Elsie and Lady Astor, the Dutch Belted Dairy cows, went through their pretend milking routine with perfect precision yesterday afternoon. So you CAN teach old cows new tricks.27215-022


They walked into the milking parlour one at a time. Lady A first, as usual. Elsie waiting patiently.27215-026(They come in through the door on the left of your screen – just out of sight – then turn sharp right and into the Milking Parlour).

I had their feed ready (onions, oats and  molasses yesterday)  they strode confidently to the feeder, I attached Daisy’s clip to their new collars then brushed them all over as they ate, rattling chains and shifting things about talking and singing  so they began to get used to the noise of the area. (It is a bit like breaking in a horse – you introduce noises and movements in increments over a period of time so the animal does not shy). After a thorough brushing, which included their underbellies – me crouching down beside them so they begin to get used to that too –  I unclipped the chain, pulled back the metal gate that holds them in place and led them out the next door into the field.

I have only milked one cow before.  Two will be a different routine. 27215-030

Everything went so well, until,  with two cows hesitantly following me, I tried to open the next gate that took them back into their own field where their hay waited. FROZEN SHUT!  I heaved and shoved and lifted and pushed but that gate would NOT budge.

“Bugger. ” I said.  The cows looked at the hay, then looked at the gate, then looked at me. Who knows what they said.

So we all turned and I led them back into the milking parlour through the two barn doors and back out onto the concrete pad, where they had begun, so they could go out the back gate to their field and their hay. 27215-039

Then I spent the next hour or so (luckily it was  Our Johns night to cook) chipping away at the soil that is ice – with a shovel; freeing the base of the gate until it opened and closed freely. 27215-033

I need a thaw!  It was MINUS 11F (-23C ) yesterday morning.  Though this morning is not as bad. We will call it only very cold. But Come ON March!


The kittens are as happy in the barn as they are posing in an Easter basket in the house.


I hope you have a lovely day. Today my friend from up on the ridge and I are going to go over to look at some baby goats. Not to buy yet you understand.  YET! Just looking. JUST LOOKING! (so hard not to put a crate in the back of the car – just in case- oh yes THAT  would be a bad move!) I am Still doing our research. Today I am looking at the American  La Mancha goats. (You know how I like to Buy American). These are reported to be the only breed of Dairy goat developed (in the ’50s) in America. They have tiny, tiny ears and are known for their sweet natures and high milk production.  I am thinking that if I am going to milk goats I may as well milk a goat that gives Lots of Milk.

Still researching though. She says hopefully. And I am thoroughly enjoying my life of research and farming! It took me a long time to reach this particular en-joy-ing stage in my life.

3.30 AM I am afraid we have had a disaster with the chicks. For 19 days they have been sitting on the table incubating and there must have been some pipping combined with a cat getting in and a door being left open maybe the dogs reacted to the noise but the whole incubator was knocked off the table with a crash. Every egg but two were compromised, some broken right open. Some cracked with shell chipped off like a half peeled boiled egg. They were cold.  Most are dead. A few were chirping in their compromised shells.  One hatched completely out and was laid apparently lifeless on the floor.  We were alerted by the dogs racing into the bedroom and quickly put any eggs, that appeared kind of whole, back into the incubator and turned it back on but I think it is a long shot. Every shell but two has been broken or chipped off and  there is shell everywhere. Even the whole ones will  have been badly shaken up by the fall. What a disaster. Once more with the learning. I should have shifted them into the coop earlier.

4AM The little chick who I was sure was dead has started to revive. He might make it though he was very cold when I found him. At the moment he is chirping loudly and lurching about the incubator, warming up.  I really really hope one more manages to survive so he has a mate, but I don’t hold very high hopes.

5.AM  The little black chick is still alive, though he had a wee sleep and I was convinced he was dead. I will not open the incubator at all though, it has to stay warm and moist.  There are three eggs rocking and chirping. But they are barely covered in splintered shells and the membrane.  But they are still alive and beginning to slowly chip their way out.

5.15 AM Two of the eggs have little holes appearing in the top. But the membrane around the ones with really compromised shells is drying up from the fan heater in there. That may be a good thing or a bad thing. Nothing to do now but watch. Keeping the humidity high is critical now.

