you may consider for early retirement , or to see if they will milk through , ours milked 7 years without a kid before she gave out on us and was well into her 18th year of age . They are only supposed to milk 10 months or so after kidding if you're lucky .
At weaning , all of the milk is yours . It is up to you to milk her every 12 hours without fail . The easiest way to lose milk is to milk late . The hour of day doesn't matter as long as it's 12 hours apart , the same times every day . Doe's should milk for up to 10 months , but toward the end of lactation cycle , she'll be producing little enough , that it won't be worth your time or grain to milk . We call it quits when she is giving less than 6 ounces twice a day.The goat will give an ascending amount of milk from birth to about 2 months,then she will give less and less.
To dry out the doe safely :
To dry off the doe take her off of her grain ,or severely limit it to what you need to use to get her through milking time, this will stop her production . Milk her halfway out the first day , and leave the rest. Milk as normal in the second milking of the day . The next day , only milk one time that day. And the next day , milk only once again , milk her half out only on one milking you will see her production dropping steadily if she is drying out . Now skip a day milking altogether . Do this a couple of times , then as long as she is drying out good (you're getting only a couple ounces a day ) quit milking her altogether . If you follow these proper protocols , your doe will dry out healthy . If you try to quit cold turkey or dry her too fast , she can become sick . If she is still milking well into fall , you may re breed and continue to milk her until 3 months into the pregnancy , at this point you will need to dry her out .
You may wish to wean the kid between 2 - 4 months , emergency weaning is at 1 month , only do this if you must . The longer the kid stays on the doe's milk , the bigger and stronger it will grow . For the sake of the doe's earlier recovery , we wean our kids at 2 months old.
Kids may appear to be being weaned by their mothers at 1 month or less old, though this may appear to be the case to the naked eye, it is not . When kids are first born and for a week or so , kids have free reign of the milk , after this time the mother begins giving them permission by lowering her head and giving them a certain look even from a distance . This causes them to run to them approaching from the front. The doe then touches the kid's tail to be sure it's hers while she relaxes and allows the milk to flow . As the kids grow older they will grow more and more insistent have milk on their own schedule , especially little boys . They may try stealing milk from their mothers or even other does . More and more the mother goat will only let them nurse in short spurts , and less and less often but this does not mean the kid is ready to be weaned away from its mother , while emergency weaning can be accomplished at 1 month old , that should only be done if it becomes necessary if either mother is ill or has died and kids won't take a bottle . If at all possible you should wait to wean at 2 to 4 months . Earlier weaning by a week or ten days won't generally hurt anything as long as the kid is doing well, but you must watch it closely for signs that it isn't . 4 or 5 or 6 weeks weaning is simply too young in this author's opinion .
Kids should be offered hay from day one.It is normal for kids to eat soil , try to be sure you have as clean a yard as possible to avoid worms and bacterial infections caused by this habit .
At around 1 to 2 months , kid's systems begin to transition to move to solid food . Scours (diarrhea ) may develop . Scours may only be stress , it may be dietary changes as they eat more solid food , but this is also prime time for Coccidia , When they are vulnerable and stressed you may see blooms of this dangerous protozoa in your kid population . If they actually have Coccidia you may see dark smelly diarrhea , kids off feed and lethargic , you may see them standing hunched over or hanging their head , There may even be blood In the stool . Caution though do not assume if there is no diarrhea its not Coccidia , it can present without diarrhea .
Coccidia preventative can be given starting at 3 weeks old , and every 3 weeks until the kid reaches 6 months old . We currently are using toltrazuril (baycox) , but in the past , we have used sulfamed with success , We do not recommend Corrid . We also do first worming at somewhere between 1 month to 6 weeks old , we use ivermectin , but this is controversial because it crosses the blood brain barrier , using horse paste , it will be a tiny measurement , you will dose at 3 x the rate per pounds as you would a horse , just as with adult goats , ie 10 lb kid recieves wormer for 30 lb . remember to re worm 10-14 days later . To measure wormer correctly , take off enough for say 100 lb , if its at 10 lb kid , you will split this approximately in 3 parts to acheive approx. 30 lb wormer dose each part .Coccdia prevention is necessary in our book , but many have stopped using it claiming that it builds immunity to medications . We feel that the benefit we have had has far outweighed the risk.
To wean the kid , we take the kid to spend the night in the wean pen earlier an earlier in the week before weaning . Then we take them to the kid pen / barn , a completely seperate pen with their own outdoor and indoor area from Mom and let them spend the night , do this for 3 days , bringing them back in the early afternoon to see Mom , then finally , don't bring them back to see Mom at all . The Mom and kid may call back and forth for a few days . Give the doe and kid extra comfort and attention at this time , this will bond the kid to people more now that it's missing its mother . You should also if possible have an older kid or young adult in with the kid herd , this stabilizes them , they don't cry as much , though they may still cry quite a lot . Babies are now ready for new homes , and you can now rehome them by advertising . We always seek homes for our kids that follow our care methods .
Coccidia Prevention and treatment instructions for Kids
If the kid is scouring and you are treating them for coccidia , make sure to keep them from dehydrating by providing water and administering electrolytes . You can also give vitamin B complex for support . And you can administer anti diarrhea medicine like kaolin pectin every 4 hours (5cc 0-5 lb) (10cc 6-15 lb) (15cc 16-30lb) (20cc over 30 lb ) , or Pepto bismol 2-5 cc for kids 10-15 cc for adult , or you can also use an antidiarrhea home remedy that has worked well for me in the past . I just call it sweetie mix , they love it and it really does help believe it or not . This really should be made fresh daily if you can , and I would give probably 12-20 cc to a kid several times a day depending on how big the kid is
Home remedy for Scours (diarrhea )
1 cup yogurt or Cultured buttermilk (I use our own goals milk yogurt)
1 raw egg
1 tsp unsweetened baking cocoa
1/4 tsp baking soda
Dollop of molasses
Electrolytes should also be given several times a day , but you should wait until about an hour after milk products
You can get animal electrolytes , Pedialyte , even Gatorade in a pinch if needed , but the sugars in there are not the best for them . Or again , the Home made alternative
Home made Electrolytes
1/2 gallon warm water
4 tablespoons of honey(light corn syrup in a pinch )
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
All of this stirred and dissolved , I keep it in the refrigerator for use over a few days then make fresh
Coccidia Meds and dosage
Toltrazuril (baycox) at a rate of 1 cc / ml per 5 lb - once every 3 weeks for prevention , but if you are treating a case of Coccidia , dose again 10 days after the first dose .
Dimethox 40%(sulfamed) injectable given orally first day - 1cc/ml per 5lb , day 2-5 1cc/ml per 10lb.
Dimethox 12.5%(sulfamed) given orally first day 3cc/ml per 5lb. ,day 2-5 3cc/ml per 10lb
Albon given orally first day 8cc/ml per 5lb. ,day 2-5 8cc/ml per 10lb
Again , we do not recommend Corid. If you have any other choice , use something else , Corid strips thiamine from the body and can cause goat polio . If you have no other choice , follow instructions carefully . DO NOT use vitamin B or thiamine while giving Corid ! But DO give fortified vitamin B complex for 5 days AFTER using Corid B complex 1 cc / ml per 20 lbs injected subcutaneous .
Corid dosing - 1cc / ml per 5lb (MUST BE DILUTED IN 4 PARTS WATER) given orally for 5 days . Note : Corid may burn going down .
Toys for adults and kids
Toys for enrichment should be provided in the kid pen . Think about things to leap on , as they are accustomed to using Mom as a jungle gym . They will leap on and off of her belly when she is lying down , or on her back while she is standing . Make ramps for goats to run up and down , platforms to stand or lay on , a teeter totter is one goats of all ages enjoy , a big black rubbermaid feeding tub in the yard is a great place to lay and soak in the rays of the sun .
Treats can be given to goats to train them or just for their enjoyment . Try not to give too much of anything new , especially be careful with anything that is sweet , even natural fruits , the sugars can throw the ph in their rumen off . Edible tree branches with the leaves on them , they love to eat the leaves and strip the bark and then rub their heads on them afterwards . Cut up fruits and veggies , they love watermelon and use each other as a napkin to clean off their faces , I've seen goats given too big a bite of apple use their goat friends , or most often one of their older kids as a table . They lean it against them while they eat it so it won't drop onto the ground . Goats hate to eat something that has been on the ground , and they won't eat after you , so don't try to share with them . You have germs and cooties according to most finicky goats ! Kids are a little more unsure when trying new things , and you may not find them as maliable as adults . Once they learn what they like , look out , they may try to knock you down to get it !
Teach your goat manners , you need to be respected as herd leader . Lower ranking goats don't jostle , trod on , or jump on , respected leaders . Don't allow goats to jump on you , just as you would train a puppy not to jump . It's cute at 8 lbs , not so cute at 60-100 lbs . Never encourage or allow your goat to push on you with it's head or butt you , again , cute when they are little , very serious when they are big . Lots of people have a story about why they don't like goats , because a goat that had big horns butted them when they were a child . To curb bad behavior , grab the ear , this simulates herd dominance tactics , where an ear will be bitten by a dominant goat , grab the tail , this is dominance too . You can take a twig , use your cleaning tool , tap /nudge the goat away , make sure they know its serious . If all else fails use a squirt gun , goats hate water .
Knowing your goat's behavior will assist you in determining what is happening in the herd and curbing bad behavior .
Raised Hackles = Afraid or dominant
Tail up = Afraid or dominant
Chewing cud = Relaxed feeling OK ( bringing up and chewing cud at a rate of 1-1.5 times per minute is normal )
Ears pricked forward = Interested
Goat with Straight ears (ears slightly limp and inclined downward) = Relaxed
Tooth grinding = Pain, chewing cud
Lip Curl = Smells / tastes something interesting usually taking it in to taste hormones , but can also mean pain like in labor
Head Butting = Dominant
Standing on hind legs at a goat or human = Dominant
Stamping feet = Afraid / nervous , possible predator
Sneezing = dust in the nose , or predator present , afraid , also bucks sneeze as part of courtship , it can be hard to tell the difference , look around and see if you see a predator or other behaviors that indicate predator presence such as lining up shoulder to shoulder and all looking in one direction .
^^^Dominance and Dynamics , Rank in your goat herd , You need to be the goat boss
First hoof trimming should take place at just 1 month old . Hooves should be trimmed every 2 weeks to 1 month for the rest of the goats life to avoid discomfort and damage . You can place kids or adults in a stanschion if you have one . Place grain in the grain bin and lock the head in . If stanchion won't be used, tie the animal high and tight or else place it between your legs at the goats middle for the front legs, around its hips if you will trim the back hooves.We use hoof shears / pruning shears by zensport . Trim the outer wall of the hoof away , on both sides of the frog , this will be more awkward on the inside between the toes . I point the shears toward the toe on the outside wall and toward the heel on the inside wall . Trim it even with the soft part of the hoof in the center called the frog , do this by gently folding the front leg back , support the leg in one hand by the ankle , scrape out any mud or debris so you can see the frog clearly . Be sure you do not pull the front leg too far outward from the body , as this can cause the muscle to tear . Hold the leg close to the animal's body . If it struggles , wait until it is still . You don't want you or them to get injured . To trim back hooves , hold the back leg backward from the animal supporting it at the ankle . Wait for the animal to stop kicking , and cut the back hooves there too .
Look for signs of hoof rot while working on hooves . This can come in the form of a foul smelling cheesy white substance , or a separation of the hoof wall , or a peeling away of the hoof or extreme overgrowth, however this can also be founder . In either case cut away the infection , treat with clorox bleach or hoof medication or home remedy of water with lavender and tea tree oil . Sterilize the hoof shear with bleach before moving on so you do not infect other hooves An overgrown hoof can become a serious discomfort as it grows over the frog .
Our first milk goat Lucy , came to us having been a brush goat , and no one having cared for her hooves . Due to probable founder , which is caused by stress and diet , she was wearing platform shoes , and nearly unable to walk . I would cut away at it steadily , until I could see pink on the frog , just before making it bleed . It has taken years and though much improved the circumstance is still not righted .
Shaping the hoof
If the hoof is grown to be too long and narrow , you can redirect it to broaden by nipping off just the very tip of the hoof . If by accident you cut your goat's hoof too close or at an angle , it may bleed . Cornstarch staunches bleeding , as does alum , stop bleed is commercially made for this purpose , and in a pinch a cobweb . Always keep a few hanging around the barn for these very sorts of emergencies . The goat may be tender footed for a few days and may bleed off and on during the first day , watch them to see if you need to stop the bleeding again . Take this as a learning experience and try to do better next time .
