Newbie? Well bugger off!

This seems to be a problem in the homesteading/animal keeping community and I’m really not sure why.

Thus far, whenever I have spoken to a group of “experienced owner/breeders” about how I’m new to X animal and I post some ideas and plans and questions I’ve been met with scolding for being ignorant to the basics of the animal. Did I miss somewhere where I said I was an expert and should know all these things already? Is that really how people get others into keeping animals?

This has happened to me three prominent times now, first with chickens, then ducks, now goats. I made the mistake of assuming that people raise goats the way many people I know keep cows, milking them for a year then allowing them to dry out either before re-breeding or half-way through gestation and then having another calf. I know a few people who keep cows like this so that the cows can take a serious break between milking and birth. Some people even dry out their cows completely before breeding again and stagger breedings in their cows so they always have milk. That’s how I breed rabbits too, and I figured if it worked for two species it probably worked for three. These thoughts were met with a fair amount of scolding and telling me I shouldn’t keep goats… Really? You can’t just tell me that goats are done differently without drawing it out and telling me all about how I’m wrong and shouldn’t keep them because I’ll not succeed? Are you the Goat Police now? You can’t advise without coming across as rude because you “know better”?
(For reference, I was told that raising goats for meat was a bad idea because kidding was too stressful, and that goats should be kept in milk for 2-3 years at a time, and should only ever be dried out during the last few months of pregnancy. The only eating goats are specifically meat goats; anything else is dairy only 2+ years at a time. Basically that there are no DP goats. Seems strange to me… I’m calling BS on that one.)

Unfortunately the same thing happened to me with chickens. I made the audacious mistake of suggesting someone try to start a breeding program for a quiet chicken, and asking what breeds would be quietest for my suburban back yard in the meantime. I was informed by several people that if I wanted quiet chickens I should never keep chickens because all chickens are loud and make noise as things like what was I going to do if one of them ended up being too loud, etc. (Well I’d eat them, duh.) I was also told that it would be completely impossible to breed a quiet chicken and even if you could it’d never make you money. (I don’t believe THAT for a second, either.) Good thing I ignored them. A few decent people made actual suggestions and I took them. Unless there’s a predator in my back yard, my chickens can’t be heard from my house. But to hear some people say it, I should never have gotten my birds. Ever.

I find this very common with animal keepers of pet species. Better not sell a dog to someone who falls for major commercials on TV about dog food – that’s not feeding your dog a healthy diet! Oh, you’ve never kept a parrot before? Well you’re not about to start with one of mine! You want a rabbit, well you better know ALL the common ailments and treatments before you get one because vets don’t normally see rabbits! I even (and sometimes especially) see this in rescue organizations. “Only to a home with prior breed/species/etc experience” for a rescue? Do you really get so much funding and so few animals that you can reject people based on a curable ignorance? Do you really want those people to ignore your pretentious rescue and buy an animal from a breeder instead and mistreat it because they didn’t know any better and then it ends up in your rescue? REALLY? How is that better than the rescued animals ending up in that home, but with the people educated? The worst that happens; the animal goes back to your rescue anyhow!

I have even run into this with bee keepers…. Bee keepers! Bees have thousands of workers that die off to the point that the whole hive is replaced every few months… And you’re worried about them not being kept under ideal conditions for the individual workers? Conditions that you decided were the best? I had a beekeeper tell me that if I could only reasonably use a top bar hive I shouldn’t keep bees because rebuilding the wax was too much stressful work for them. Really? How nonsensical that is aside, that’s how you talk to people who want to keep bees someday, and have few options?

I think this is a really bad way to offer advice to people, and yet it runs rampant in the animal communities and I just can’t figure out why. Why not take a moment to educate without demeaning or saying it can’t be done? I could never imagine treating someone who wants to buy a rabbit from me like that… I only sell my rabbits for $20, but I would gladly spend an hour teaching someone to care for them properly and explaining why it’s important before they left my property. Heck, that’s why I quit my job at the pet store years ago… I did just that (helped customers learn to care for the animals they were buying) and the bosses freaked out. It didn’t matter if we were busy or not… If I wasn’t standing in my department buffing fishtank glass, waiting for someone to ask me for crickets instead, well I wasn’t doing my job. (Keep in mind my job was to care for and sell the animals and their supplies, and assist customers in those purchases.)