5.46 AM One of the chicks is definitely breaking out, chirping and pecking its little hole bigger and bigger.  Two more are rocking but the eggs are mostly membrane. So they will surely be able to break out of that unless it dries onto them. The little black chick has a white chest and is drying out. Asleep again.  If I go in and break these last two out the humidity will drop terribly and our wee baby will get chilled and the emerging baby will be compromised.  Everything in me wants to let the rocking ones  out of those broken shells now. But it might kill the ones with a better chance. Triage.

605 AM Number two is almost out of her shell.

I cannot imagine how the little black one is still alive but he is.

Dammit. After all this time. Human error. If everything had proceeded according to plan we would have had a goodly number of chicks hatching. Fingers crossed we might have two.

But life goes on doesn’t it. At least it was my fault. I can fix my faults.

Love your friend on the farmy.



52 Comments on “Chipping

  1. Celi ~ oh my gosh!! but it’s not your fault! you think? What an experience! The new Celi ER room! Where’s Boo?? Is Boo in their helping to revive them? I’m glad I’m not there to help clean up the egg mess!! I hate it when I have to wipe a bit up off the counter when I’m cooking!! The day isn’t a complete disaster ~ when you can teach an ole cow new tricks!! Best of all I love little Miss Pooty Poot in her basket!! Hang in there Celi ~ another story to tell the group in Portland!!!!

  2. Good Girls Astor and Elsie …. and now we have two special chicks to ooh and aah over. Chin up C all is not lost. 🙂 Laura

  3. you can gently peel the membrane away from them,slowly
    but if the membrane bleeds.stop
    wait a bit for chick to absorb the blood back into its body

    every 2-3 hours quickly reach in and grap hopefull hatchee[s]
    peel,replace till they dry off in incubater
    or under heat light

    messy job, but may save a couple more
    be very careful not to pull on cord that attached chick to yoke
    may be nessary to the cord when it drys so other chicks not peck at it

    i kno this is not way it supposed to b done, but this is not normal situation

    good luck

    • okay ron, did that and have opened four live ones, one is vigorous, one is a maybe and two who were struggling and cheeping – are just breathing too early for them lying in their open shells with cord intact.. all in incubator .. I will let them dry off in there with the hot air.. thank you for the advice.. there are three more whole eggs in there too, if they have not been too badly shaken up they may hatch normally, thank you

      • let them rest as much as possible, sort of like premature babies
        the yolk will feed them 2-3 days

        i usually put couple tablespoons white suger in quart of drinking water first couple days for energy when they are up and about

        incubater chicks sometimes not as well off as mama hatched chicks, especially when disaster strikes

        i left out word in first post
        should read, may b nessary to cut cord, when it very dry so others not peck at it

        hope incubator not damaged.
        good luck

        • the incubator is still running and holding its temperature, all five (thanks to you) are wandering about in there drying very quickly, their brooder is warmed up and waiting .. five out of eleven eggs after this kind of disaster is pretty good.. still two in there that might yet hatch, – not due til tomorrow..

  4. So many ups and downs, so much trial and error with farming, and yet Miss C always hangs on, moves forward and overcomes. You are a wonder 🙂

  5. Oh goodness me, I was on the edge of my seat with the story of the chicks. Fingers crossed for them. I live in London but dream of the country, I love reading your posts, Jenny

  6. Good luck with the chicks – they can be quite hardy when still in the shell. I think it offers a lot of protection until they hatch 🙂

  7. Tragedies do happen. My first lizard hatchlings are a sadness burned in my heart. Mistakes were made, offspring did not survive. The good news here is that you have a fine, fertile rooster. I am so sorry for your losses, though. Potential gone is painful.

  8. All my best wishes for the baby hatchlings. What a struggle life is. I love Viv’s comment. Your humility is lovely. What a simple but effective way you have of simply stating that something was your fault and you can fix it. I love that. No wallowing. Just moving on, aware. Good for you. I’m going to try and follow your lead on that.