We castrate no sooner than 2 months old , they may be castrated as early as a few days old , but this is very bad for their longevity and health due to urinary calculi . Castrating at 2 months or later allows the urinary tract to develop , but you don't want to leave them so long that bad behavior ie "bucky" behavior develops or pregnancy results in your young doelings . As bucklings can be capable at 3 months . Try to castrate just before removing completely from Mom . This way they will have a day or two of Mom being there to comfort them . You can do open castration or just band the goat with an approved band used for this purpose , and a tool for stretching the band called and elastrator , this is bloodless , but you will have to watch for signs of infection around the band .When banding is used as a means of castrating young male goats , it can be expected to cause temporary pain before it goes numb , and the kid well scream , run around , shiver , act depressed , or in some kids there may be no reaction at all .
Pretreat the kid with baby aspirin or baby ibuprophen or banamine 15-30 min ahead (NEVER USE TYLENOL ) If you are going to give a tetanus anti toxin shot as a precaution , this is the time to do it , If you are going to vaccinate with a CD&T shot , that will need to be done ahead of time , you will need to consult vaccination schedules to know when . To band , you should soak the band in alcohol and daub alcohol around the testes before applying the band . Have an assistant hold the kid upright so that both testes are descended , otherwise you could end up with one retained inside the the body .Work the opened band around to the top of the sack , release it from the tool . This cuts off circulation and it pinches . Some goats cry and roll around , others act like it's no big deal.Check at the end of castration that they are both in the banded area, if not cut the band off carefully and band again.
When you move to castrate be sure there are two testicles in the sack, you can feel the separation between the two.If the goat is being held downward and there is still only one,the goat may only have been born with only one,or it may have retained one in the body cavity, which will require surgery or else be aware and make the new owner aware that it still may be a buck technically and may or may not be capable to impregnate females as well as having bucky behavior.
Why castrate ?
If you castrate you are going to have a pet worthy kid . You should only leave males intact if you plan to breed them yourself , or have a buyer for an intact buck . An intact male is not a good pet , and you may cost it a good home . A wethered male makes the best pet , and will live almost twice as long , because the rut is very hard on the buck , and is very stressful . Also you do not want intact bucklings in with your doelings , as unwanted pregnancy may result . We only had this happen one time , with two intact males we were keeping for breeding but had thoughtlessly left too long in with a doeling . The doeling was sold , and later thought to be pregnant . When we were asked if she could be pregnant , we did the math , and figured out she might have been . A very unfortunate and embarassing mistake , and not something you should do if you want to be known as a legitemate and responsible breeder .
A tale of Two Tontos : the difficulties of selling a buck
One year while selecting a buckling to keep for breeding , we selected one buckling , then far later into the season selected a second buckling we preferred , we named them both Tonto , Tonto One and Tonto Two , as they looked nearly identical except for one had floppy ears , by this time , the first buckling we felt was too large to fit through our bander , so we decided to simply sell him as a buck , 5 years later , one of the Tontos finally has been sold ... Know your market , do not keep unwanted bucklings intact . Market them for a short period only before weaning as intact , then wether them so you don't get stuck . Let your customer base know , to let you know if they want a buckling before a certain date when you will be castrating , if no takers , castrate .
You and you alone can make the decision of whether to vaccinate your goat . Most vaccinations recommended are for tetanus which goats can get via injury or at castration and disbudding ; and over eater's disease , which is caused by large quantities of usually grain being consumed and bacteria flourishing , these are covered by CD &T vaccine . Others are available , but these are what most people do . If you choose not to vaccinate , you can also keep anti toxins on hand in case these events do happen however prevention is easier than treatment.
CDT Vaccinations (toxoid)
2cc per goat regardless of weight or age
Administer by subcutaneous injection to the doe 30 days before kidding , then to her kids at 8-12 weeks old , boost 21 days later , then once yearly . If the doe was not vaccinated you can vaccinate kids at 7-21 days , boost 21 days later , then once yearly .
It takes toxoids / vaccines 10 days to take effect , And they are long term protection . So if you are in an immediate need use an anti toxin , which takes effect immediately and is a short term protection .
When would I use an anti toxin ?
Tetanus Anti toxin
⦁Castration / Banding
⦁Animal Attacks /Bites
⦁Puncture Wounds or Broken Bones
⦁If you Think a goat has Tetanus
Prevention dose is 5cc Injected subcutaneous regardless of animal's weight or age , additional meds may be needed if you are treating an active case of tetanus .
Active tetanus dose for treatment with tetanus anti toxin
Swine/sheep/goats 3,000 to 15,000 units (each vial contains 1,500 units) every 12 hours (until symptoms improve)
Penicillin: every 4 to 6 hours at 1 cc / 10 lb SQ (for a minimum of 5 days)
Banamine: 1 cc / 100 lb once daily (can be given every 12 hours if needed)
Vitamin C: 1000-3000 mg a day
When would I use a CD anti toxin ?
⦁Not chewing cud or Rumen not functioning
prevention dose is 10cc Adult goats weighing over 20lb injected subcutaneous , Treatment dose 20cc every 12 hours
prevention dose is 5cc kids weighing up to 20lb injected subcutaneous , Treatment dose 10cc every 12 hours
Disbudding / Horn Burning Baby Goats
by Sumer Starling
Why disbud ?
Goat owners have a lot disagreement on disbudding . Some goat owners believe horns can protect the goat from predators , this is not the case. Goats have no natural protection against predators . Your vigilance and proper predator control as their shepherd is their only defense . Other people don't disbud because disbudding can sometimes leave a scur (a partially grown back horn that will easily fall off at times) Scurs can grow in inconvenient and sometimes dangerous ways like back toward the head (but please note that these can be trimmed to keep them away from the head ,we use either the hoof shears or a small butcher's bone saw to trim horns , being careful around the eyes ) . Still others keep horns because they simply like the look .
In our opinion , the benefits of disbudding far out weigh the risks . Horns are dangerous to your goat , and other goats in the herd , as well as dangerous to people , whether intentionally or unintentionally on the goats part . Horns can get caught in fencing which can sometimes result in the goat's injury or even death .When horned goats butt another goat the horns give them added impact which can lead to abortion in a pregnant goat , injury , impalement , abcess at injured tissue , etc . They also can pick up another goat that is wearing a collar (this is why we no longer use collars.) They can strangle the other goat and we have seen that nearly happen . Finally they can injure you just by brushing past you and injuring you with a horn , many times I have been badly bruised by an unintentional swipe . For these reasons we always disbud every kid born on our homestead. When making this decision for your goat , you need to consider the future of this goat , even if this is ok with you , if you ever decide to rehome it , this could be detrimental to the goat's future family and impact whether or not they end up keeping it , possibly causing this goat to be bounced from home to home its entire life . This responsibility is yours , and the decision is permanent because other dehorning methods are extremely painful and brutal , and are not recommended .
Disbudding your goat
Should you use a vet ?
Use only a vet that knows goats if you are going to use a vet , most vets don't know goats , this procedure takes seconds , a vet that does not know goats , may try to put it under anesthesia . Goats do not deal well with anesthesia . You may lose your goat if they try this while disbudding or dehorning .If the vet will agrees to disbud , request that it be done without anesthesia . If your vet refuses to do this procedure without anesthesia , find another vet .
Disbudding at Home
Be aware that disbudding paste is a no no , it is caustic , can get in your goat's eyes , and it is widely considered to be ineffective , just don't do it .
You will need to burn the horns in order to effectively kill the root
First step in disbudding is deciding what kind of disbudding iron you will be using , make this choice well ahead of birth , because your kid needs to be burned before 7 days old . Choices are an electric disbud iron , many people use a Rhineheart 30 x or 50 x and are happy with it .We choose not to use an electric iron because we found that it seemed like it wouldn't reheat fast enough and hot enough , they can go out in the middle of burning etc ,and you are limited because you need to be near an electrical outlet , with a non electric iron you are more mobile . We prefer to use a non electric iron , ours is handmade , you may be able to purchase one , have one made , or make one yourself , they are pretty simple . Traditionally a disbudding iron would be heated in a very hot fire , but to insure it gets hot enough , we use propane , you can use a propane burner , or a small propane torch . We use a small torch that screws onto a little bottle of coleman propane.
Equipment list , in order to burn your goat's horns , you will need :
⦁A Disbudding Iron
⦁propane burner or small torch if you are going non electric and propane
⦁leather gloves for you and the person holding the baby to protect you from the heat of the iron .
⦁A kid box , ours is handmade , but you can purchase them , its for holding the kid still while burning. (picture will be posted)
⦁a soft flexible cool pack / ice pack (frozen)
⦁scissors or clippers to clip hair before burning
⦁steel wire brush
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW PICTURES
Step by step instructions
First , be sure your kid's horns are detectable with your fingertips , but still beneath the skin , the kid should be less than 7 days old , we burn at 5 days old , this is especially important in males because early burning is more successful . But also pain receptors are not fully in until after 7 days , burning before that will be much less painful for your baby , and much less traumatic , and they will heal faster. Some people prefer to burn at several weeks old , but it just doesn't pay to wait . Get it over with early, you'll be happier with your results .
Having determined that you can feel horn buds at 5 days old , you will need to trim the hair close to the head over the horn buds and around them , the kid will often scream far more about the haircut that you know very well is not hurting them one bit , than they do about the actual disbud. The reason for cutting the hair is so that you can easily see the horn buds , and during burning it will cut down on the smoke you'll be dealing with .
Heat the iron red hot , sometimes it is hard to see if it's red hot or not , some people do a test burn on a piece of wood , to make sure , but then , you'll need to re heat to get it good and hot again after your test . If we are using a torch we usually have a brick there to rest the iron on while heating / in between burns , if we are using a propane burner we just rest it back on the burner in between burns . Whether using a torch or a propane burner , make sure you rotate your disbudding iron to make sure it is hot on all sides of the tip . Now you're ready to burn.
Your helper will be sitting on top of the kid box with the kid inside , have your helper hold back the baby's ears from the horn buds with one hand and with the same hand firmly press against the kids head to hold the kid still , and hold it at it's ribcage with the other hand down inside the box . You (the person burning ) will be sitting in the lawn chair facing your helper who is holding the kid . With one hand hold the bottom of the kid's face (muzzle) still , with your other hand you will hold the iron . Line up the iron centered with the horn bud , press gently down and hold still for the first one or two seconds , this gives you a groove to hold the iron still and keep it from slipping . Be careful not to put much pressure on the kid's head ,it should just be gentle pressure . After the first couple seconds , begin to gently rock the iron in a circular fashion , rotating your wrist , this completes the ring around the horn bud in an even fashion , because the kid's head is rounded not flat , if you don't rock the iron , you will not get a good burn .
Your helper is responsible for counting aloud while you burn , and that count will start as soon as you touch the iron down on the kid's head , if there is a bunch of smoke , your iron is either not hot enough or you left too much hair on the kid's head . Some people burn in 4 second increments , all the way up to 12 seconds , we have tried several lengths of time , and decided 8 second increments works best for us . Burn the first side , count one , 1,000 , two 1,000 etc until you reach eight , take the iron off , helper places a cool pack on the kid's head , while the burning person brushes off the iron with the wire brush to remove debris from the burned hair , and places the iron to re heat . The cold pack is to keep the kid's head from getting too hot , which can cause undue swelling / dangerous conditions for the kid's little brain .
When the iron is reheated to red hot again , repeat the burning process on the unburned side , again , for 8 seconds , the kid is going to scream and cry and struggle while you are doing all of this , this is difficult , but remember he also screamed when you cut his hair , so try to keep it in perspective . This is a procedure that is quick , and it will make his life better in the long term , you are doing this for his own good. Moments after the burn is done they will be back playing and being a kid .
So now you have done each horn bud once , and used the cold pack in between each burn , you will do each side again , 8 seconds again , using the steel brush , reheating the iron and using the cold pack on the kids head in between each burn . When you are done burning you should have a nice even copper ring on both sides , some people burn to white but that is the skull , it may be more effective , but it can also be more risky and cause more swelling to burn to white . If your ring is not copper all the way around , it may be necessary to touch up areas that did not get burned as well . It should be noted here that if you left too much hair on the kid's head that then burned and melted down , you may not get the perfect copper ring because of the charred hair , but you are trying for the copper ring , that is ideal.
