Smart goats!

I mean, I knew that goats were smart. It’s obvious. Christian Nawroth’s research (and that of others) continues to prove it.

But my goats recently surprised me. Let me tell you the story.

The goat shed gives the four Nigerian Dwarf goats access to the large pasture. (Large here is relative—the whole property is ~1.25 acres!) There is a small fenced area on the other side of the house from the goat shed that I haven’t done anything with, so when the weather is nice I move the goats over there.

My initial method of moving the goats there and back was:

  • Tether Emerson and Delilah (siblings who *freak out*—especially Delilah—when separated) in the goat shed.
  • Attach leashes to Gimlet’s and Toddy’s collars.
  • Open the gate on the front of the goat shed and run like hell, being half-dragged by two goats across my yard to the smaller fenced area.
  • Tether Gimlet and Toddy to fence posts.
  • Return to goat shed for Emerson and Delilah and repeat mad run.
  • Close fenced area gate, let Emerson and Delilah off leash, and untether Gimlet and Toddy.
  • Sneak out of fenced area gate (which only opens in one direction, and it’s the wrong direction for dealing with goats)

So, I had a bad fall in some mud on one of these mad runs back in the early spring and it kind of scared me. At some point I have to take getting older and the increased fragility from certain conditions seriously and start acting like it, right? Sigh.

At that point I modified the above procedure to move one goat at a time. I would start with Gimlet first and put him back last, because he is better than the others about walking on a leash.

And that was some better, but ye gods, for being so small, these goats are freakishly strong, and the three who are not moved first are Highly Motivated to re-form the herd, and they run FAST. Then I got a repetitive stress injury in my elbow (due to something else unrelated), and tried to move the goats using only one arm, and I decided this was all ridiculous. I could not continue letting goats drag me around in a dangerous manner.

The goats must learn to walk in a calm, controlled way between their enclosures!

Cue laughter

The first time I moved them after deciding this, I had treats in my pocket. As soon as a goat began to rush ahead, pulling on the leash, I just dropped to the ground and sat there until they quit pulling at the leash and turned their attention to me. Then I gave a treat.

For each goat other than Gimlet, I estimate it took about 12 stop-starts like this to make to the smaller pasture.

Going back to the shed in the evening, they are more likely to run like hell because that’s home and it is getting dark-ish and they are not in it. But we still managed to get there with only about 9 stop-starts.

That day was the only day I did this with treats. I moved them again the following weekend, with fewer stop-starts needed each time. And then yesterday morning with even fewer.

And then yesterday evening I was so proud of them! We all went back to the goat shed with NO STOP-STARTS. Just calm walking next to me!

So, that was six training sessions. Two per day, but the days were each a week apart. And they learned! SMART GOATS!

I have no illusions that all future transfers will go so smoothly, but I’m really proud of them and pleased at their progress.

Six on Saturday

I am too tired to write anything but the image captions

Lazarus the guinea fowl keeps watch while Bucket and Chestnut forage in the pumpkin plant
Rhus glabra
A view through the willow fedge off the back deck
It’s hemerocallis time!
Sunflower, self-sown. I’ll have to look up the name…
King of the trellis! Melothria scabra (cucumelon, or Mexican sour gherkin) has reached the top of the trellis

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator.

Six on Saturday

1. Papilio polyxenes (Eastern swallowtail) caterpillar party in the Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’

I counted three on one plant.

Swallowtail party!

2. Burial of unhatched guinea fowl eggs

All three of these eggs had keets actively developing at 21 days, but they never hatched. Today was one day past the “they are not going to hatch” deadline. I carefully listened for any peeps and heard none.

There was a lot of hope saturating these eggs. Not all potential gets realized. <3

The three guinea fowl eggs that appeared viable at 21 days, but never hatched, buried today.

3. Blackberries

There is a thin strip of blackberries between what Lurkey can reach and what’s easy for other birds to get to. Some of them are ripening! Very close!

Blackberries are very close to being ripe.

4. Basil

Boris was chasing Lazarus night-before-last and they knocked the top out of one of my basil plants. I ate the leaves rolled up in slices of roast beef with cheese. I love the alternating leaf growth pattern.


5. Demanding guinea is demanding

Piper keeps an eye on me and, if I crouch down, she will often come running to see if I’m passing out Japanese Beetles. Tis the season. But here I was just pulling some weeds. (Grimace is running up behind her).