  9. Oh Celi, what a blow. But chicks are amazingly resilient. As you know, they travel tranquilly in the loving care of the post office, jogged, bumped, banged and jostled, and still they arrive peeping madly and anxious to get on with the business of living. Don’t abandon hope too soon, and if the eventual news is not good, do NOT blame yourself. It might just as easily have happened in another location, with a curious cat, dog, peacock or Tima investigating what was causing all that baby noise.

  10. So sorry to learn of the chick accident. But 1) you now know that the eggs were fertile , I remember you had concerns about about the age of the roosters and the cold. 2) You did the incubation process correctly as you have live chicks hatching. I wonder if the cheeping attracted the cats and/or dogs when the first chick hatched. I can see cats, especially young ones, trying to get to the chick (new toy) and knocking the incubator over. Or maybe Boo trying to nose the chick through the glass. Do you have a room where you could put it that you could close a door when it gets close to hatching time to keep curious critters away? If you start another batch soon, when they hatch it should hopefully be much warmer outside. Thinking positive thoughts for the remaining chicks and remember even momma hen doesn’t usually hatch 100% of her eggs.

    • I had them in the dining room so John would remember to turn them while I was away, usually they will be hatched in the Coop which is an animal free zone plus haas the heated floor to turn on. . But you are right there are pluses. Also if the dogs had not raced into the bedroom (where they had been locked in – door not shut properly) and started running around the bed then we would not have know about the accident at all. Until everything had died of cold.. Interesting really.

  11. From the day we began planning our homestead, goats was at the top of the list. I did tons of research and talked to many goat owners/breeders. In the end, my choice was to cross a Nigerian Dwarf with a Nubian thus creating a Mini Nubian. A goat that would give me a medium sized goat with good milk production and a higher fat content for making cheese. Now that our homesteading plans have been put on indefinite hold, I don’t know that I will ever live out my dream of owning Mini Nubians, but if it should ever happen, that will be the direction I take.

    Enjoy your goat viewing field trip. If I lived closer I would most certainly want to tag along 🙂

  12. I also wanted to add how sad I am to hear about the chicks. Our learning experiences can certainly be tough ones and I have no doubt your next attempt will be very successful.

  13. I so hope some of the chicks make it, fingers crossed. I look forward to news about the chicks. If you still go to look at the goats, I hope you take the camera. That wold be a treat. So glad the dutchies are getting in the groove. A blip in the road to successful incubating. Best of luck.

  14. Oh Piddle! that is such a shame but accidents do happen….hopefully the few have survived…. You know what they say about things like that..”pick yourself up, brush yourself down and start all over again”…..its a learning curve

  15. My daffs are blooming, so I assure you that spring is heading in your direction. Take care, and do please take a moment or two for a few shoulder-rolls to de-stress. xx

  16. Sorry to hear about your chicks! The goat idea is great. I love goat milk, custard and cheese!!

  17. I love my cats, I really do – but this is one reason I don’t try to raise chicks myself and buy them from a friend once they are a few months old. I just know my youngest cats would find a way to get to them, they are like Ninja cats! Good luck with your babies, I do hope all those that are left survive.

    • We Have FIVE Alive.. two died. three left to hatch and after observing the ones that hatched. The Little Black Chick I found on the floor had definitely been licked and licked and licked. Boo Nanny not realising that you do not need to lick baby birds!. We found Marmalade in the basement.. usually she is Out.

  18. The peeping and chirping of the chicks as they break out of their eggs certainly does attract the dogs and cats! The last time we were hatching guineas, one popped out early. After he dried off I put him in the “warming box’ (a cardboard, open topped box with the brooding light providing the proper temperature to snooze and wait for his siblings to join him. Well, Daphne, our German Shorthair Pointer came in the house with one of us, and when I checked on the guinea, it had simply disappeared. Yes, the dog had eaten it. So lesson learned there as well. Next batch of eggs you hatch will have a much higher survival rate, that’s for sure!!! On another note, I’m so excited you are checking out the La Mancha goats! You will fall in love with them, and they with you!!! Go ahead and put the crate in the back of the car! 🙂 You can always carry it back empty if you don’t fall in love with them! 😉

  19. Ug with the wee chooks. So sorry. I hate it when this happens. Also, I must incorporate “bugger” into my vernacular. Too satisfying. Bugger!

