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I Broke the Livestock

August 9, 2010

I broke the llama and the chickens and the turkeys. Those goats had better watch themselves.

It started yesterday with the birds. I clipped wings. It sounds terrible, but it’s really not. We’re introducing them to a much larger pen, free-ranging situation… Well as free-range as they’re going to get. I still don’t want them hopping the fence and getting run over by a car, or eaten by the neighbor’s dog. So, I researched online, watched a video on youtube, and went for it.

With wing clipping, and I didn’t know this (good thing I looked it up), you only clip one of their wings. This creates an imbalance and they’re unable to get any lift. If you clip both wings, they could potentially still fly by just trying harder.

The wing has a few layers of feathers, the last and longest feathers are the “flight feathers”. I took each bird’s right wing and clipped the flight feathers down so they were the same length as the next layer of feathers above. My first thought was “will I hurt them?” then, “Can I cut them too short and make them bleed?” Well, I guess clipping feathers is just like us trimming our hair. No biggie.

I also was torn on taking away their ability to fly. I mean, not like their great flyers to begin with. But, if I could fly a little bit, I’d hate to have that taken away. But the alternative is escaping to imminent death, or being kept in a small pen. I decided that I’d rather them have a third of an acre of space to roam than their ability to fly, which they suck at and hardly ever do anyway. Plus, the flying is mostly used as a dramatic escape tactic from predators, and with a guard llama on post, who needs to fly? They should think of it as a luxury. “Flying? pfff. I have a guard llama.” (In your stuffiest rich lady voice)

Now that we all know what wing clipping is and how to do it… can we talk about what a stud I am for catching and clipping each bird by myself? I have the talon-shredded torso to prove it. I have a technique down for catching the birds. Our coop has two doors. I close one, and corral the bird I want into the coop, then just pick it up. To clip, I cradle the bird in my left arm, hold the wing out with my left hand, and clip with my right hand.

The turkeys were not excited about being held like that (thus the talon scratches), so I put them between my legs, held them with my knees and clipped their wings.

Not only was the clipping a success, but it was a nice excuse to handle all of the birds and give them each a little exam. I checked body weight, feathers, skin, checked for bugs, looked at their eyes up close. Everyone seems nice and healthy.

The clip lasts until they molt and grow new feathers. The floor of the chicken run looked like a war zone after wing clipping… it seriously looked like someone had plucked a whole chicken and left only the feathers behind.

Next, the llama. I broke him today. Or, something. I gave him a little mini-plum (we have these cherry-sized plums growing). He seemed to love it, but then he started walking around with his mouth open about 2 inches. I couldn’t get him to eat any more fruit snacks. I looked it up online and the only thing I could find about llamas holding their mouths open is that they do it after they spit, which they hate doing because it leaves a terrible taste in their mouths. They leave their mouths open to try and air out the taste.


Sorry Tango.

And on that note, a Tango update. He’s letting me pet him now – a little bit. And I have to bribe him with grain treats. But even that wasn’t enough when we first got him. I’m thrilled. I pet his neck, which has the most luxurious thick fleece. I can’t even find my way down to his skin in the 5 or 6 seconds I get to pet him.

So, goats are happy. Llama is happy now that that wretched plum taste is out of his mouth. Chickens are happy. And the new coop is about 1 hour away from completion. But, it was complete enough last night that they got to spend their first night in it.

Celebrate! House warming party for the chickens. BYOB.

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