Is your head doe bossing you around?

In my little goat herd, Rosie is head doe. Goat herds are not exclusive clubs. Nearby chickens are included. People are too. As far as the goats are concerned, I’m a member of the herd, and that’s usually really nice. We’ve cleared brush together companionably, and they miss me if I’m not the one to look in on them.

However.

The head doe does boss her followers around. Gigi’s felt Rose’s horns more than once. Unfortunately, so have I. Not often, but it happened again a couple of days ago. Here’s what I’ve done to clarify our relationship.

Grabbing the goat by the horns

The horns that make Rose’s bossiness a problem are also a great way to get a handle on her. Literally. Rose is stronger than I am, but those horns give me an advantage. The first time I had to use them was a few years ago. She was a couple of years old and felt it was time to take me in hand. I couldn’t quite control her by holding her horns and didn’t dare let go. She was seriously trying to take me down, as she would an impertinent goat in her herd. I’m not as tough as a goat, and she probably could have hurt me far more than she intended to.

We danced around for several minutes before I thought, “Hmm. Goats do not like to lay on their side. If I switch this hand… to the rear leg… and pull…”

It worked like a charm. She went down hard and I had complete control. More important, I had her complete attention. I lectured her on appropriate behavior toward humans. I don’t know whether she understood any of the words, but she definitely got the message. I avoided her the next day (I was pretty pissed) and that had her really worried. We’ve not had many issues since then.

Last week I had the girls out on a lead. Rose wanted to move to a new location, but I was still working with the lead (which Gigi, as usual, had wrapped around the stub of a shrub). Rose hooked her horns into my thighs (ouch), threw me off balance, and made her escape — all of three yards, to a bit of blackberry vine she’d been eyeing.

When I caught up with her, I grabbed her horns and twisted her head to one side, as if to lay her down, and gave her a synopsis of the earlier lecture. For the next two days she sidled up to me at every opportunity, nuzzling me, giving me her best doe-eyes, and essentially saying, “We’re good, right?”

Life is back to normal in the herd. We’re a close-knit group where Rose is head doe. But I’m the boss.

Improving the eggs-to-feed ratio

These old vans tended to get good gas mileageYears ago, when  I lived in the city, I had a problem with the gas mileage on my car. It got really bad really fast, and soon I was down to about three miles per gallon. As a friend of mine said, “I don’t think a Volkswagen can run at all if it’s in that bad shape.”

I fixed the problem by getting a locking gas cap.

Now I’ve been seeing a similar situation with the chicken feed. The organic feed I get costs twice as much as the standard stuff, and I’m hardly seeing any eggs lately. In fact, feed consumption has gone up even as the flock has diminished by natural attrition.

If you keep chickens, you’ve already guessed the problem. The other day I found a rat. Not some scroungy refuse-eating alley rat. This is a country rat, the kind that makes a living off of whatever the woods have to offer. On a good day, she’ll find a stand of something yummy all ripening at once. On a very good day, she’ll find the food people leave out for their animals.

This particular rat had enjoyed many very good days. So many, in fact, that her route through a bit of 1″ x 2″ wire mesh no longer worked. She was stuck. She struggled, then sighed, rolled her eyes in exasperation, and rested. Then she struggled again.

She was actually quite lovely, as feed-stealing pests go. She was plump and sleek, and her pelt had that healthy sheen that comes from eating fresh organic eggs. I recognized the look on her face as she worked at getting free: a little frustrated, very practical, and readily accepting that she and she alone had gotten herself in that situation.

When I found her, I was just leaving the house. When I got back, she had slipped away.

Since then, we’ve watched rats come into the run at night. They don’t seem to bother the chickens. They grab a mouthful of feed and dart away. Repeatedly. So I take the feed away from the chickens at night now. I know it’s only a temporary solution and that we need to get rid of the rats. Even country rats are not good to have around.

Some year I’d like to have a run with a concrete footing and walls of quarter-inch mesh, roofed in clear panels with plenty of overhang so the run stays nice and dry even along the edges. It would be a palace for the girls, and I could leave their food out all night.