Homesteading Tips: How to Milk a Goat, Incubate Chicken Eggs and More

A twelve-year-old shares his experiences with breeding rabbits, milking goats, incubating and hatching chicken eggs and making maple syrup on a Vermont homestead.

| January/February 1974

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    The Rosberg farm has six geese, bought as day-old chicks from a hatchery.

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Last year in July we bought a doe goat to breed in the fall. She is a purebred Toggenburg (but not registered) and was only 1 year old but good-sized. Later on, in December, she came into heat and was bred to a registered Saanen buck. In April she had two kids, a buck and a doe. The kids were very healthy and started to run around soon after birth. We first fed them all goat's milk, then half calf starter and half goat's milk after they were about a week old. Then we gradually changed them to all calf starter, and finally to goat grain.

The doe has to be milked twice a day on a milking stand (a wooden platform for the goat to stand on while she's being milked). The stand should have a grain trough attached to it so the goat may eat. This saves time and calms down the does while they're being milked. Before milking a goat you should always brush her down and wash her udder. For a pail you should have a seamless one (this helps prevent bacteria) and it should be covered to help keep dirt and hair out.

We have three sheep: a mother with two lambs. We bought the mother already bred and ready to lamb for $50.00. We brought her home and the first night she had two twin ewe lambs. They grew fast but didn't eat much grain. They are now out to pasture with some of our goats.

Out of all the chickens we have, only a fraction are laying. In the spring I started incubating chicken eggs and hatching them. Since I only got about 14 eggs a day I had to save some. I did this by putting them in an egg box, small end down, in a room with a temperature of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. An egg will stay fertile at this temperature for about a week. When I hatched the eggs I had to turn them three times a day and make sure the temperature stayed at 102 degrees and that the water dish stayed full. A chicken takes 21 days to incubate and hatch. They will usually start hatching on the 20th day.

We also have six  geese, which we bought day-old in the spring. The geese grew fast and were able to go out when they were very young. They eat little grain and live mostly on grass in the summer.

We also have six turkeys which we bought day-old from a hatchery. We have started to butcher them, and they are very good eating but hard to raise.

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