If at any time during burning you hit a blood vessel and horn buds are bleeding , quickly burn the area that is bleeding to cauterize it . We did not know this the first time it happened to us , and we tried stop bleed , corn starch , etc . nothing worked until we used a cobweb , which is an old emergency method to stop bleeding , but if we had realized , we would have burned the bleeding area to cauterize and could have avoided a very stressful situation.
Keeping the cold pack on the kid's head , take him back to his mother , or if he's a bottle baby give him a bottle for comfort . Be aware that some mothers will not be happy because the kid smells funny , so give the kid to her butt end first so she can smell his hind end first and know he is hers before she smells his burned head . Watch mama closely after kids are burned , make sure she is still taking care of them , because this has been known to cause mothers to reject kids .
Be aware that the kids may have some swelling from their burn , a swollen eyebrow kind of look , this is normal . They may also be somewhat less active for a day or two . Do watch kids for abnormal behavior up to a couple weeks after burning , they can get brain swelling . We have burned over 200 kids and have never had this happen , but it is possible .
Don't put anything on the burned horn buds the first day , because it can hold in the heat , we want the heat to leave the head , not to be held in. The following day , we put neosporin or antibiotic ointment on the burned horn buds to prevent infection . Repeat for a few days , watch for signs of infection over the next couple weeks . Signs of infection include increased sensitivity , cracking ,discharge , the scab / cap , may loosen or partially scrape away , if it's infected , remove the scab only if it is easily removed , clean and treat with antibiotic ointment .
3 weeks after the burn , look for signs of regrowth , check all around the old burn , new horn growth can sprout up in a different spot , if you find even the tiniest indication of a new horn growing , you need to reburn . Burn only the side where you find the regrowing horn , but keep checking the other side. If the horns come back after the second burn , we leave them , usually they will only be small scurs at that point. Please note that if your goats are even part Nigerian Dwarf , burning horns is much less successful than with other breeds , especially in males , they just have a very persistent horn growth , there is simply not much to be done about it.
Extra things you can do
Please note that there are many methods and opinions surrounding disbudding / horn burning
Ours is not the only way , just our way , and our own preference .
Some people use pain control , usually Banamine which helps with pain control and swelling , but this is a prescription , and you will need a vet to get it from . If you are going to use Banamine it should be given 30 minutes ahead of the burning to give it a chance to take effect . Dose is 1 cc per 100# injected sub q , so if it's 1 cc per100 lbs , for baby its going to be a very small dose , example 1 cc per 100 lb translates to .1 cc per 10 lb , but you'll have to work it out based on the weight of your baby. Banamine can also be given orally , if you dint have banamine you could give children's liquid ibuprophen orally 1cc per 10lb body weight , again , give it about 30 min. ahead .
Some people also give a dose of tetanus anti toxin to prevent tetanus from disbudding / horn burning , but again it is up to personal preference .
Anti toxin should not be confused with toxoid which is a tetanus vaccine and is not recommended for kids under 7 days old (usually given at 8-12 weeks unless mother was unvaccinated in which case it can be given at 7 days ), and also does not take effect for 10 days . We do not vaccinate , and we don't actually use tetanus anti toxin preventively , but we are adding tetanus antitoxin to our medical supplies to use in the event that we need it for treatment if tetanus ever crops up.
tetanus anti toxin should also be given 30 min before burning , this is a 5cc dose injected sub q
Also , Some people use blue kote or silver spray to seal off horns after burning , but we like to leave burned horns untreated with anything until the next day , and even then we only use antibiotic ointment .
We have posted a disbudding video on our youtube channel and website to help you visualize what a disbudding will be like , though the baby goat is not actually being burned in the video , you'll get the general idea.
copyright Sumer Starling 2021
Disbudding / Horn Burning Baby Goats. instructional video ^^^
Closed or Open Herd ?
This also is your choice , we remained a closed herd for over a decade . Being a closed herd means you bring in the amount of goats you are going to bring in , and you don't bring in any more from outside sources . This prevents disease transmission and unecessary risk to the herd . If you will be a closed herd , be sure you start with enough bloodlines that you don't have to worry about too much inbreeding . After 10 years of being closed , we opened up to bring in registered goats , and immediately brought in a virus that affected the entire herd . Our quarantine pen was full of hay . If you are going to bring in goats it's a good idea to quarantine , but you would have to quarantine for months to be sure . But still , some diesases may not show up for years like CAE or CL .
Removing goats from the herd
We remove goats from the herd for illness,general weakness, old age ,weak kids, difficulty in recovering after birth, deformity. By and large when you are farming or homesteading you want to use prime stock that is thrifty, well proportioned, and unblemished, this gives your progeny a good start and lends you legitimacy with goat buyers.
Try to keep things out of your goat's pen that it may get into , chew on , get stuck in , or make mischief with . Ropes can be something to chew that will ball up in the rumen . Goats don't eat everything including tin cans , but they do chew on things like electrical cords , been there , done that . Think of the sorts of things a small child would do , and try to head them off at the pass . Look for cracks in the floorboards goat hooves can get caught in .
Blossom under the floor
A little doeling named Blossom liked to jump , we had a half wall that was hollow , just a 4 inch gap at the bottom , our barn floor was also hollow . One day Blossom jumped over the half wall falling to the bottom , and crawled unde the floor . We nearly had a disaster , but I caught hold of a hoof and was able to pull her out ! GOATS LOOK FOR TROUBLE , AND THEY FIND IT !
Safety concerns with eating
If goats eat grain too fast , place large stones or tennis balls in their dish to make them eat slower , as they will choke . Never use hay bags . Many a goat has strangled in a hay bag , they just are an unwise choice for goats . When you build your feeders , keep in mind that heads can get stuck , space rungs apart properly so that they don't .
We sell goats at the price the market will bear , not so low so that you will not recover any of the money you have invested in the mother for her care , and not so low that it will attract meat buyers . There is nothing wrong with someone eating goat meat , but you will need to determine if that is ok with you . We don't personally sell at meat prices because many times traditional cutural slaughter practices are not in line with our ethics .
In order to sell goats you need to find somewhere to advertise . We personally advertise on craigslist , we advise putting the ad in the farm section rather than the pet section because craigslist does not allow "pet" sales . We advertise in several towns because people will travel to buy goats . If you are breeding goats for milk , you need to breed every year , in general a person should be sensible in goat keeping . You can't keep all of the kids , cute as they are . You need to recover cost in cash or product .
With nearly 30 kids a year , we generally sell out , but are not adverse to keeping one or two kids in the kid pen to help transition young kids the next year . Try to think ahead about what you will do if kids do not sell , try to have a plan in place so you have an idea of what to do . Be aware that giving unsold kids away for free could effect your future ability to sell kids in your community , it can create an environment in which people will wait for free kids instead of buying . You teach people how to treat you with your pricing , and you also teach them how to treat your goats . If your prices are too low , you may attract bad homes .
Also be aware that taking kids to auction is an option but you will have no ability to screen potential homes or control pricing , and the auction may not have your same ethics , also be aware that meat buyers do frequent auctions .Again , there is nothing wrong with eating goat meat , most of the world eats goat rather than beef , but you will not have control or influence over how that animal is dispatched . You may also choose to harvest the unsold kids yourself for meat , many people do . This option will likely only be financially viable up until 18 months of age because of your investment in feeding the animal .
If you Bought a goat from us
This is how we handle goat sales and as a responsible seller this is what we inform the buyer of.
If your goat was not a bottle baby , before they leave here ...
your goat has been
Disbudded at 5 days old
Recieved coccidia preventative starting at 3 weeks old and every subsequent weeks
Dewormed at approximately 6 weeks old and rewormed at 7.5 weeks
Little boys have been wethered (banded) at approximately 2 months old unless you bought a requested buckling
When you bought a goat from us , you agreed to follow home requirements for the goats health and safety .
If at any time you find you cannot keep the goat you bought from us , you are welome to contact us and bring him or her back to us , we do not give refunds however .
Requirements for Goat Purchase
These Requirements are non negotiable.
They must be confirmed before you can buy a goat from us.
1) The goat must be fed good grass hay twice a day , just graze and brush is
not enough to keep a goat healthy , we feed high quality grass hay , hay should be green
in appearance and not yellow to assure proper nutrition . We also feed alfalfa hay (first or third cut not second )
or alfalfa pellets , and grain , these are especially important for pregnant and lactating does and growing kids .
2) The goat needs to have adequate housing , not a dog house ! Needs to be with a fenced
outdoor area that they have free access to from their shelter , goats hate the rain , they need enough space
to stay warm and dry during bad weather and to have plenty of space to move around ,must be a minimum of 4’x6’ or 6x8 ,
bigger is better if you can , shelter needs a way to shutgoats in at night to protect them from predators .For that reason we
require a four sided shelter with a door .
3) Goats need to have regular hoof trimming every 2-4 weeks
4) We will not sell a goat to anyone who intends to keep a goat in the house , being outdoors is very important for a goat’s
health (temporary in house for bottle babies is acceptable, but not for permanent)
5) If you are buying a milk goat from us , you will need to milk her twice a day or dry her up in a safe way for her health , or
buy her with her kid to keep her from getting sick.
6) If buying a bottle baby , source of milk needs to be figured out and secured
at your house before picking up baby , we recommend goat’s milk for the most natural diet . If goat’s milk is unavailable ,
quality whole cow’s milk from the grocery store is still more digestible than nearly every milk replacer on the market
formulas tend to clog up their digestive system , and complications from this is one of the number one killers of bottle
babies .Newborns are going to need more frequent feedings and cannot go long periods of time without a bottle ,
homes for babies need to be committed to a feeding schedule that is best for the baby.
By Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Chickens are usually everyone's first choice for a homesteader just starting out . I would recommend as you try to choose your chicken breed what use you want to have from them . If you only want eggs and don't plan to butcher chickens , you may want a high production egg producer like the small bodied leghorn . Leghorns are typically what is used commercially . Their small size makes them more economical , less feed required to get the eggs . However , if you want the option of eggs and meat , you want to choose a dual purpose bird , for instance , a plymouth barred rock , or a rhode island red , or often just a plain old barn yard mix . Rhode Island red and Barred rock lay well , they are also large bodied enough that they are something substantial at the dinner table . Young roosters that are raised might be eaten and old laying hens might be as well , as well as those who choose to misbehave . I don't personally choose to keep mean roosters , everyone has a story about when they were a kid and a mean rooster came after them and tried to spur or bite them . I don't tolerate meanness in the flock to humans or to other chickens . I also don't tolerate lazy layers , old hens no longer producing well , or hens which have decided to eat eggs . Egg eaters in my book get 2 chances . Sometimes an egg might be broken in the nest box by accident and a chicken will consume it . A partly consumed egg in the box may facilitate a search for the guilty party , which is often sitting nearby with a shiny sheen of egg wash on her beak . Scrape the dry wash with a fingernail and you will see it is egg white for sure . If the chicken can readily be identified by looks , mark it down , if not , I use a red cable tie on her leg for later identification , not too tight so it constricts , not too loose so it falls off , this alerts you that she has been caught once and that she is on probation . A chicken caught a second time eating eggs I assume is intentional , and I cull her immediately from the flock before the other hens pick up on the bad habit . In this way all of your profitability can quickly go out the window and several hens can be lost over the one hen's mistake . Very often I find an older hen to be the culprit , so I watch my older hens closely for this behavior , and even more often , it will be a hen that has sat a nest and raised babies in the past . Wire ties can mark offenders for culling , but they can also be useful to identify birth dates at a glance . I place 2 ties , one for the month , the other for the year with a corresponding color coded number key , use of the rainbow is helpful 1= red 2= orange 3= yellow etc . In this way , I know when the hen is starting to reach the 2 1/2 to 3 year maximum when they are usually still any good for laying . Commercially laying hens are kept until 2 - 2 1/2 and then they are culled as no longer being profitable for laying . However I have found indiscriminate culling at this age is not a good idea . Every chicken should be checked for being a good layer or not before butchering . A lot of people will say size of comb the bigger the better indicates good laying . A butt bump indicates a good layer , and a large moist vent . But the only sure trick I have found , and this seems to pan out during butcher except with small breed chickens or younger hens ; Is the 3 finger test . At the back of your chicken , just below the vent , there is an opening between the bones under the skin . You can feel externally with your fingers it is flexible and large in a good laying hen . You should be able to fit 3 fingers between those bones . However I have found a comfortable 2 1/2 fingers is plenty large to be a good layer . But if you can only fit 1 1/2 to barely 2 fingers , you need to cull the hen . After culling as you butcher , you will see the undeveloped and developing eggs inside , In a hen that was still laying well , you will quickly see your mistake , she will be full of eggs in various stages of development , possibly including one with a shell , and many without of ranging sizes from almost full sized to miniscule . One that is a lazy layer will have few eggs and most of them tiny . In this way , over the course of many years , I have tested and proven the 3 finger method to my satisfaction , and can testify that it works . Any chicken found to be a lazy chicken or an egg eater needs to be culled , not given away , not sold , this is an unfair practice that teaches buyers not to trust sellers . If you find yourself incapable to cull or butcher , and want to sell the chicken or give it away , do it with full disclosure to the buyer so that it is fair for both parties , these are the only ways that are ethical to remove chickens from your flock . Do unto others as you would have them do unto you , because this can ruin someone's experience getting into chickens , and you don't want that , because chickens are a blessing when things are done right .
