Lambs and Chicks
LAMBS AND CHICKS
Lockdown at Guardswell Farm has been focused mainly on… baby animals. To say that we are missing the amazing people that stay in our huts and houses, our beautiful couples who marry on the farm, our intrepid learners attending workshops- would be an understatement. Just because so many elements of our personal lives have been shunted abruptly to a stop doesn’t mean that the farm has realised that. All of the jobs that needed to be done pre lockdown, still need to be done- the hens still need fed everyday and their eggs collected, the compost still needs turned, the grass still needs cut (and oh boy is it growing), the veg garden needs tended, the sheep need their daily lesson in coming into call, the donkeys need brushed and cuddled…and now we have a few other extra dependants… two little bottle fed lambs- Mushroom and Badger, and a tiny flock of black silkie chicks (plus a ancona chick who snuck into the mix).
But, to burst that illusion of beautiful bouncy lambs… yikes it has been a little challenging- and I think its important to address this. We have kept pet lambs (sometimes called sicky lambs, cade lambs, bottle lambs, orphan lambs) on and off since childhood- initially when we were kids to teach us how to care for animals, then as adults out of necessity. This year has been a little different. We have a flock of just under 40 Hebridean sheep- who are wonderfully hardy, keep themselves to themselves (sometimes too much!), and are there for a mixture of purposes- their fleece, to provide food for us that we know has be cared for to the best of our abilities, to manage our native wildflower meadow, and it would be a lie to say that it wasn’t because they looked nice on the hillside. Last year- as if we had had some weird foresight, we decided against popping a tup (male sheep) in with them, to give ourselves a year off lambing. This is not very commercially minded and no-one with a flock of sheep for commercial purposes would ever do this. There are some negatives to doing so- you sometimes lose fertility in some of your ewes, particularly the older ones. However, we made the decision that we didn’t need an increase in flock size, and after a stressful 2019 lambing, we might give ourselves a break.
Caring for bottle fed lambs is always more challenging than ones that stay with their mothers- so the last thing we want to do is provide a false illusion that its all glorious with bouncy tails- and we are aware that Instagram has an ability to make everything look all rosy. Lambs require colostrum within the first day of their lives to provide them with the necessary antibodies to fight disease… this can be provided by the mother (stripped off her) if she is still alive but the lamb is one of a few and will have a better chance if taken off (or the mother doesn’t have enough milk), or artificially. Without it, or without enough they can struggle. Our littleins- Mushroom and Badger- had colostrum but have definitely had a tricky start… 4 weeks in and they are getting stronger but we have been through the tick list of all possible problems- from joint ill (we are still cleaning pus from Mushrooms foot daily) to potential bloat, to some very odd behaviour that we suspected was from some neurological issue. We are super lucky to have a great friend in Lucy (a vet) who also runs Langston Farm with Nick- and they are the most wonderful font of sheep knowledge… and have put up with a gazillion questions. Badger is a Black Face cross and Mushroom a Texel cross… and to be completely frank, they are absolute pets! We have so many kids that visit the farm, and we take them to feed the sheep…and the blooming Hebrideans are not interested. So at least now, when we are allowed to again, we can make some proper little shepherds out of the visiting children and Badger and Mushroom will be a good intro to that.
Thankfully- the little blighters have turned a corner… and are now aggressively face butting me in the knees every time I pass, angrily insisting on bottles of milk entirely out-with their feeding schedule (I am holding strong!!!)- and, fingers crossed, when we can welcome all of our awesome Guardswell guests back to the farm, they will be there waiting for you… and will most certainly come and say hello when you call for them… something the Hebrideans have never done!!
Sending lots of love from all of us at Guardswell during this absurd and distressing time. We cant wait to see you again!! xx