Even before we moved to the Farm, when we talked with our country neighbors about wanting to raise animals, in the course of conversation, someone always eventually said, "… make sure you don't name them!"
Now I completely understood this for animals being raised for consumption. Who wants to sit down at the dinner table only to discover that the main course is Henrietta stuffed with apples, raisins and sausage. But we were pretty sure that the first generation of animals on our farm would be more like pets than a source of food.
As those who have followed us from the beginning know, when we got our first hens and rooster, what'd we do almost immediately? We named them!
Over the first six months of (our) life on the Farm, we've lost:
- 1 Zulu rooster named Boris.
- 3 white layers — the first went so soon after arrival that she died without a name, one was named Lucy, the last was named Posh.
- 1 Zulu hen named Natasha.
- 7 no-named chicks, 1 chick named Groucho (I couldn't resist, he had the eyebrows!).
Most died at the hand (sic: mouth) of our "loving" Australian Cattle Dog named Solo. (Clever dog that he is, he quickly figured out how to get into the chicken yard; more recently, he learned how to jump a four-foot fence. In his defense, however, some of these fowl deaths occurred when the birdbrains ventured into dog territory) A few of the babies died "just 'cause" — they weren't strong enough to make it through infancy, Still others were killed and devoured by a raptor — we're guessing a falcon or a hawk, in another instance, perhaps a mongoose or a rat.
All very sad.
But, without a doubt, the losses that were the hardest for me were those animals that had names. In my mind and heart, the choosing and giving of a name (contrary to what Shakespeare's Juliet suggested when she said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.") allows personalities to blossom, and, of course, creates a connection.
I've learned there is some value to "make sure you don't name them!"
You may have noticed that seven of our chicks went un-named. Perhaps you believe that I've come to agree about not naming? With the death of a few chicks early on, we, indeed, wanted to see how many would survive before committing. But, it really has been only a waiting game.
If you saw our holiday greeting on Facebook, you know that we have added a goose and a gander, a drake and two ducks (or hens), and five guinea fowl to our brood. Whether by way of domestic or wild animal attack, accident, or otherwise, it's likely one or some of these may not die of old age. Each loss will impact me. But, I don't want these animals to go through their lives as "goose", "gander", "duck 1" and "duck 2." I'll likely feel differently if/when we start raising for food (see above reference to Henrietta on your plate), but these animals have gone long enough without names.
And, I'd like to invite you to help us name them?
Gander and Goose
The gander (with gray feathers, left of both photos) is quite vocal and a little cheeky. If I'm late for feedings he will hiss up at me as a reprimand. The goose (right of both photos) is quieter, stands back, and usually lets the gander do the talking. Contrary to the rep, they are not at all aggressive. Admittedly, they haven't yet been tested with strangers. They make a very nice couple.
We've already named our drake (sorry). We're not sure if one of the geese picked on him, if he got caught in the fencing, or if unbenownst to us, Solo got a hold of him, but, he has a lame foot. For the past two weeks, we've had him isolated in a cat box (without the cat), and I've been hand-feeding him, and cleaning his (very, very, very smelly) box twice a day; Nils has been handling him a lot to spray his leg with antibiotics. He's now back on his feet (with a little limp) and is most definitely a pet … when he sees me coming, he comes hopping over with his tail wagging. Somewhere along the way, Nils and I decided that he was a Horace (Actually, I wanted Francis, Nils wanted Carlos, we compromised on Horace. Don't ask.).
But, Horace's two female companions still need names. By nature — they're Muscovy ducks — they're both rather "demure" and not very talkative. They are, however, very friendly and are happy just hanging out together. If they were human, I'd assume they were BFFs.
The guinea fowl, who have by now gotten very big, will have to wait. Call me a "fowl-ist", but frankly, aside from varying sizes, they all look alike to me.
We're open to any and all (preferably adorable) suggestions for our 2 geese and 2 ducks … the more animals we have, the harder it gets to find nice names. Help!