Your chicken breed now being chosen , you should decide which age you want and where you will purchase them . 4 H groups can be a good place to start for any animal you wish to purchase . Chicks can be purchased directly from the hatchery , but be aware that they arrive through the mail having used up one of their only chances . Chicks and baby rabbits can generally only be brought back from the brink of death once , or twice rarely . After that , it seems to be too much for their little bodies . So if any other misfortune befalls a hatchery chick , that is generally it for them . The same of course goes for chicks purchased from local feed stores , because they too came from the hatchery . Young or sub adult birds can be profitable to purchase , they generally run 2 -3 times the cost of a chick , but it can be worth it to get an established chicken , which is either already laying or not far from it . The home flock should be about 12 hens , as they do not lay daily but for a brief time , more like every other day for their laying life . I would recommend looking for birds 3 months to a year , 1 1/2 at the oldest . That way , on the younger end , they have outgrown the danger and hassle of using a heat light , but an older bird still has a couple of good laying years left . Optimum for me would be 4-5 months because they are just getting ready to start laying , and you won' t have to wait very long , as well as being able to tell the sex for certain . Most chickens are sexually mature at about 5 months old , at this point , hens will start to lay and roosters will start to crow and get in their hackles . If you have purchased straight run chicks , ie. unsexed , you need to be prepared for roosters , and have an idea of what to do with them . You won't wish to keep them all , one rooster serves 10 hens . One chicken owner came to me with her roosters , and complained that chickens needing to be euthanized were costing her $50 each at the veterinarian , but they didn't know what else to do because quote "the chickens were taking too many bullets to kill " Know a proper method to euthanize , even if you don't want to butcher , in case of injury too severe .
You can tell for certain what sex chickens are at 4 months when you look at the emerging adult feathers . If the feathers on the back and the neck have a skinny pointed tip , they are called hackles and they are roosters . If it is rounded , it is a hen . The old method was when it starts to crow , you put it in the stew pot , which is a pretty tried and true method as well . Young roosters (cockerels ) also seem to be slower to feather , have thicker longer legs , a lanky awkward appearance , they carry themselves more upright where a young hen (pullet ) is very horizontal when she walks . Also when you handle them , the rooster will be far thinner , you can usually feel his breast bone better . When they make a noise to protest your handling , they have a raspy voice . While roosters are not needed to produce eggs , the hens will produce them without him , they are useful in the flock and at least one should be kept if possible . To add another rooster later without disturbance and fighting , raise up young roosters from chicks , they will be naturally subordinate to the lead rooster and can seamlessly join the flock . Make note that young roosters coming up who are disrespectful and aggressive should be culled , because they will often mistreat your hens , and may take out your lead rooster , which you don't want .
Housing and pens
Your hens being selected , you will want to place them in their new home , which should include a dry 4 sided shelter , with a small door they will use , and some chicken steps leading out , a long board with intermittent 2" wide material connected to it for gripping will do . You will also need a man door , so you can access the chicken house for egg collection and cleaning. They should have a nice fenced yard for their outdoor enjoyment . Chicken wire or some other small wire chickens can't fit through should be used . Make the yard as large as is practical so the chickens will have plenty of room to move around , but don't expect anything green when the yard was there to stay green for more than a few days . Chickens will eat all of the grass , and scratch up the dirt until the grass roots are gone . Chickens should have free daytime access to both their yard and the hen house , as some hens lay throughout the day , and all should have access to shelter in case it is needed or wanted . The hen house should be sized according to how many hens you mean to keep . The house should not be drafty , but should have good ventilation because hens tend toward respiratory issues in confined spaces . The hen house should have perches placed at varying heights to allow for personal preference of the bird . The floor of the hen house should either be wood or concrete in order to protect from predators which dig under , as well as from moisture or mud . Hen houses are traditionally cleaned out annually , but we clean ours daily scraping the manure off of the floor in order to keep down pathogens and protozoa such as coccidia . Nest boxes should also be kept with fresh clean hay to prevent soiled eggs . Any manure gained by cleaning needs to be aged before using in the garden , as it will otherwise burn your plants . Ideally your hen house should have some sort of electricity , even if its just an extension cord so that you can run a heat light as needed , or more importantly , keep a 60 watt bulb on the hens to facilitate year round laying . The light should be left on at least 14 hours a day so that the chickens internal clock will be tricked into thinking it is spring or summer . I personally leave the light on 24 hours a day so that they will have adequate light in the hen house , and so they will not be in a stupor brought on by darkness should a predator somehow break into the hen house . This way at least it has a chance of escape . Be sure the bulb you use isn't coated with teflon , as those that are shatter resistant often are . teflon kills birds in pretty short order . An incandescent or fluorescent bulb works fine , keep any bulbs out of reach of birds to avoid breakage and fire danger . The hen house should also be supplied with several nest boxes . I use plastic milk crates hung off of the wall by nails , that way they are easily cleanable . Add a little hay to each nest box , and if the hens need encouragement , a few plastic easter eggs to give them incentive to lay there . Invariably there will be a favorite nest box which all of the hens frequent . Checking for eggs often will avoid eggs being broken in these boxes as clumsy hens try to pile in together and squabble over the box. Oftentimes there will be several hens standing by and waiting in the wings to lay eggs in the box while it is occupied by someone else . Having several boxes can help with this , but doesn't always cure it .
Because one is always the favored box that is the one a broody hen will often prefer . Broody hens are hens which still retained instinct to set a nest of eggs to hatch them . The instinct is stronger in some chicken breeds than in others , and the Instinct seems often to pass down from that hen to the chicks she hatches , if they had a mom they tend to want to be a mom , broodiness can often be encouraged by either placing chicks the cage where they can be seen by the hens , placing a number of plastic easter eggs in a nest box in order to encourage the hen to believe that she now has enough eggs to set. In the old days they slated such hens for slaughter they valued the eggs more than the young . I knew a 98 year old woman who said when they get older and all they want to do is set then you have to put them in the stew pot .
While broody hens might not always be convenient , as they choose the favorite box and discourage others from laying it , or laying at all , I discovered this homesteading , chickens don't have to lay and there are a lot of reasons that they won't , conflict in the flock being one of them , presence of predators and poor weather , too hot , cold , or wet , lack of light , health issues , moving them to a new location , quick changes in diet bring on a molt which ceases laying , also seasonal molting , and a host of other reasons . Watch your flock and listen for signs of predators , alert and alarmed flocks , including making high tone alarm calls . Listen for signs of illness in the flock ( doesn't talk as much as it should and it's quiet ceases to crow etc. ) watch for droopy wings and dull feathers standing scrunchie .
Hens which are going broody can be encouraged in broody behavior by giving them a number of plastic easter eggs and covering or relocating the nest box to prevent interference from other laying hens . As soon as you are sure she settled into brood you can give her a real eggs , up to a dozen fertile eggs based on her size .The eggs for hatching should be fresh and clean , but not washed , unrefrigerated , and fertile . Availability of fertile eggs is one perk of keeping a rooster around , the other being that he keeps the flock in order , breaking up hen fights and preventing too much pecking . We've had very few serious injuries , ( super glue can be used to close a wound like this ) and we've had very few hens with bald backs , since we started keeping a rooster . A good rooster will feed the hens and the chicks showing them food and feeding it to them from his mouth . A hen just setting will set low in a box and scrunch down on the egg refusing to rise when disturbed and some hens develop a head tick telltale of them setting , and when off the nest they talked and cluck and strut almost continuously hurrying back to the nest . Confinement can also encourage hens which would otherwise be inconstant to stay on the eggs , assuring a better hatch rate and survivability . Be sure and use the nest box of the hens choice in confining or moving her as she may abandon the nest or turn flighty if moved , returning to her original location if she escapes . This also is a good reason to use stackable milk crates because you can stack several nesting hens and a tower . Food and water should be offered in the box . There are some hens that don't seem to want to eat or drink while setting , check the nest box daily for the hen soiling her nest material , and confine her elsewhere while you clean up this mess so that you don't lose her in the flock . only if eggs are very dirty should you wash them , as washing them removes the protective coating on the egg and leaves it more susceptible to infection through the porous shell . Candle the eggs 1 week into incubation , throw out any that don't show growth at this point . With candling , keep in mind dark shelled eggs sometimes don't candle well . Eggs hatch at 21 days approximately , but a steady broody hen may a hatch them in as little as 19 or 20 . After chicks begin to hatch, remove the hen's food and water to prevent crushing or drowning . After 24 hours , any unhatched eggs should be tested for signs of life , an exam can be done to see which were infertile and which simply died if desired , otherwise toss them out . The longer the hen is sitting on eggs and chicks the more likely the chicks will be crushed by the eggs that were unhatched . A broody hen will sit differently on eggs then she does on hatched chicks , and the presence of both sometimes causes her to sit too hard and crush the chicks . Chicks and hens should be removed from the nest box , I'd place them in a cage within the henhouse itself so that Mom and chicks will still be part of the flock and can be viewed by others encouraging some other hens to set to being jealous over cute chickies , and so there won't be as much fighting when you release them . One reason for separation is to protect the new chicks from bullying . And so the mother hen and babies can get enough to eat , so that medicated chick starter can be given , and a proper bond can be formed , so that the weak babies will have time to strengthen before being exposed to rigors of flock life . Be sure to provide shallow water dishes or waterers so that chicks don't fall in and drown , adding marbles if desired . Mom likes to kick around scratching in the cage carelessly scratching chicks a side and squishing them between her toes , if you have heavy nest material in the cage chicks should be counted several times a day , and watch them being buried in the hay by the careless hen , or the nest material becoming wet by her dumping the water . I keep the hen and chicks caged together until the chicks are well started and their wings are feathered so if they can't figure out the chicken steps to get into the hen house they can fly in . Monitor her on release and cage her and the chicks at night if you want that the chicks will have extra food available to them , which may be medicated for coccidia prevention . Some picking will take place and hen fights are sure to break out as she tries to reassert her place in the pecking order and also to defend the chicks . If a rooster is present , he usually sides with the mother hen and helps keep the flock in line . The hen will shortly tire of defending wayward chicks , and they will learn to follow her more closely in order to stay out of trouble . On release the first thing the hen will usually go for is a dust bath after her long confinement , and the chicks will get down in the dust bowl with her to scratch and peck around . A hen that is broody will readily take in other chicks for several days after hatching . The only time I have seen the chicks rejected is when they are afraid of the hen . After three to four days , chicks tend to know their mothers and if adopted chicks are afraid of her and she is confined with them , she will usually kill them . Hens can sometimes even be encouraged to take chicks when the eggs they have been sitting on were fake ones , or the nest failed . Some hens don't set carefully and accidentally break the eggs or sometimes purposely eat them , but continue setting anyway . If chicks can be procured for the hen , then they will accept them as their hatchlings as long as they are not less than a week or so into the incubation process . While it may seem more complicated to let a broody hen hatch your eggs for replacement chickens etc . The hatch rate of the hen is far superior to that of the incubator , and without the 2+ times a day turning them and constant monitoring of humidity and temperature , fear of spring power outages which will kill your incubating eggs , and the required use of a heat light for weeks after chicks are hatched . Although a heat light may be a good idea as a backup for hens that perch too soon for babies to follow . This aside , there is nothing more sweet than seeing a hen with all her little biddies around her coming to her when she calls them , and sticking out from behind folded wings , and nestled in her downy plumage , little tiny chick feet just visible under the hen . Seeing them run to her for protection from falling rain and attacking predators is priceless to me and well worth the extra trouble of being sure that the broody hen has all she needs .