  20. Honestly, Miss C., if this particular post isn’t a lesson in living, I don’t know what is. First, you meticulously plan (rehearse) the milking procedure to the last detail and then when all goes smoothly the bloody door won’t open as it is frozen frozen frozen shut. Such absolute frustration! Do you fall apart? Nope. Just turn quietly around and lead the two cows back out the way they came. I’d say that was enough for one day. But no!
    Now comes the chick disaster. Hand-wringing decisions to be made–who to try to save? This was a case for Solomon.
    I, too, have frustrations, but the way you handle yours is a lesson, an inspiration to me. Do you take deep breaths? What? Do yoga hat you haven’t told us about? Visualize?

  21. The news sounded so gloomy, but the further down the comments I went the more it improved. Remember how weak Marmalade was, and Marcel. Boo was trying to play Foster Nanny once more. Five Alive is wonderful after that dreadful start. Celi, your magic is working. Again! Fingers crossed for the remainder of the eggs

  22. Oh, no! That’s a heart-wrenching morning. It looks like The Fellowship has helped save a few more. I’ll send healthy chick thoughts!

  23. Oh, the chicks, the chicks! From here, where there are NO chicks, you are so lucky to have them, even 5-to-8. This is such a great learning episode for when you do the next batch. And how these little 5-to-8 will be loved. They are fantastically famous already. This is a vote for Nubian goats, the very very best milk there is. And such a beautiful goat. But could they take the cold where you are? I don’t know. They surely flourish in California. I’m emailing you a photo. Love and good wishes to all chicks, cows, dogs cats and humans!

  24. Oh Cinders…what next? But it does sound like you will have some survivors yet. I’m so sorry about the others but like you say…learn, pick up and move on but oh, you must have been so disappointed…to say the least…to see that happen. Here’s to the rest of the chick a dees making a full comeback and being all the stronger for it!
    As for the goats?? I love them all but Nubians aren’t known for their…how shall we say? Intelligence? Sorry Laura 🙂 My good friend has a goat dairy with LaMancha, Nigerians, Nubians, and Alpines and she will look at one of her Nubians and say…Awe, look, the poor thing is trying to think! :)) Funny!

  25. Quite a ‘farmy’ lesson for a basically city gal like me! But you know why and how now and next lot of chickies will all be ready to grow up on the farm!! BUT: c’mon – so it was John’s turn to cook . . . couldn’t you woo him with one of your favourite recipes and get him busy doing ‘man’s work’ like chipping away at ice outdoors . . . 😀 !!

    • Oh No! I love doing the farming. I love the ‘mans’ work. In fact i would much rather be outside than inside. Even when it is so freezing cold I cannot talk properly when I come in. Frozen face!

      • Thank you for the best Sunday laugh and a hug is flying across the Pond!! Just as well we are all different!!! But we both did put ‘man’s work’ in brackets 🙂 ! My darling late Daddy would have loved you – he was army/law who hardly touched anything physical at all but was very firm in stating ‘a woman can do anything a man can: usually more and usually better’! Hence he was thrilled when his only child-to-be did turn out a daughter!!! And remember how many decades back THAT was!!

  26. Ugh so very sorry to hear about the incubator. That’s awful. At least you had two survivors.

    Good luck w your goat purchase (when it happens!) I can’t imagine how hard it must holding off. Goats are pretty irresistible. 🐐❤️😊

  27. How wonderful to have coaches here (ron) to help when disaster strikes. Think of all you’ve learned in 24 hours.

  28. The Fellowship to the rescue! Ron sure did have some great advice for you and it sounds like things may be just a wee bit better than was first thought. Though I’m sure you would rather have learned these lessons at some later date, it’s good that you’ll have this experience to draw upon down the road. Well, you can add “mother hen” to your LinkedIn profile. 🙂

  29. 5 out of 11 is still good, possibly you’ll have more.They seem so fragile at this stage but they’re quite tough little lthings. FIngers crossed.

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