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Integrating the Animals

Keeping a large group of mixed animals can often lead to hairy situations, but we do our best to make sure our flocks and herd are getting along well.

Two of the key elements to a happy group include enough pasture space and good male to female ratios. We aren't always strong on the second option but we try to make up for it with plenty of pasture space.

We don't keep all of our animals in the same field. Our pasture is relatively small, and the critters that stay within its walls all day are (hopefully) the goats and the ducks. The goats aren't allowed out without close supervision, but they like spending much of the day napping in their stalls anyway. A few hours they'll dedicate to nibbling at the fresh shoots around their enclosure. The ducks, meanwhile, are kept in the pasture mostly because at four weeks they are still too little to be out of the pasture on their own.

The flock of thirteen geese is fairly safe free ranging our fields all day. While we do have some local predators, most will shy away from a group of that size. Geese are very bonded animals and they stay in a close group, without allowing one to wander off and become someone's lunch. We are also comfortable free ranging our geese because most of the time someone is home, and actively working on the property.

For the first few months here the chickens were kept in the pasture. They soon learned some escape routes, though, and their ingenuity continues to stump us. However, they stay close to the house and barn and with all of the activity, we're pretty comfortable letting them range.

With plenty of space to roam, most of our flocks get along even though three roosters in a group of only five adult hens (with sixteen more teenagers) is not a recommended ratio. We'll probably downsize the number of roosters before winter. Being able to separate flocks is important, and come spring we are planning to have dividing fencing for different groups of geese so that mating season fighting doesn't occur.

Lots of space, good fences, and happy animals make for a well integrated group. Thus far our different species show little signs of caring about the other types of creatures. The geese and ducks share night quarters with a small dividing wall, but even they don't seem impressed by each other's existence.

When the goats first arrived they were intrigued and scared by the geese, who have given them the occasional bop on the nose. At this point, though, the goats have realized they can outrun and out maneuver even an angry goose, and dash through them with enthusiasm. The younger chickens will spend most of their days inside the goat's house, sitting in their feed bucket and occasionally napping perched on a goat's back.

It is a bit of a blessing to have animals all getting along well. There are always squabbles and pecking orders to be maintained, but we're lucky to have some easy-going and friendly creatures on our farm.


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