Feeding the flock
Care for Chicks
Care for chicks should include medicated chick starter to avoid losses but in a pinch layer crumbles can be fed if it is crushed , or scrambled eggs , but medicated chick starter should be the mainstay , size needs to be considered here as pellets are not easily eaten by little chicks .
Many have different opinions on how a flock should be fed , some people free feed ie. provide unlimited feed . I do not , I find waste and vermin to be too much of an issue , and I like to keep my hens in top laying condition by metering out what they need based on flock size . What you feed is up to you , the most widely accepted method of feeding hens is a layer feed which comes in crumble or pellets . I feed pellets as there seems to be less waste in dust and less waste from the birds themselves . If feeding hens without an automatic feeder , feed in several dishes so that everyone gets a chance at it . Supplement layer with cooked veggies , fruit and berries in season , whole or cracked grains , even cooked eggs and meat or alfalfa hay , clabbered milk from your goats or cows . Clabbered milk or clotted cream is raw milk set out at room temperature for 24 hours or so until it forms either a yogurt like substance or a fluffy Cottage cheese-like consistency , which separates from the whey , the clabbering process removes lactose from the milk and changes into lactic acid . Chickens don't have the ability to properly digest lactose and are lactose intolerant , this method avoids diarrhea from feeding milk , and it produces a great-tasting egg . Kitchen scraps can be fed to hens and most left overs are appreciated . Try to be careful a little with strong tasting things like fish and onions as they can taint the taste of the eggs . Chickens also enjoy cooked meats of most kinds , and will lay well after being fed them. if you would like to follow an older recipe for layer feed pre pelletized , I found an article in an old magazine pre 1910 , as pelletized feed started in about 1918 , which is why no one can tell you how they used to feed hens without it .The author recommended whole wheat , then whole oats , then cracked corn , in a steady rotation , because hens that are bored with their food don't lay well , and as a protein source , wheat bran . This can usually be special ordered from your feed store and should be given on top of other feed . It is a high-protein additive , and helps you to get closer to the required 16% protein for chickens to lay correctly . Used to meet protein content of your mixed feeds . However , care should be taken when feeding to chicks as I've heard it can inhibit growth . Add oyster shells for grit and calcium content . Free range feeding in my experience can tend to result in eggs lost in the brush and tall grass in theory , but it can save you money and feed costs as I've been told . The article I read also recommended kitchen scraps , in the USA we have forgotten how to feed our hens without commercially mixed feeds , I went to ask a farmer friend of mine , He was 75 years old , who had kept chickens a long time . What they fed before pelletized feed , he said he didn't know . Seeing how long commercially prepared feeds have been around , I don't doubt that he didn't . Then next , I questioned older lady I knew 60 years old , she told me grain , wheat or corn and kitchen scraps , cooked potato peels , etc. I told her it wasn't enough protein , there must be more to it , and I could see a light bulb go off in her head , bran she answered promptly . The lady was from New Zealand , where at least in her day , her Mom was still feeding the chickens like this . But however you choose to feed your flock , be sure you keep an eye on changing conditions within it , and provide what they need when they need it , more in winter than in summer etc. , and always provide fresh water for them summer and winter . When feeding scraps , treats , or whole grains be aware you can lower your protein levels by feeding too much which will lower egg production .
Diseases and ailments in chickens
Worms- worms can be either internal or in the craw or windpipe.
symptoms- weight loss, pale comb, listlessness, Diarrhea, slow growth, worms inside the eggs , Visible worms in the chicken pen in manure, death. with gapeworm symptoms are coughing, head-shaking, and gaping.
prevention- keep Walks from inter mixing with other species, taking human orders and exposure to contaminated soils and secondary host such as earthworms slugs, and snails.
Treatment- deworm your chickens with piperazine at dosage of orally-- younger birds under 6 weeks 50 mg per bird , or 100 mg per bird for birds over 6 weeks . Repeat in 10 days . If added to community water for your chickens add 3 mL per gallon of water. Repeat in 10 days . Egg withdrawl for piperazine is listed In Australia and Canada as approved for 1-time use in egg laying hens at doses ranging from 130 to 200 mg/kg (59 to 91 mg/lb) with a 0-day egg withdrawal.
OR for a broader spectrum wormer use pour-on Ivermectin or carefully measured Oral Ivermectin
Injectable or Drench: Administer orally at a dose of 0.25 ml per large breed bird, or 6-7 drops (0.1 ml) per bantam. Or in drinking water at a dose of 4 ml per gallon for 2 days
Pour on: Apply with eyedropper to the back of the neck. Administer 1-3 drops per bantam, 4 drops for lighweight breed, 5 drops per heavy breed, 6 drops for extra large or feathery breeds (like silkies).
Repeat in 10- 14 days , Ivermectin has a recommended egg withdrawal of 7 days
mites, lice, chiggers, and ticks
Mites can be in the pen or on the bird , or as in the case of scaly leg mites , under the skin . Lice are roughly the size of a flea , and chiggers and ticks can also affect your flock.
symptoms- tiny specks crawling on birds, eggs , or nesting materials . scabby skin, darkened flesh around the chickens vent or with scaly leg mites the scales On the legs lift out ward and Slough off lice nits can present with clumps of flaky masses near the skin.
Prevention-inspect and quarantine all new Birds coming in.
some say the use of cedar chips or tobacco leaves as nesting materials can dissuade parasites however Cedar can also be hard on chickens respiratory tract ,
Treatment- for scaly leg mites used Petroleum jelly on their legs use oral or pour on Ivermectin . dusting with Permethrin dust for external mites, lice, ticks, chiggers . be sure to retreat in 10 days and again in 10 more days you can treat with oral or pour on Ivermectin as well but please note it is not approved for use in egg or meat producing poultry though in other countries Ivermectin is used for human use . ( Please see worming above for ivermectin dosage )
coccidiosis- coccidiosis is a protozoa which thrives in an environment that is wet and then warm . Cycles the eggs hatching under these conditions . The species of coccidiosis which infects birds is not communicable to any other farm livestock , livestock such as goats etc. cannot get it from your chicken or vice versa . It is species specific .
Symptoms - slow growth, watery diarrhea sometimes bloody, excessive white smelly build up , decrease in egg laying , death usually in young birds
prevention- Older birds shed off coccidia eggs consumed by younger birds so some say not to expose young birds to older birds , some say this immunizes them for the future . Use medicated chick starter or powdered amprolium , both are safe for laying chickens .
Diseases and ailments
Common diseases and ailments can be influenced by the birds breed or their environment . Birds bred for meat tend to have physical problems related to nutritional issues , watery diarrhea, listlessness, weight loss, the most common ailment is coccidia the first notion that your flock may be unwell is that they are quiet , healthy hens and roosters talk a lot .
Botulism and Marek's disease -
symptoms seizure, or paralysis , nerve issues like twitching , staggering , lack of coordination , twisting the neck , circling .
Botulism prevention- botulism is a bacteria found in degrading biological matter do not feed rotten vegetables or compromised foods to chickens as they can get food poisoning just as we do.
Botulism treatment - there is no treatment forbotulism in chickens , most infected birds will die . Birds that only get a small amount of toxin might survive if you nurse them through it carefully . During the critical stage you should give no food or water because they are unable to swallow , just put them somewhere dry and safe out of the weather and not in the sun, where they are not harassed by other birds , do not give water or food until they can lift their head and are beginning to make sounds , after 24-48 hours if there has been no improvement they are not liekly to survive .
Prevention - , birds can be vaccinated against Marek's as chicks , though vaccinations are not 100% effective . Practice good biosecurity in your pens , make sure that you are not carrying disease between your pens between possibly ill birds and healthy birds . Keep pens and coops clean , if you know there are sick birds change clothes and shoes before going to another pen . Keep rodent populations in check , and be careful in adding new birds to your flock , quarantining is a good idea when new birds come in.
Treatment - There is no treatment or cure for Marek's disease . Chickens can contract this herpes virus and show no symptoms until it progresses to critical . (if they do have symptoms Paralysis, particularly in the legs, wings, and neck
Tumors can appear in the feather follicles of your bird, but also internally on organs
Irregular pupils, gray irises, or vision impairment .)
Symptoms combs that are shrunken ,bloody or mucousy diarrhea, drop in egg production, death.
Campylobacter is a gram negative bacteria , it can spread from environmental sources to flocks ,such as it can be
in soil , water , or food sources , it canbe transmitted andspread by flies andother insects , or it can even be introduced to flocks by people .
Prevention - Research indicates that good sanitation practice are the best prevention . Using good clean sources of water , avoid contact between your flock and other animals , Washing hands before handling your flock or their feed and supplies , changing boots and clothes before entering pens , etc .
Treatment- There is no commercially available treatment for Campylobacter , studies show that vaccines could be useful , and that it may be suceptible to some antibacterials or antibiotics
Symptoms- gasping, eggs that have watery white, with soft shells, misshapen eggs, rough shells.
Prevention - Biosecurity is the best preventative for infectious bronchitis , rodent control is also recommended , there are also Vaccines available
Treatment- There is no treatment for infectious bronchitis , Antibiotics for 3-5 days may help by keeping down any secondary infections , raising the temperature in your brooder until sympoms subside may be helpful for chicks
symptoms- swelling on the face, pale swollen comb , discharge from the nose with an objectionable smell, watery eyes , sometimes with bubbles at the eye , sometimes diarrhea .
Prevention - biosecurity practices and cleanliness are important in prevention . Vaccines are available .
Treatment- Erythromycin and oxytetracycline are useful in treatment as well as some anti microbials and some sulfonamides
Coryza is technically like a severe common cold, but it is caused by a gram negative bacteria related to pasteurella and it is airborne . Erythromycin 1/2 Gram Per Gallon . 1 Pill Usually Is 250mg Each (100-1500 mg/L added to drinking water)oxytetracycline 2500 mg/L drinking water and 2500 mg/kg feed
Symptoms- eyes that water or are inflamed, discharged from the nose , sneezing , failure to thrive , decreased egg production
Prevention - biosecurity , cleanliness , vaccines
Treatment- There is no specific treatment for Laryngotracheitis , but antibiotics may be used to curb secondary infections . Most birds will recover within 14 days .
Symptoms- wheezing, nasal discharge , misshapen eggs, soft shell, drop in production of eggs ,twisting of the neck , facial swelling and paralysis
Prevention- biosecurity , good sanitation and cleanliness , vaccination
Treatment-- There is no treatment for Newcastle , Antibiotics may help by keeping down any secondary infections , raising the temperature in your brooder until sympoms subside may be helpful for chicks . Mortality rates varies from 10%-80% depending on the strain .
Symptoms- bird walks very upright, ceases to lay eggs, ruffled feathers , depression , coughing , labored breathing , yellow droppings , diarrhea , dirty vent , death
Prevention- Reduce stress , keep bedding dry and housing ventilated , plenty of food and water , practce biosecurity , quarantine sick birds to keep it from spreading .
Treatment- antibiotic treatments such as tetracyclines and sulfa drugs may be effective , but some strains are antibiotic resistant . treatments are often ineffective, prevention is the best treatment .