Piper the coral blue guinea fowl hen wants to know if I got any more of them Japanese Beetles

6. Fog and fireflies

We had a massive rainstorm in the mid/late afternoon, and as dusk fell, a heavy fog rose. The fireflies were not deterred.


The fog rolls in across the street with the fireflies

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator, and links to other participants for today are available here.

Morning anxiety spike

Point one: it is unseasonably chilly here.

Point two: the old house does not have central heating and air.

Point three: the incubator and brooder are in the back bedroom, closed off from the main space heated/cooled by ductless unit.

Point four: when I entered the kitchen to make my tea this morning, the oven clock blinking alerted me there had been a power outage while I slept. I have no way of knowing how long the power was out.

Point five: getting chilled is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a baby keet so young.

Point six: I realized I had not heard peeping from the other room while waking up.

HAPPY OUTCOME: all the keets are fine, and seem comfortable and unstressed. So I suspect the outage was brief.

2020-06-15 log

We are now at five guinea keets. Three eggs remain. The hatch started early, and different eggs could be at different stages of development. I will not assume any remaining eggs are lost until the 19th.

It was chilly and rainy, so I did nothing outside except pluck a few weeds noticed while doing chores, and find the little mirror for the keet brooder I knew was somewhere in the shed.

The shed… needs help. It is out of control and it’s a daunting job. I will think about taking some time off work to focus in it, but I’m up to my neck in projects that need to keep moving right now.

Welcome, Keet Four

Now we are four.

Keets #4 (left), 2 (middle), and 3 (right)

This one hatched while I was in a meeting and I found a little blood around the incubator, apparently from its cord.

The bleeding had already stopped by the time I discovered the keet, but I have moved #2 and #3 to the brooder so they will not be tempted.

#1 seemed momentarily territorial about the brooder, but then all three started pecking at each others’ toes. They seem to have lost interest. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Rain, rain, rain

Rainy week ahead

So there won’t be much outdoor activity to report in the coming week.

More time to socialize keets, I suppose?

I used to like rainy spells much more before I had goats and guineas. All the nasty parts of caring for animals are exacerbated by rain and mud, and the animals complain about being cooped up (or choosing to stay in their shed for fear of melting, in the goats’ case). If let out, the guineas will wander around complaining about the rain and will get soaking wet, which isn’t a death sentence once they are grown, but still seems bad for days on end.

I also get a keen sense of resources/opportunity slipping away. Later this summer, I’m sure there will be weeks on end without a drop of rain, and my rainwater cache will run low, and yet all this bounty NOW isn’t being stored up for later.

With this spring/early summer rain monsoon-mid/late summer drought pattern, I definitely need some more rainwater storage, but I’m not sure where I could put them, and that’s a project I can’t do independently, which makes it more complicated, especially now.

Guinea fowl color genetics

Some of my most memorable early academic meltdowns included memorizing multiplication tables and deciphering Punnett squares, so I get a little nervous when genetics comes up.

Luckily the Guinea Fowl Calculator exists.

Given the known stable relationships among my birds, it looks like I have a good chance of having all pearl gray keets. I think my pearl grays are very pretty, but this is also kind of disappointing, because the range of colors out there is so interesting. I better invest in some more colored leg bands!

I also find it neat how guineas seem to like difference. None of the four coral blues wants to get with other coral blues. The two pied royal purples don’t hang out together. The pearl grays and pied pearl grays are not with other pearl grays.

Lazarus (male, coral blue) + Bucket (female, pearl gray)

Chickweed (male, coral blue) + Iris (female, pearl gray)

  • 100% chance Pearl Gray

Weddy (male, pied pearl gray) + Zipper (female, pied royal purple)

  • 50% chance Pied Pearl Gray
  • 25% chance Pearl Gray
  • 25% chance White

Boris (male, pied royal purple) + Chestnut (female, pearl gray)
Grimace (male, pied Pearl Gray) + Piper (female, coral blue)
Grimace (male, pied Pearl Gray) + Clementine (female, coral blue)
Weddy (male, pied pearl gray) + Kernel (female, buff dundotte)
Weddy or Grimace (both male, pied pearl gray) + Inkpot (female, royal purple)

  • 50% chance Pearl Gray
  • 50% chance Pied Pearl Gray