Three Peas and a Goat

Chickens Are Easy Owl Prey

Shannon SalasPhotos Courtesy of Judy Sturm

I was laying in bed, slowly drifting off to sleep when I heard the distinct 'hooot, hoot, hoot' of an owl outside my window. I got excited. I love owls! I laid there listening to the gentle hooting for some time before I realized I forgot to shut the chicken coop! That sucks. Chickens are easy owl prey. It was 1 a.m. and the last thing I wanted to do was hike my sorry behind out to the coop to lock it up. After all, I have a large livestock guardian dog and a puppy in training, not to mention a whole handful of roosters to let me know if something is amiss. After several minutes of running various chickens vs. owl vs. monster dogs through my head, I decided it was best just to go lock the coop up.

Typical Barn Owl
Donned in the traditional chicken care attire of a nightgown, cowgirl boots, and a flashlight, I huffed and puffed my way through the house and out the back door. I was greeted by my massive pups and a handful of goats who all seemed to think I was out there to play and feed them endless amounts of food. My chickens were neatly lined up at the door of the coop, staring at me as if to say "Forget something?" Then I noticed it. There wasn't just one owl hooting away, there were three! The one near my window would hoot, then one in the back of the lot, then another, further away, but close enough to be very much a part of the owl conversation. I am sure it went something like:

Owl 1: "Hey, Pete! There's some chickens over here sticking their heads out the coop!"
Owl 2: "Really? Appetizer or seven course meal?"
Owl 3: "Margaret, be careful! I see some dogs. Yep, definitely some dogs."
Owl 1: "Dogs? I don't see no dogs."
Owl 3: "Definitely dogs."
Owl 1: "Ok, here's the plan. Johnny, you distract the dogs ..."
Owl 3: "Why do I have to distract the dogs?"
Owl 1: "You want dinner or not?" 
Owl 2: "Appetizer or seven course meal?!?"
Owl 1: "Pete, you fly from the back of the coop and I will fly to … Oh, crap! A human! A HUMAN! She shut the door! Nooo!" 

Great Horned Owl
Crisis averted. The owls left soon after they realized their meals were now out of their reach. Owls are like hawks of the night. Chickens are easy prey for them and they will carry a small chicken off. As much as I love owls, I love my chickens more, and quite frankly I would like to keep them around for awhile. There are various ways to deal with night time predators, however, when it comes to raptors, you need to be careful. It is against the law to kill a raptor, such as hawks, eagles, and owls. So, us chicken owners have to get creative. First, make sure your chickens have adequate cover, that is, a coop that can be shut, a sound chicken tractor, or if they are always free-range, shrubbery where they can hide. Also, consider keeping a rooster as they are quick to alert the world that something is wrong and fight to the death (usually their own). Finally, LGDs are the best. Raptors despise dogs and the dogs despise critters that go after their critters. Often, LGDs will have the job done before you have any clue that anything was happening. Keep your flock safe and don't be fooled by those soft, cunning owl hoots! What they are really saying is "I want to eat your chickens!"

The Pleasures of Owning a Dairy Goat

Shannon SalasWhen my husband and I began dreaming about building our homestead, we compiled a bucket-list of all that we wanted to include and for what reasons. At the top of that list was raising goats. For as long as I can remember I had always wanted a goat, but like a potato chip, you can't have just one. We also quickly learned there are more flavors (or breeds) than one could ever imagine. The hubby wanted goats for meat. I, on the other hand, never in a million years figured I would raise goats for eating.


My fantasy of goat ownership involved skipping out to the barn at sunrise with a steel pail in my hand, giving all my goats great big hugs, and singing lullabies to them as they stood happily on the stand while I filled my pail with oodles of fresh, warm, tasty milk. Once I had adequately loved on my critters, I would go inside and make some cheese as soon as I finished my breakfast… but my day would not yet be over. I would then start preparing to make exotic soap in the afternoon and finally end my day with my children sitting around the table with a tall glass of goat milk and a warm plate of freshly made cookies while they play board games and sing Kumbaya (Don't judge ... remember, this is a fantasy).

However, we quickly found out there is more to it all than we thought. Initially, we bought a few meat goats, followed with a couple of cashmere goats, and finally, after much anticipation and nagging, I brought home my very first milk goat. I was a beginner, and she knew it. She kicked and hollered, leaving me battered, bruised, and highly frustrated. To top it all off, I only walked away with eight ounces of milk! That was only if she didn't stick her hoof in it. The trouble we had with her and the lack of milk we received seemingly turned my children into milk deprived monsters. These same monsters were then denied the privilege of homemade chocolate chip cookies because all they did was terrorize each other. My dream had turned into a nightmare.

After pulling my hair out for a week, I was put in contact with a lady who raised, milked, and showed Nubian goats. We arrived at her farm and instantly fell in love with Belle. We refer to her as our Amazon beauty. She stands much taller than any of the goats we had at home already and she has such a gentle, social disposition. We were allowed to milk her at the farm, talk in depth with the lady who sold her to us, and to look over all her papers. The goat jumped happily up on her stand and stood without fuss while my amateur self went to town on milking her. Words cannot express how happy I felt not to get kicked in the armpit. We brought our Belle home the same day.

our Belle

My original dream is not quite a reality yet. We get about 1/2 a gallon of milk a day from Belle, enough to keep our children happy. We have been able to throw some in the freezer, make homemade mozzarella, and will soon work on making soap. There is no skipping out to the barn with a steel pail, mainly because we don’t own one and opted for glass quart jars instead. However, I have realized there are a few simple pleasures I did not factor into my initial dreams. I like to sit close to my Belle, resting my head on her side, humming whatever tune is stuck in my head or simply chatting to her. Sometimes, she chats back. Milking her is highly relaxing and the warmth from her body keeps me comfortable on cold mornings and evenings. The short moments of relaxation I have experienced during milking allow me to quiet my mind and reflect on all the blessings we have right under our noses. These are the small pleasures I didn't count on, but are the ones that I now look forward to the most.