Tuesday, October 22, 2013

True Life Adventures of Rosie the Goat, Queen of Nettles Farm

In every goat herd, there is one alpha female called the queen goat. Even though Rosie only has a herd of one, her rather dufus brother Nico, still she takes her job seriously. She is fussy with her food, checking out this plant and that to see if it is safe to eat. She wanders the pen looking for ways to get out, eager to show her brother the new path. She makes sure the herd is together, and that includes me.


 
Some weeks ago, Rosie showed us what a good mother she might be if given the chance. I was moving a small flock of adolescent Sulmthaler chicks, which were living in the same building as the goats, when one small hen flew straight up and out of the pen. It was so quick I tried in vain to catch it. As I chased it, the chick found a way out so small I couldn't follow. I tried to lure it back in the next few days, but it was so skittish she would run back to her little hole when she saw me coming. Days went by and I didn't see her, and the food I left was untouched. I was sure an owl or a raccoon had gotten her, until one morning I went to feed the goats, and there was the tiny hen, perched on Rosie's head. The little bird felt safe there, and figured out how to get some of the grain from Rosie's feeder. As the weeks passed, the hen, who we called Pico, was inseparable from her "mom". When we took the goats for a walk, Pico would cry and cry to see Rosie leave.

This went one for about a month, and Pico had grown from a small chick into a healthy adolescent. She traveled everywhere on Rosie or Nico's back. This did not go unnoticed by a young goshawk who had been terrorizing the layers and other hens around the farm. Normally we do not see goshawks here, as their habitat is usually north, but occasionally one will join the ravens and eagles that give an interested flyby when they hear the sound of young chickens. One day, while I was inside working, the hawk swooped low and snatched Pico right off of Rosie's back. Rosie froze as she heard her little friend crying through the trees, then silence. That was almost a month ago, and still Rosie seems traumatized. She is hesitant to leave her pen, and for the longest time looked in vain for Pico, with a caring and bewildered look in her soft eyes.

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