Symptoms - slow loss of condition, pale comb , diarrhea, depression , abnormal gait there can be paralysis if the chicken develops tuberculous arthritis, usually affects 2 year old hens or older
Prevention - Biosecurity , cleanliness , keep rodent populations down , do not let chickens have contact with other animals
Treatment- Provide supportive care ,keep the infected chicken comfortable and stress free with food and water . Antibiotic or antimicrobial treatment may be helpful , such as Ciprofloxacin in combination with other drugs 80 mg/kg , Azitrhomycin 43 mg/kg
Symptoms- Droopy behavior, white diarrhea, darkened comb, hiding , sometimes little to no symptoms , death
Prevention - Gout is not just a disease , instead it can be caused by any number of factors that result of kidney damage infectious, nutritional, toxic , or a combination of reasons . Limit calcium intake of young birds under 16 weeks , review the calcium to phosphorus ratios in the diet and make sure that your birds are getting enough phosphorus . Make sure that birds always have water available . Vaccinate for bronchitis
Treatment - Once there is gout in the flock and mortality ,any kidney damage done cannot be undone . However , reducing mortality may be possible by acidifying the urine to keep any stones dissolved . Ammonium sulfate or ammonium chloride are recommended .
by Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Our First Sheep
We first got into sheep by accident , two men came to look at a goat we had for sale , and while they were here they mentioned that their sister had sheep . We had just gained a spinning wheel and we were learning to spin yarn . So I was interested in obtaining more fiber , as all we had at that time was some red alpaca from our cousin's farm . So I asked him what they did with the sheep's wool , He told me his sister would never sell the sheep , the ram had cost her $400 and it was very expensive . I reiterated my interest in the wool , not the sheep . He asked if I wanted them to bring the sheep here . No , I answered very plainly . The man left saying he would be back in 3 hours for the goat . 3 days later , he showed up with 3 sheep tied up in the back of his vehicle . The black ram's large curved horn was wedged against the window . At first when Dad told Mom they wanted to sell us 3 sheep , she stood at the door and misunderstood , thinking my Dad said a 3 speed , as in bike , she said we would only pay $30 . When it was discovered to be 3 sheep , not a 3 speed , I was fetched for my opinion . The man said his sister was moving , they must sell the 3 sheep . And he asked would we pay $100 cash each ? I knew the animals were well worth that , but didn't really want 3 sheep or even one by point of fact . We told him no , and he kept trying to convince us . We kept telling him no , we didn't even have anywhere for them . We had forgotten about the little buck barn we weren't using , which was very small but okay temporary housing for a few days . He informed us we could just let them run around the yard and tie them up . We wouldn't have to shelter or feed them . We knew of course , that wasn't what one should do with any animal . Seeing we weren't convinced , he lowered the price . I went down to get my sister , by the time I cam back , the 3 sheep were running around on a leash , all over the yard , flying like a kite . And I said , oh no ! What are they doing out of the car ? The man said see , they are good pets ! But the 3 sheep were plainly wild . He lowered the price again , and the whole time , the Lord kept saying to me , take the sheep , be patient , I'm going to show you something . So finally he arrived at $30 per sheep , which was coincidentally the original price Mom was willing to pay for the 3 speed bicycle . We at last gave in to what the Lord wanted do , and my sister , having brought the money with us , paid him $30 a head . The men drove away and we were left walking down the driveway aimlessly with 2 pregnant ewes on a rope , and a ram flying like a kite on a longer rope . We had no idea of where we were going with them , of where they would live , or of what to do with them , beyond being patient as the Lord had told us to be. We soon started to work on new housing , and within the first week , one of us was rammed by the ram . Dad was bedding down hammering in the new pen , adding final touches , "keeping an eye on the ram " according to him . The ram was restless because of Dad's presence and the absence of the lead ewe , Ramses , as we later called him , was very attached to the ewe named Annie , and whenever he was separated , he would roar like a lion and go crazy running around . Well he was acting crazy , and as Dad was "keeping an eye on him " the ram charged and Dad never saw him coming ! Dad said it felt like a mack truck hit him in the hip . He said he hardly knew what had happened . Shortly thereafter , the sheep being settled into their pen , we set about our first sheep shear . The sheep had never been sheared , or at least not in a very long time , and we had never sheared anything before . It was a sheep rodeo . We knew enough to restrain the ram for his shear . We put him on our goat milking stanschion , he promptly broke it trying to ram us . So we repaired it and went on. Under all of that matted wool , filled with dead bugs , pine needles and dirt , were 3 skinny sheep that had only been fed on vegetables and grass . Little Bit was Annie's only surviving lamb , the other lambs including her twin had been eaten by coyotes . And their goat friends had been eaten by bears . Annie was very pregnant with twin lambs again . All we knew about them is that they were now our sheep , and we were now their shepherds , and that began our journey . Not just with sheep ownership , but with a far deeper relationship with the Lord , and a better understanding of his role as our shepherd .
Special Care of Sheep Wool
Sheep should be sheared at least once , to twice a year , and may need to be crutched in between times for health . Crutching is the trimming of wool near the backside and possibly underside of the sheep . Sheep are just as vulnerable to pneumonia as goats are , and in rainy weather won't run for the barn as a goat will . But rather , they will stay out and get soaking wet . This is not because a sheep is stupid , this is simply because the sheep cannot feel the wet and rain like a goat does , because it has all of that wool . It also has the reverse problem in summer , as sheep can drop dead at 80 degrees outside from being overheated due to the wool . So steps should be taken to keep sheep cool in the shade in the summer , as well as protected from the rain in other seasons . Shepherds often shear very pregnant ewes just prior to lambing . First , so that the lamb can find the milk , and also in order to get the sheep to stay near the barn where it's warm instead of having their lambs out in the field . If your sheep is standing out in inclement weather , you may need to go put it in the barn , and shut the door so it will stay dry . Once sheep's wool gets wet , it can stay wet for days . In breeds like merino , can get musty . Sheep's wool contains 2 components , a detergent like substance , and a water proofing oil called lanolin . This is one of the 2 reasons that people are allergic to wool . I once had a foreign lady stop and look at our yarn and go away disappointed because she wanted yarn that hadn't been washed at all , which had all of the lanolin still in it . Because in the old country where she came from , the children wore leggings knitted of unwashed sheep's wool , and the lanolin served as waterproofing so they never got we walking to school in the snow . Sheep's wool is an excellent insulator and stay's warm even when wet . It is used in some places to insulate houses to good effect . It is used in making nappies for babies that wicks moisture away from them , while at the same time helping them to potty train better . Wool can also be used to staunch bleeding on a cut sheep in a pinch , or on a hoof clipped too short . Sheep hooves are not the same as goat hooves , they are very slow growing , they need only be trimmed a couple of times a year and you have to be very careful not to cut them too short or they will bleed .
Feeding Your Sheep
Sheep are a small ruminant like goats , and they have multiple stomachs , this is largely where they similarity ends . Special care must be considered in sheep when considering their feed , stay away from anything that contains copper . Copper toxicity can kill your sheep . They are unable to process it as goats do , even naturally occurring copper in high mineral areas can give a sheep copper toxicity through their hay . Any loose mineral you may want to give should have no copper in it . Often just what is in their daily ration of feed is high enough . Sheep are only tolerant of 30 parts per million of copper . Do not buy mineral blocks , they can break their teeth , and do not buy minerals labeled for cross species , as these will almost always contain too much copper .
Contrary to popular belief , your sheep , while it likes to graze , and seems to mentally need to graze , grass is not always enough depending on environment , annual rain fall , and time of year etc. . Hay should be fed in addition to pasture . I do a combination of graze , hay , and grain in order to assure that that the sheep is getting what it needs . Ideally hay should be given first , before the animal is let out to graze , this helps prevent bloat . The sheep should also not be allowed to graze on grass that is too wet . If they are allowed , limit their time on it and be careful how much lush spring grass they are allowed as well . Sheep raised for meat and fed on graze alone , can render an unpleasant taste that some don't care for . In addition , as sheep age , those given graze alone , have a propensity not to live as long , because as they age , front teeth on the bottom (they don't have front teeth on the top ) break off , and grass slips between the teeth in the gap . The sheep then becomes malnourished if the other front teeth aren't removed and the sheep eventually will starve . You can tell a sheep or goat's age by the front teeth . The first year , the two middle teeth will be the tallest , which makes it a two toothed ewe if a female . The next year , the teeth on either side of the two middle teeth will be the same height as the middle teeth , showing it to be a two year old . And so on , up to the age of 4 , when all of the front teeth are of equal height . So you can accurately age the animal up to the age of 4 . after which , the teeth wear down from friction with heavy grazing , and close grazing particularly . ( Being left on the same patch of field so long that the sheep is eating too close to the ground , both shortens their teeth , and is bad for them picking up pathogens. ) Sheep are also well known for picking up parasites and being highly susceptible to them , partly because of how short they will crop the grass , as well as grazing in amongst their own manure . Sheep's graze should be changed often . I tie my sheep out , and let them graze a circle around the heavy truck tire , or stationary object , being sure to keep a close eye on them so they don't tangle . By moving them daily , I can better inspect their graze area for things like poison mushrooms . I can keep them on good grass that is uncontaminated by their own waste . This is a good way to do it if you don't have rotational pasture available . Sheep like to graze in a flock , so I give each sheep a grazing buddy , the sheep it gets along best with . Be sure it doesn't have room to tangle lines with it's friend , or tie them on a coupler . In this way I also get my lawn mowed , and the sheep gets its daily graze which is essential to health and happiness . Of course do not use chemicals on the lawn where your sheep will graze . Be sure there is nothing for them to get tangled on , and never leave them unattended , as they may find trouble to get into , and may choke on a line where it is tethered .
Supplements for ewes and lambs
Maintenance ration for a ewe should be 1/2 to 1 lb per day , ideally 16% protein . If in milk give maintenance ration of 1 lb , plus 1 lb per 2 lb of milk estimated . Lambs should be given lamb grower 14-16% protein ideally , starting at around a month old , this will help them grow , feed around 1/3 lb + per day each . Try not to over feed grain as it can cause over eaters disease (enterotoxemia ) . You may also choose to feed Alfalfa hay to supplement nutrition , this can be a good source of calcium , but be aware , it can also cause photosensitization and limit it accordingly .
Handling Your Sheep
To handle your sheep , whether moving them to fresh graze , or transporting them for other reasons , a collar might temporarily be put on , but should later be removed to prevent accidents . I recommend a quick release snap on collar , in case the sheep gets into trouble for some reason . If they pull too hard while leading them , you should cup one hand under their chin while holding the collar to prevent being drug across the lawn . You can also use a dog training collar like a halti face collar , don't bother with a gentle leader because they fall off . They also make a sheep or goat halter that you can buy , but those also should not be left on . You can also handle your sheep by a scruff of wool at the back of the neck .
Considerations for the Ram
Handling the Ram
To handle a ram , you should train it to allow you to take hold of one of it's horns if it has them . I take a horn in my one hand , and transport him where he needs to go . If he gets too rambunctious , I cup my hand under his chin . They cant out run or out pull this type of hold . Try not to tip the head too far up and back , because they seem to try to choke on their rumen . If taking your ram to be tied to graze , know how long your ram's lead is once he's tied out . When coming to retrieve him , stop just short of where his lead stops short , he will readily come to you if he knows something good like grain is waiting at the barn . Then you won't be within his reach when he comes , and you can take his horn or collar without being in danger . Give the ram no opportunity to ram you . When you go to get him out of his pen , carry a rod with you . A rod can be as simple as an old broken shovel handle . This is for your protection just in case . Never trust a ram . If he will come to the door , having been trained that going out to graze is a good thing , crack the gate just enough to reach in and grab a horn . Have the ram in your control as much of the time as possible . Don't allow him to get a running start at you . The closer you stay to your ram , the safer you are from his horns . The more distance he gets , the harder he can ram you . I was rammed only once by our ram . I had snuck in and removed the ewe to put her back with the flock . Before I could slip out of the gate he charged me , and he was going to charge me again , had I not escaped quickly. To prevent such encounters , always carry a rod , be aware of where your ram is , where his focus is , discipline immediately at any sign of disrespect . If he tips his head at you , give him a quick pop in the nose , the nose is sensitive . The goal is not to injure the ram , but to prevent future injury of yourself and others . Never make your ram into a pet , never trust your ram or turn your back on him , and never never have a bottle fed ram lamb that you intend to later use to service your ewes . I always tell people , we don't tolerate mean buck goats , but a ram is a ram , and he cant help it , they call them a ram for a reason .
Feeding Your Ram
Special concerns for a rams feeding requirements should include being sure he has adequate nutrition , but also taking care he does not develop urinary calculi . An imbalance of calcium and phosphorus can cause this . Feeds that are high in calcium like alfalfa hay , and most grains will promote the formation of stones in the urinary tract , which can become quite serious . To avoid this , if you feed alfalfa hay , give him only a very little each day , like a few handfuls . Alfalfa is also known to cause photosensitization . If you feed your ram grain , feed him a grain low in calcium , or feed it sparingly . A ram needs grain in breeding season to be in top form . About the same maintenance ration as a ewe , 1/2 to 1 lb per day . You can reduce this amount when he is no longer in rut and expected to breed ewes . To combat urinary calculi , you can add ammonium chloride to water , or apple cider vinegar . Don't give him free choice baking soda or minerals , as those also contain calcium .
Housing the Ram
Housing for the ram needs to be a little more robust than that of the ewe. If you decide on board fencing , place the boards to the inside of the posts so they won't ram them off , have all gates open inward so they won't ram them off the hinges . Check fencing daily for damage to it , or uprooted posts . Chain link is a good fencing choice for a ram . But being flexible , don't stand too close to it , and don't allow guests to reach over it toward your ram . I would advise toward plywood siding on the house rather than metal siding . Don't use metal siding to avoid him ramming it and bending the metal . A board or plywood floor is good for keeping the ram up off of the wet . Place all feeders near an outside wall so you don't have to go inside to feed him. To close his exterior door , and shut him in at night , you may want to consider to set up a gear with ropes and pulleys so the door can be closed from outside of the pen . The least time you spend in with the ram , the more safe you will be . Place his water bucket where you can easily refill it from outside of the pen . If he has horns , be sure you remove the handle on the water bucket so it won't get caught on his horns .
