Nom nom nom...

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, July 22, 2012 11:37 AM

I think it's important to provide enrichment for domestic animals.  Whether you're throwing a ball for your dog or using a string to play with your cat, it keeps them stimulated mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

Caring for domestic livestock is no different in this regard.  If I lived on 10 acres there would be plenty for the critters to explore and do.  But here at the homestead, I introduce things into their environment that provide that extra bit of fun and joy and even a special treat that they have to work for.
Today's enrichment item for the goats is a HUGE pile of trimmings from Andrea's rose bushes.  Rather than dump them on the ground - boring! - I bundled them and hung them from the chains at the ends of my hammock.  I do this with lots of food treats.  It's a healthy way to supplement their normal diet.  It encourages their natural browsing instinct, forcing them to reach up and stretch out for their food.  Plus there is healthy competition for the best bits.
Goldie, a 4-1/2 month old Nigerian Dwarf is visiting the homestead to participate in Herd Camp.  She spent her first few months playing with small children.  Therefore she thinks she's a 5 year old human child.  By integrating her into an established herd she should learn how to be a goat.  This enrichment encourages her goat behavior and helps to bond her with the herd.  It's the old "breaking bread" tradition.
Boo, a 2-1/2 month old Nubian/Nigerian/? mix is visiting the homestead in order to wean her from her mother Ginny.  She's having the hardest time adjusting.  However the desperation in her cries for her mother has been substantially reduced this morning.  She's having the hardest time integrating.  Her voice is completely different from the Nigerian Dwarfs, so it's like she's speaking a foreign language.  But even with these challenges, she's doing remarkably well.  And she's a smart little bugger too!  She didn't want to miss out on the tasty rose branches but was timid to approach them at ground level.  Her answer?  Jump up into the crotch of the tree!  It's like being at the head of the table and having all she can eat without any competition.

In other stimulating news, the duck pond has been drained into the orchard (liquid fertilizer) and is ready to be refilled.  They'll be getting some feeder fish today which stimulates their natural dabbing behavior.  It also provides a mental and physical challenge which results in a physical and emotional reward.  Finally, it provides them with an excellent alternate source of protein that is appropriate for their dietary needs.

While Bonnie and Mary love this treat, it will be interesting to see how the 5 little ducklings react.  If their eagerness to eat every last little dot of duckweed I give them is any indication, it should prove rather entertaining.  Unfortunately, it will also be a short and supervised session.  Although they love swimming in the tub, they don't have much in the way of feathers.  So I have to pull them back out after about 10 minutes so they don't get waterlogged and drown.  That means the ramp to the tub has to always be up for now except when I provide enrichment for them.  Soon enough it'll be back to free access.  They grow so fast!

Believe it or not, in the time it's taken me to write this short post the goats have almost completely stripped all the leaves off of the rose branches.  They've now settled in for the juicy stems.  Nom nom nom!

1 Response to "Nom nom nom..."

Drea Says:

So glad those rose suckers got to be enjoyed by your herd!