I realized ALL of my Facebook statuses (stati?) this week were about animals…like ALL of them. So I thought I should do a blog post here for our animals. Besides the 4 children, who are similar in many ways to the animals we care for 😉 , we are currently providing care for 22 animals. That is 22 responsibilities for us and for the kids to learn from. It’s also 22 things that can go wrong every single day. This post might just turn into a who’s who in the backyard homestead, but they’re important enough to us to garner their own post.
Our oldest friends are Rocko and Lola, our 12 year old cats. I had cats before I had children and honestly, when they pass, we will never own another cat on purpose. We got Rocko as a baby with his brother peanut the year Lewis and I got engaged. Peanut was this sickly little runt, and I’m a sucker for the runt, and Rocko was the brother they wanted to go with him. True story, but obviously we love Rocko now, but he was definitely the consolation prize when his brother died of pneumonia probably from their birth inside a wall on a construction site where they were found. The pet rescue had us come choose another cat when we told them what happened. I chose Lola because she was so pretty. She was standoffish and a little rude, but so pretty. Well, like any ex-girlfriend will tell you, you can’t change someone, and Lola was no different. She’s still standoffish, and a little rude, but so pretty. She hates everyone but the people who live in this house and, in some ways, I respect her loyalty.
Next up is Millie. Millie is a Red Parrot Cichlid we bought at a Meijer grocery store when Renna was 4. She is indestructible and ridiculously large for a fish. She has outgrown 3 tanks, and no matter what weird thing happens to her, she keeps right on living…making messes, and making me feel kind of sad, that that clear tank is her life. We’ve tried to buy her friends to keep her company, but she eats them all…
When we moved to the new house, that came equipped with a chicken coop, we obviously had to put chickens in it. It was sort of not an option not to. So we ordered 6 chicks from a hatchery and they promptly delivered 7. We named one Spare since he was obviously the extra to make up for the sickly one they sent us that would inevitably die on Renna’s birthday. True to her mother’s child, she had chosen the sickly runt to make “hers”. So We had Spare, the White Polish Rooster (who now lives on a nice farm an hour north of here since he was NOT fond of small children as he grew), 2 White Polish Hens: Egg White & Snips, 3 Buff Orpington Hens: Scissors, Radio, & Omelette.
These chickens were LOVED. And by loved I mean the kids carried them around like stuffed animals, and took them onto the playset. They sat on their laps while they would swing and slide and play. When we came outside they would run up to us like puppies looking for snacks. Elliott loved them so much, he would play and play and play and then eat food and touch his face and eventually get salmonella.
When your 3 year old gets home from a life threatening sepsis stay in the Children’s hospital, you take him out to celebrate his recuperation, right? We took him to the park across the street where a town event was going on, and we came home with Daphne, a 1 year old boxer terrier rescue. There were a bunch of yippy little dogs, a shaky chihuahua, and a super noisy coon hound. But there, underneath the tiny yippy dog’s crate was another crate. Where a medium sized dog sat. Making medium sized dog faces and not a noise. She laid there and watched everyone. She didn’t bark. She didn’t growl. She sat there, with medium ears half flopped over just waiting for someone to love her, and that was obviously us. She’s turned out to be the perfect mix of adventurous and lazy to accommodate our lives.
As our chickens grew, our rooster’s “needs” grew and we realized we needed more hens to keep him “busy” so we purchased our Barred Rock quartet from a homestead near Metamora, Maleficent, Roxy, Black Mamba, and Carla. Lorelei believes that Carla is the most beautiful name in the entire world and she would name every girl person or animal, real or imaginary, Carla. I’ve known some Carla’s and Karla’s in my time, and I must say they’ve been amazing people, so more power to you Lorelei! And then Spare the rooster had to go anyway after his final frightening attack on Elliott. We found him a good home, because we are not a “cull the flock” kind of family. We pretend we “farm”, but truly we don’t. We love farm fresh eggs, but roasted breast of Roxy will never make our dinner menu. I retract that statement. In case of Apocalypse, I am totally prepared to eat the animals.
The first animals I would eat would be the bunnies. They serve no purpose other than being cute and maybe someday a 4h show project. We started with 2 little lionhead bunnies, Mufasa and Roary. And I swear we are good pet parents, but Roary died too. Roary had a baby bunny heart defect. We know this because we rushed him to an emergency vet where they even gave him a bunny IV and bunny CPR when he crashed. We couldn’t have done anything differently. But again, the kids started learning that life with these animals would not always be easy and sometimes it was downright heart-wrenching.
So we added another hutch and in came Slippers (II, after the baby chick we lost) and Brownie, the mini lop sisters. Brownie is super sweet and Slippers is FAST. We’re lucky if we can ever catch her to try to pet her. Our hutch is huge like a bunny condo and she knows it. Lots of places to hide and run away.
This week, we celebrated the arrival of our first hoofed friends, our new goats Nan, the angora, and Blondie the nubian boer cross. Someday, these goats will serve a homesteading purpose, but at the moment they are just the cutest hoofed dogs a family could ask for. They run around the pasture with the human kids. They knock things over, they try to go through or over any door that is locked. They’re so curious and so loving. They cry when we go inside. They’ve been here 5 days and they love us. They treat us like their herd, and we’re happy to be that for them. The goats changed things. the bunnies did not care what time we changed their water or opened the barn door. The chickens have their own access to go in and out with or without us, so we had morning chores, but morning was subjective. The goats are a bit more time sensitive. They need to get out of the stall and go get some fresh brush and grass outside. They need to run and play. They want out EARLY. So now somebody needs to get up early to let them out and you better plan to pet them for a while before you walk away.
2 days ago, our broody hen, Snips the white Polish, hatched out some baby chicks, yet to be named, but nonetheless 4 new Black Australorp chicken babies joined our backyard flock.
I THINK we are done. We are out of stalls to put things in, at least until we decide to breed Blondie to make her a productive dairy goat. But this is how in one year, we went from a city family with 2 cats and fish, to homesteading family with 22 responsibilities looking to be cared for every morning. Some days the kids grumble about feeding animals or turning off the movie to go play with goats, but most days, they’re excited! They want to be the one to find the eggs, or open the barn and the let the goats out, or brush the bunnies. They have also learned a lot about caring for other things and they’ve learned some hard lessons about nature too.
So that’s our growing family. If you’re in the neighborhood, or if you’re at the boutique, and you want to meet them, I’ll page a human kid to give you the grand animal tour!