Goats On The Run

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Clover the goat, enjoying my shrubs

This past Wednesday I spent a short time out in the goat pasture with a fellow farming enthusiast from up the road. We spoke about chickens, goats, growing vegetables, cultivating mushrooms…and at some point I’m sure I talked about the portable electric mesh fence we use to keep the goats in place. I no doubt mentioned that despite its flimsy appearance, they rarely challenge it and certainly never escape.

Fast forward two hours later as I’m rounding the bend with an armful of hay, only to be greeted by a most unpleasant sight: one of the large white goats had both its feet in the fence, kneeling down and thus bending it all the way to the ground.  Almost the whole herd was suddenly leaping over the lowered section and out into the woods. Have you ever seen a cartoon depiction of someone counting sheep as they try to fall asleep, one animal after another jumping over the fence every second? It looked exactly like that except with Saanens, Lamanchas, and Nigerian Dwarfs.sheep-jumping-over-fence-in-a-cloudy-moon-scene-dieter-spannknebel

I usually would have been irritated at such a spectacle but it did look funny, especially to the carpenters building a house next door who suddenly stopped working to enjoy the show. I casually leaned against a pine tree with one hand to give the appearance I had everything under control. I doubt it looked very convincing.

But what happened that they no longer respected their enclosure?  After rounding up the escapees I inspected the fence and found that the last time I moved their pasture, I forgot to connect a section together which left half the fence uncharged for an entire week. In seven days they figured it out and took advantage of my error. Lesson learned, I’ll pay more attention in the future.

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Birds of a Feather

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The Silver Spangled Hamburg

“Sprightly…good forager…one of the snappiest, most alert breeds…look after themselves well in the field”.   Any one of these descriptions are desirable for a chicken in a free range environment but add all of them together and you have the Silver Spangled Hamburg, my favorite chicken breed so far.

And alert they are, when they’re not kicking up leaves looking for a natural source of food they’re scanning the skies for hawks and eagles.  If danger approaches they’re the first to give the alarm and head for cover which alerts the rest of the flock to do the same. They have a small body size which allows them to be good fliers and they lay a nice sized white egg.  If a stray hunting dog wanders in from the deep woods I’ve seen the Hamburgs fly well over 200 yards into a tree, all without ever having to land on the ground every 30 feet like other hens do.

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Roosting outside for the night

Their only weakness?  They hate to be confined in a coop for the night, preferring instead to roost out in the open which leaves them vulnerable to raccoons, possums and especially owls.  One morning last week I found one dead in the field with its head missing, the calling-card of an owl. Needles to say the other Hamburgs wised-up and are now roosting safely in the coop.

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