Breeding Season and the Ram
When handling the ram between the months of September and February , be especially careful , because it is breeding season and he will be in the rut . This is a testosterone driven time , and he only thinks of females and fighting . If you will let him run with the ewes , which is probably the easiest way to breed sheep , as a ewe's season can be difficult to determine . You may want to train the ram to return to his pen using a treat , so you can safely clean in the ewe's pen . Some people recommend closing the ram away from the ewes at night , to give them both a rest and so they can eat in peace . However, this can cause missed cycles . Whatever amount of handling you will do with your ram , always be careful . If you can't keep a gate between you and him , try to keep an object between you . Your 5 gallon manure bucket will work , or a good sturdy stick . So if he charges you won't be without recourse .
Breeding season for sheep is September to February . There is 18 days between heat cycles . This is a good time to look to your fall shearing , or at least crutching of the sheep , so that you can be sure the ram has good access to the ewes , as wool that is over long can inhibit him doing his job , both on his end or on hers . Trim his belly wool to be sure it is not getting too wet with urine . Be sure that there isn't any sign of pizzle rot . If there is any redness , irritation , open sores , We treat with an antibacterial , you can use iodine , bannix , neosporin . Best to catch this early before it becomes more serious . On the ewe's part , be sure her hind end and tail is trimmed up good so that extra wool won't inhibit breeding . In the weeks leading up to the breeding season , feed your ewe and ram a maintenance ration of grain to make them more fertile , this is called flushing . The ewe generally shows very little sign of heat . She may stand by the fence near the ram , giving that certain look "making sheep's eyes " at him . Sometimes a tail wag , though I've rarely seen it . This is about all you can expect to see . As the signs can be so subtle , you may have to put the ram in , and leave the pair or the flock together through a few heat cycles . I leave mine in for a minimum of 42 days , a heat cycle is every 18 or so days , they are only in for about a day or so . So in order to have the best chance at a good outcome , ie spring lambs , you need to leave them at least that long to do their job , hopefully . Marking harnesses can be purchased to tell when the ram has bred a ewe , but this may only show you an attempted breeding . Gestation of the sheep is the same as goats at 145-155 days , at 3 months along , you will be able to start feeling the lamb kicking on the right side of the ewe just in front of the udder . You should be able to detect udder growth that also reveals her for being pregnant . Kicks of lambs can be harder to feel through thick wool . The sheep may start looking pudgy , which also shows she is pregnant . 3 weeks before her lambing date begin feeding her a maintenance ration of 1/2 to 1 pound of grain per day . This is to support the ewe and lamb . You may want to limit grain from 3 months along to 3 weeks before due date , being careful to minimize grain at that time , so that the lambs won't get too big giving them a hard labor . These are projected due dates , be sure to record any breedings you witnessed , but you may not have a due date if you did't see anything , just a due date range from when the ram went in to when he left the ewe pen . So in this case , as a precaution feed on the lower end of the maintenance of 1/2 lb daily in my opinion this is a good option . Starting at 2 weeks before the due date , you can also feed a few tums a day to support her calcium needs , and prevent hyocalcimia , but not all ewes will eat them , try breaking them up and feeding with her grain . Try to avoid any quick or drastic feed changes during pregnancy , As ketosis ( pregnancy toxemia ) may result . If you aren't already , you may wish to feed some alfalfa hay or soaked alfalfa pellets in addition to any grass hay and grain . This provides added calcium , feeding a feed with molasses in it will help prevent ketosis as well . The ewe will start to become discontented or loud in her last few weeks of pregnancy . Extra good quality feed , sheep grain and adequate grass will help keep her complaining down . Be sure to be on time with her feeding , this will also help with her complaining .
If your weather is mild enough to shear your sheep prior to lambing , then that may be best . If it is still too cold to shear , ust crutching them may be enough . You want her to be trimmed up on the back side so her wool won't be dirtied as much during birth . You also want her belly wool trimmed up so the lambs can easily find a teat and aren't sucking on the wool. Some shepherds shear sheep earlier to force them to be cold enough to come into the barn to do their lambing . We wait until the weather is such that the sheep can do without its wool , and leave them a little long so they don't half freeze . Whether crutching them or fully shearing them , we shear pregnant ewes on the stanschion so that they won't feel in distress being handled. I once had a ewe which thought it was time for the lamb to come because I had sat her on her rump while shearing her belly . She felt the pressure and started to try to push as if she were in labor . Overall its the least amount of stress to shear in the stanschion . Some sheep will require assistance while lambing , others will not . We try to be there with every birth but don't always manage to do it . Signs of a ewe 11getting ready to give birth are a swollen udder , milk in the teats often , nesting behavior such as scratching in the corner of the barn or yard , laying down and getting up again , baahing with discomfort ( they give a soft sort of grumbling growl which they use to call the lambs . ) touching her side with her nose , urinating and turning to look at the puddle to be sure there's not a lamb in it . At first sign of labor , if you plan on giving a keto nia or calcium (CMPK)drench , you should go ahead and dose her at 1 oz of each , followed by a second dose 6-12 hours later . If you don't catch her at first signs of labor treat her anyway as soon as you know she has lambed . Also worm her after lambing , we use horse wormer dosed at 2x the weight rate for horses , this is off label use , reworm in 10 days . Finally the ewe will usually give birth lying down , curling back her upper lip in pain as she braces herself and begins to push , she may cry out in pain . You should be on hand with a bath towel , sterile gloves , iodine , unflavored dental floss , blunt tipped , scissors , oil to lubricate her if the lamb isn't coming , paper towels to remove the fluid as it works better than a towel , a little clean bedding on the floor of the barn goes a long way as well . The first thing you should see on a proper presentation is 2 front hooves and a nose between them , or two back hooves . Any other presentation may require you to go in and resituate the lamb so it will present in this way . If the bubble around the lamb has already burst , take hold of the lambs 2 legs in your hand , pull with the ewe's contractions , pull when she pushes . Pull out the lamb and clear his face immediately with the paper towels . If necessary use a nose bulb to clear his airway gently . Give him a quick wipe down with the paper towels , then give him to his mother . She will grumble to it softly while cleaning it , and the lamb will answer . In a moment dry it a little better using your bath towel . Watch for signs of a second lamb coming , beginning to push etc. If there is no sign of them in about an hour , she's probably done . The afterbirth should be delivered in a couple of hours , check to see it was delivered and not retained . Tie off the umbilical cord with the dental floss about an inch from the navel , cut the end with blunt tipped school scissors to minimize bleeding . Dip in iodine to dry and sterilize , repeat again a couple of times a day for the next couple of days to avoid infection . If infection develops and the navel is swollen , treat with iodine and neosporin . Special note for lambs , do not place lambs under a heat lamp as its wool will cause it to overheat . Help the lamb to a teat if he needs help , squeeze the teat to milk a little off to break the seal . You can sometimes tell it is nursing and getting milk when it wags its tail . Check your lamb to see if it is a male or female , this will look similar to a dog on the back . If you are going to dock tails for health , it is vital you dock a female's tail . Lambs will need their tails docked at 3 days old . I use a castration band with an elastrator tool . Leave enough of a tail to cover the private area of a female to prevent infection . About the same length on a male . Banding the tail between the vertebrae makes the best result , you can feel between the bones for where to band . Trim the hair away , rub the area with alcohol or iodine , then band . We don't leave the tails long as this will promote such ails as fly strike , leaving a large enough area that may collect urine and manure , flies will flock to this , maggots and infection will follow . So in our opinion tail docking is necessary for the sheep's health in long tailed breeds. If your lamb is a male , in a couple of months you will want to castrate him unless he is to be used for breeding . For whether you will use him for a pet , a fiber animal , or for meat , he should be castrated . We castrate ours by banding them , though open castration methods can be used as well . Watch the tail dock area and the castration site for signs of infection . Eventually the tail , and the sack will fall off , and you can treat the site with a little iodine or some antibiotic ointment . Little lambs are naturally skittish . You should make an effort in the first few days to work with them so that they will come to trust you . At 2 weeks old they can be hand fed sheep grain to encourage them to interact with you . Keep an eye on the ewe's behavior for the first while to be sure she isn't falling victim to ketosis or hypocalcemia , abnormal behavior after birthing needs to be checked against these two . At 2 weeks old when the lambs rumen has begun to come in and it is drinking water , you can start separating the lambs from the ewe at night if you mean to milk her . Letting them back together in the morning after she has been milked. I personally wait until the lambs are a month old to do this as it is very traumatic for the ewe and lamb , and there is much more calling back and forth than there is with a goat . The ewe will call for the lamb even all night because lambs stay closer by their mothers than do goat kids . If you will start to milk at a month old , you may be sure the colostrum is well clear from the milk . Colostrum delivers antibodies to the lamb , colostrum is also said to have some health benefits for humans , but its taste is very salty and we don't care for it . Though the colostrum is gone , the flavor can linger in the milk for 2 weeks to a month . A month old is emergency weaning age for a lamb anyway , and that leaves before 4 and 5 months of milking time on the sheep . Sheep milk far less time than the goats at 10 months , but the product is much richer . We use our sheeps milk exclusively to separate off the cream and use for ice cream , it makes a smooth rich product , and in yogurt it has its own refreshing flavor with no flavoring required to be added. Milking your sheep is a little different than milking your goat . The udder is softer , and you want to grab further up on it than you would on the goat . Baby goats and baby sheep feed differently . I have heard it said that while you can give a baby goat to a sheep to nurse , you never want to give a lamb to a goat or it will ruin the goats udder . I try not to keep mixed flocks as goats seem to be disturbing to the sheep , and sheep are very wet as well .
please note that at this time we do not have a sheep health section , but many health issues are the same as with goats ,so some answers may be found in our goat health section
Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Ducks are a rewarding and interesting addition to any homestead . Duck eggs usually fetch nearly twice the price of chicken eggs , and many who are allergic to chicken eggs can have duck eggs . Do tell your egg customers that they are duck eggs , as some seem opposed . Ducks are very engaging and seemingly more emotional and intelligent than chickens . But there are a few things that should be considered when keeping water fowl , which we discovered the hard way. They should not be kept in with chickens or other ground birds , as the ducks are too wet , and the wet they create with their droppings and love of water and splashing , makes unhealthy conditions for other birds . I have lost several good laying hens and a years worth of chicks as well as a hen house floor before we finally decided to separate the ducks into their own pen . There is also the old adage of birds of a feather flock together , which seems to be true . The ducks don't seem particularly happy to be in with the hens . They seem more at their ease and happier in their own separate flock . Remember a happy bird lays better for you . additionally some say ducks need higher protein , some use flockraiser and other higher protein feeds , it is also said that they shouldn't be given medicated chick start , as they may get too much of the medication . Housing considerations : Ducks should have an outside run surrounded by chicken wire to avoid sticking their heads out at predators or ducklings slipping through . Ducks should not be housed on wood flooring , but plastic or concrete . I found snap together plastic type sheds with plastic floors or big plastic dog houses work well . Wood flooring rots out very quickly as ducks are very wet creatures . If you do have plywood floors , water should not be given inside the house , and since they require water near their food to avoid choking , you may not want to feed them in the house either . Dirt floors allow predators to dig under and expose the flock to danger . Ducks should be shut away in their house at night to avoid losses by predators . Ducks do not seem in my experience to respond to light manipulation as laying hens do to keep them laying year round . You can try it , but they just seem to have a "laying season " about april to october , which is of course when they would naturally be nesting and hatching babies . Ducks should be provided with a pool large enough to swim in , particularly in summer and fall . Change the water often , for while they are the ones that muddied it , ducks don't like to bathe in or drink dirty water , and shouldn't be made to . When choosing your ducks consider what their use will be . Do you want them for egg production , meat production , simple enjoyment , or all 3 ? For self sustaining meat production as well as some eggs , I would advise toward muscovy ducks , these also have a great personality they are not nervous , and they're largely silent . While not the most handsome ducks , adults have red caruncles over their faces , muscovy hens are superb at setting nests and raising ducklings . They are certainly fussy however and secretive about nesting sites . I recommend placing a dog house with a door at some out of the way corner of the pen , add hay to it to make it appealing to lay eggs in . This way you will be able to close her and the nest up at night , and she can set but still be safe from predators while incubating eggs . Muscovies are almost silent making only a soft hiss , they do not quack except when they are angry . The females can fly , but males are too heavy . So until they know where they live , wings should be clipped and a tall fence maintained to prevent escape . Care should be taken in handling muscovies , they are large and very powerful , with extremely sharp claws that can do significant damage . They like to perch at night but don't always . Muscovies lay around 130 eggs per year , as opposed to the 200+ of other more productive ducks . They are a very large , fast growing and meaty bird for butcher which are very lean and similar to beef in taste , and they are not entirely useless as layers . When keeping mucovies and other breeds of ducks in the same pen , one should be advised that any offspring will be sterile . If you plan to use them for breeding or sell the offspring to anyone who may wish to breed them in the future , you may want to bear this in mind and keep the species separate . Additionally , muscovies seem to have their own duck language which other ducks don't share in . They practice a ritualized snapping in the air and head bob which means something to other muscovies , but not to mallard derived ducks . Mucovies are the only duck breed that has no mallard DNA , genetically they are more similar to a goose than to a duck , this is why offspring crossed with other breeds are mules . For egg production , a Indian runner duck , or a pekin duck , khaki campbell etc. lays far more eggs per year , but these can be very nervous and excitable as well as noisy. The upright penguin like stance of the runner duck , however , provides plenty of comic relief after a tough day on the homestead . Runner ducks are pasture ducks and not quite as keen on water sports as other breeds , but they do a lot of preening and use water to straighten mussed feathers . Deep water dishes should still be used , plastic kiddie pools are a good pond substitute , or shallow storage containers . But when having ducklings remove all water more than a couple inches deep , and shallow enough sides that ducklings can get out after they've gotten in , otherwise they get cold and drown . In the old days ducks were plucked gently by loving house wives in need of downy feathers for stuffing pillows . They would hold them on their lap and pluck feathers gently , leaving the bird unharmed . There seems to be a good market for duck and goose feathers and down in the online world .
