The Jacona Menagerie
There is no organic material in the dry desert soil of New Mexico. Any garden has to be built from scratch. If our animals have a purpose, beyond simply being themselves, fun to observe and interact with, it is their copious production of compostable material. All the gardens at Jacona are built on barn compost from goats, sheep, chickens, and rabbits. We have Nubian goats, Shetland sheep, peafowl, various chickens including Araucana, Buff Orpington, and Leghorns, Flemish Giant rabbits, and Sicilian burros. The peafowl often make the rounds of the houses in the morning, hoping for bits of toast or breakfast food. Goats, sheep, and burros enjoy leafy greens, apples, carrots; rabbits will eat almost all vegetables including summer squash, eggplant peelings, melon rinds and fruit, especially grapes. They do not like citrus-lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit. Food should always be offered on an open palm to avoid fingers getting nipped.
Pete the Peacock
We could go on and on and on about peafowl, how they nest, how they teach the chicks to eat. This is a self-sustaining flock that is over 20 years old. The odd colored ones (white) represent recessive genes popping out. They are not penned, not housed. They live wild here except that we feed them and provide several “refuge” places where they can nest fairly safely. In the spring of 2017, several babies were hatched and seem to be thriving. You will often see peacocks and peahens with their little ones up on roofs, in trees, in the area behind the pool which is fenced.
Greta the Goat
We provide shelter to a medley of oddball goats. Goats are smart and friendly. They enjoy being fed and petted and talked to. Frankie is the black and white small goat with short legs who is now permanently housed with the females. The other males liked to pick on him.
Goat herds are hierarchical. Might rules, but so does nepotism. Here are some key players in a goat herd:
- Herd queen: Every goat herd has a dominant female. She usually leads the way and decides when to go out to pasture. She gets the best sleeping spot, the primo spot in front of the feeder and, if she is a dairy goat, she gets to be milked first. If another goat tries to change things, beware! The herd queen won’t like it.
The herd queen’s kids are royalty by birth. The herd queen lets them share in the best eating spot next to her. She will defend them if any other goats try to get them out of the way.
The herd queen is responsible for testing new plants to determine whether they’re edible and she also stands off predators. She usually retains her position until she dies or until she becomes old and infirm and another doe fights and wins the position.
- Head buck: He is usually the biggest and strongest (and often the oldest) buck. Bucks also fight for the top position but, like the herd queen, a buck retains his position as head buck until he dies or a younger, more dominant buck challenges him and wins.
Goats sometimes communicate by biting. Some don’t bite at all and others bite a lot. Like biting, butting serves a role in the goat world. Goats butt to bully others out of their way, to establish their place in the herd, as a form of play, or to fight, often during rut.
The most common reason for butting and biting is to establish a place (as high as possible) in the herd. When you introduce a new goat to the herd, the lower-status goats are usually the first to fight. They want to maintain or raise their position in the herd.
Butch the Burro
Donkeys, also called burros and asses, are found throughout the world. They are members of the Equidae family, which also includes horses and zebras. They look a lot like their cousins, but have long, floppy ears and tend to be stockier than horses or zebras.We have six burros in total. They are named Butch, Jackie, Aldo, Gina, Leo and Lupe. They primarily stay in the lower pasture, but love to have visitors. Butch and Jackie are the oldest. The other four were rescued in 2013.
Cecilia the Chicken
Rancho Jacona has a chicken house full of Brown Leghorn, Buff Orpington, Auracana, and Maran chickens, who lay white, brown, dark brown, and blue or green eggs. By the way, the Auracana was around long before Martha Stewart put her trademark on them.
Interesting story: Down the west coast of South America, the village people had chickens that laid green or blue eggs. However, when the archaeologists dug into ancient ruins in the same areas, they found no chicken bones. Nor were there any chicken bones elsewhere in the ancient Americas. Turkeys, yes. Chickens, no. No jungle fowl. No anything similar.
So, some curious person decided to do a genetic check on the chickens that laid the green or blue eggs. That genetic check led out into the Pacific, to islanders there, past those islands into Indonesia. Lo and behold, the chickens had been brought to South America from all the way across the Pacific, who knows when, by one of those far voyaging boats the islanders used to spread themselves anywhere atoll. They are Indonesian chickens.
Our flock eat grasshoppers and run around a chicken yard and lay eggs when they darned well feel like it. Rancho Jacona has a flock that lays around 25 eggs a day. We try to provide eggs to each set of visitors once during their stay. They’re fresh farm eggs, and they’re delicious!
Uncle Randy the Rabbit
Our rabbits are known as Flemish Giants. They enjoy being petted and fed. Most of the rabbits are brown, white or black. Rabbits like melon and rinds, cabbage, grapes, apples, carrots and bananas. They don’t like bell peppers, onions, parsnips or any form of citrus. If you plan to feed the rabbits, remember to only feed from a flat hand, fingers tightly together. Less likely you will get nipped when they smell food and think your finger is a nice carrot or grape. You can also just spread food scraps on the ground.
Sheila the Shetland sheep.
We have both rams and sheep here at the ranch. Rams have spiral horns, and ewes usually lack horns (i.e., ewes are “polled” in shepherd talk). Shetlands have not been as intensively bred as other sheep used in large scale farming, so they have retained many of their ancestral characteristics: thrift, longevity, easy lambing, hardiness, and adaptability. The rams are usually in the pasture to the right of the driveway. The ewes are pastured with the goats down at the bottom of the hill. We suggest not going in the ram pasture. Rams, even little ones like these guys, butt! Hard! We suggest not standing with your knees against the fence. If you offer food to the rams, stand back from the fence, at least a foot.