Sumer Starling copyright 2021
At first glance keeping doves may not seem worthwhile to the homesteader , but while the meat is just a little bit of meat , it also requires very little grain to produce that meat , little enough that during the great depression , doves were often raised for meat , they were cheap to feed , and meat was expensive to purchase . When I first started keeping doves prior to GMO corn , I was raising them easily and successfully on cracked corn alone . After GMOs , protein levels in corn dropped through the floor , and it no longer seems to be adequate fodder to keep pairs in breeding condition . I started feeding layer pellets for laying hens and production resumed .
Dove parents are monogamous , except for occasional cheating , and sometimes a strong willed female who insists to engage in polygamy . Both parents participate in rearing the young . The doves I raise are laughing , or ringneck doves , which come from Eurasia . They come in several color morphs , white , pied, peach and brown . All of them have a slight ring around their neck . There is no distinguishable difference between the sexes , except that males seem to have a slightly larger breast . Sexing must be done by chemical testing or by behavior study . The male has a deeper , throaty coo , and tends to laugh more , which is a territorial trait . The male is the only one of the pair that does an intimidation coo , where he bends low with his beak almost touching his perch , then rises up on tip toes , standing almost straight upward , as he advances toward his mate or rival , cooing at them . If this fails to solicit the desired response , he laughs and pecks at the other bird , sometimes pulling out feathers . Occasionally 2 males will engage in wing slapping fights , with one or both wings upraised , and hitting each other about the head . I've seen black eyes result from this sort of fighting , and having been slapped a time or two myself , I can see why , as the wing slaps can be quite powerful . The male will also be seen during courtship feeding the female from his crop . This is similar to how both parents feed the young , on pigeon's or dove's milk . Dove's milk is a regurgitated food that increases in grain size based on the age of the squab . The female has a softer coo , and often responds to the male , or tucks her head behind her wing in reply to his courtship . Doves are mature and able to breed at 5 months old , at that time they will begin to choose mates . They can be very choosy in what dove they want to breed with , and choice cannot always be forced . I've seen doves fall in love with the opposite sex and refuse to give them up , even when placed apart for months as a new mate is sought for them . To encourage breeding , a nest box should be provided , or if conditions allow and it is safe for them to do so , especially in a small pen , you can let them nest on the ground . I give my doves a box about 5x8 " and put grass hay in it , leaving some grass hay on the floor of the pen so that the male dove can select the pieces he finds acceptable for nest building . He will present the chosen hay to the female at the nest box . After breeding , 2 white eggs are produced . If there are 3 eggs , there is a second female laying in the box , or you have 2 females and no male , and they are confused . The second female should be removed , because successful hatchlings won't be likely with more than a pair in the nest . Parents share incubation duties , I've heard it said that the father takes the day shift as it is more dangerous for predator attacks . And the Mother , the night shift . They call to each other in a coo when the changing of the guard is to take place , and will often sit together when the chicks are hatching . The male will feed the female on the nest sometimes and continue to bring her nesting material early in the incubation process . She will carefully fold the hay in place beneath her . The incubation time is 16 days on doves . After it is up , the tiny naked and blind baby dove , just about the size of the egg appears . Parents feed it partially digested feed until it is 6 weeks old . At this point , it is well feathered and able to eat on its own . Some parents are so fond of sitting on eggs that they will stop feeding the baby early to lay another clutch . You must be watchful of this happening . Feel the baby's crop , if it is empty all day , it is a good bet the parents aren't feeding it , and it must be fed by hand . I use whole canned corn warmed to room temperature . Take baby's bill between thumb and forefinger of your one hand , and shove in a few kernels of corn with your other hand . Give the baby time to swallow , and then repeat . Do this until the crop is pretty full but not over full , and baby seems satiated . The babies will wiggle their wings and squeal at their parents when they are hungry . They often chase them around , they will do this with a human sometimes during hand feeding . At around 2 or 3 weeks , baby will start falling out of the nest box , and I always put them back to encourage the parents to care for it . By 4 weeks , if they continue to fall out , I makes sure they are perched on the edge of the food dish so they can start experimenting with eating on their own . Before I wean , I always make sure they are eating well . The food dish should be kept full for breeding doves , and should be fairly shallow . Doves are ground feeders , so the dish should be placed on the ground . In an aviary situation , doves like to nest high , so the nest box should be elevated . A large water dish that is fairly shallow should be kept nearby and changed daily as they perch on the edge and soil the water . Doves enjoy a good daily water bath to keep their feathers in order . Doves are one of the only birds that don't tip their head back to drink , so they need a little bit deeper water supply to quench their thirst . Water should be shallow when babies start to fall out of the nest , because nestlings fall into the water dish and can quickly get hypothermia and die . Doves should be placed so that they have ready access to sunlight , it is the only way that they can absorb vitamin D . Grit also should be supplied to properly digest their food . Doves can be raised in an aviary , a large cage , or a hutch . I have raised them in all 3 conditions , and I lie them for different reasons . Doves in a hutch are less vulnerable to predators , rats particularly will readily dismember and eat them , they favor the crop area . Doves don't care too much for being on wire , but wire can be covered with bedding . In any case the cage should provide the dove with some opportunity for flight . Doves love to fly . A cage at its very minimum should allow the dove to stretch its wings out to full length in every direction . Doves should be provided with a perch to rest on , as they feel safer and more confident with one than without . Doves make good pets , they live for many years , my oldest pair is 13 years old and still producing . They can be readily sold for $5-$20 and even more . I always recommend doves for beginners and children as they are very gentle with humans and are very hardy . Be careful in keeping doves with other birds , they are often not able or willing to defend themselves .
by Sumer Starling copyright 2021
Quail have a small amount of meat but they can be very economical to raise and are an easy way of getting into the butcher and the egg market . Quail are easy to keep , and a good beginners animal for getting your feet wet in home butchery . A good breed choice for raising quail is jumbo brown cotournix , or Japanese pharaoh quail . These are drab little brown birds , weighing 3-6 Oz In the standard form and laying eggs at 8 weeks old. the larger subspecies jumbo Browns weigh up to 14 oz and are laying eggs at 6 weeks . Coturnix quail are highly nervous birds , and can fly up and hit their head , breaking their necks for seemingly no cause at all . Quail need to be housed in a pen with a roof as they're able to fly . They can be kept in an aviary setting or in a hutch cage . Quail can be kept in with chickens , but be careful of this , as some chickens will kill quail , especially mother hens , and quail will kill chicks . Quail are not typically broody , and though they can be , they should not be expected to hatch eggs , and eggs should not be allowed to build up in the pen trying to get them to nest because it may only lead to bad eggs or tempt the quail to turn to egg consumption . Jumbo brown's can lay up to 300 eggs per year , and while the eggs are small , only about one-third the size of a standard chicken egg , they have been known to be a help in those with seasonal allergies as well as other health benefits , and those allergic to chicken eggs can typically eat quail eggs without adverse effect . An added benefit to eggs is that if you plan to sell the eggs , they are a delicacy , and you've may have a unique market with buyers who can't get them elsewhere . Quail Live 5 to 6 years and are productive for most of their lives .
Quail eggs should be incubated at 99.8 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit 45 to 55% humidity , incubation is 18 days , turn twice daily , the last two days before hatching quail eggs should not be turned .
Quail will need to be fed high protein feed , you can use a game bird food or flock raiser , 18% minimum protein . Because of their propensity toward aggression on feed higher than 18 to 20% and the fact they produce more waste on higher protein foods , as well as the lack of ready availability of game bird feeds , medicated chick start can be used to feed quail and I have been had better success with this feed than with any other feed . I feed chick start from birth and for the rest of the quail's life . Most chicks start crumbles are small enough for newborn quail , but can be put through the food processor or crushed with mortar and pestle to make them smaller if need be . Newly hatched quail should be placed on a non slick surface so they can get a foothold and won't develop splay leg . Care should be taken when placing baby quail with other chicks , especially ducklings as predation can occur . Feed dishes should be shallow and water dishes should be filled with marbles so that baby quail won't drown . Be sure water comes up to the sides and just over the top of the marbles so that quail can drink the water in between the marbles . Quail should be given a 250 watt heat light for the first 4 weeks . When fully feathered however a lower wattage bulb can be used , 125 W as long as a brooding area is small and enclosed or the light is placed low enough for the quails to take advantage of the warmth . Quail 4 weeks old can do without a light but quail expected to lay eggs should be given an artificial light when sunlight is less than 14 hours a day a 60 watt bulb or even Christmas lights can be used to keep quail laying even through the winter months.
On our homestead we like or animals to be productive as close to year round as they can be in order to be worth the food they eat . Quail should be housed with their size in mind , they're much smaller than chickens and when first hatched are hardly bigger than a bumblebee , therefore they can fit through small openings and much care should be taken that they don't escape and become lost . Quail pens should also be constructed with their habits in mind , they have a notoriously bad habit of flying towards the door when it is opened and I have more than once lost them when they fly out . Small doors are essential to keeping them in . bedding can be used on the floor of the pen, hay or non cedar wood chips, and needs to be cleaned often so that manure balls don't form on the ends of the quails toes . Also sand or dirt should be provided for a dust bath to keep feathers nice .
As they become mature , males will have a Sienna brown colored breast , and females have a tan one with black spots up by the neck . Possibly due to the specialized breeding done to gain the faster maturity and larger growth both sexes can be over aggressive , instead of courting , the male ends up killing his mates , or the female kills the male . High protein can exacerbate this phenomenon . In order to stop picking , some breeders do not keep a male at all as one is not required for non fertile egg laying . At times you can isolate the aggressor and either cull them or snip the end of their bill with clippers , just until you get a drop of blood , if you snip too far you can stop bleeding with cornstarch , alum or stop bleed , snipping makes the beak sensitive and the bird won't be as likely to pick . Each male can serve 10 females and be kept in a covey , keeping more females to 1 male gives him more targets and he is less likely to kill the hens . For The continuity of the breeding program , if meat from quail is desired , you will need to keep a male with females to have fertile eggs . Be sure as with all the species on your homestead that you keep a spare male or two in case something happens so you won't be out of the breeding business .
Viability and profitability of quail depends on using them to the fullest . We use ours for eggs and meat and we sell pairs or trios of live birds , on occasion we sell quail chicks as well to interested parties . When one is slaughtered I save the good quality feathers for sale for crafts and therefore make a little more money than I would have .