Next time you’re selling an animal, rehoming an animal, talking to someone about keeping animals… Try to keep a civil tongue! Remember, these people could be or could have been you! You were not always an expert. Once, years ago, you knew nothing about raising goats, chickens, whatever as well. You were full of questions and someone, somewhere, had an open mind and answered them. Either that or you did what so many people are affronted by and you dove right in and experimented and learned from experience. Why you should treat someone with the same ambitions (wrong or not) with such negativity is beyond me. Show support, show a positive attitude, and offer legitimate advice where you can! Otherwise, soon you may find that keepers of your favorite animals are a dying breed.

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7 thoughts on “Newbie? Well bugger off!

  1. I tend to stay away from forums for almost everything, especially the ones for animals that can also be considered a pet. There is a level of hostility and cliqueish behavior there that is ridiculous and I don’t like to surround myself with condescending or mean-spirited people. I much prefer to find blogs of folks who have been doing what I am interested in for a few years (or months if that is all I can find) and then I ask questions. I also read a lot of books and magazines from the library on animal husbandry.

    As for the goat thing, I’ve read a couple of blogs where they do their goats the way you were talking about (usually goats like pygmies or nubians that originated in tropical areas so will breed at any time of the year) and had never even heard of the method of keeping your goat in milk for 2 or 3 years, so you’re not alone in thinking that. I don’t think there are very many dual purpose goats, but there are some. The kinder goat for example: http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/sanderson95.html sound like the type of goat you want to look for if you want to do it the way you’ve mentioned above.

  2. I have had both sides of this. Lucky I ignore the BS and find people who help. A local guy who raises beef, pork, and chickens beyond organically took me under his wing, and allowed me to apprentice/intern and work for meat. I go help him, see how he runs things, and he humors my naïve questions. I came to a conclusion there is a different practice for raising animals for yourself (feeding family, homesteading), and raising animals to support yourself (selling them as a business). Some nay sayers are like that because they feel you are encroaching on their business or ability to provide for family. Whenever someone tells me I “can’t” do something I am determined to prove them wrong. “You can’t raise free range chickens in 0.2 acres” Really? Come on over and check out my flock of 24.

  3. There are mean-spirited people in ALL walks of life. Take heart; the good-hearted ones outnumber them (they just don’t make as much noise about it!). Hang out on forums and just ‘lurk’ for a while-you will learn who knows their stuff and is willing to help a newbie. 😉

  4. Everything in this life we live is not identical to another person’s life, this also goes for being a keeper of animals, bees and the like. Most people who believe in what another person says follows the belief of that person. When a person wholeheartedly believes another why is better, life changes, and in most cases proves old ways were good. So much in this world is fear based, when it comes to the care, and feeding of animals, people and gardens. I can not get into my top bar hive without destroying what the bees have worked so hard at, that being the making of comb and storing of honey. So I leave them alone observing from outside. I do not feed my goats wormer. I lose some chickens but the stronger survive. I believe in God and find many people before us such as Darwin knew something.
    Don’t let anyone put you down, but don’t argue either, stand firm in what you believe, Spirit listens. The truth shows itself in what we believe, but if what you thought you believed does not happen don’t worry there is something there to learn. Continue loving your animals.

  5. I’m glad I read through this post after reading your title. I completely agree. Farming is not my background, but I’m willing to give the time, effort and patience it takes to learn how to do things correctly and thoroughly without cutting corners. I want to learn. Since when were we removed of that right? I saw a quote one day that goes something like this, “we teach our kids how to walk and talk, but spend the later years telling them to sit down and be quiet.” gone are the days of thinking that “no question is stupid,” because even more so now, people will look at you like you are. it’s a shame, really, how else am I going to learn if I don’t ask the million questions I have? but it’s like striking gold when you find those people out there that just want to teach, to help. they exist. and i have faith that one day, you’ll be that teacher, too!!

    • I’ve helped a lot of people with their rabbits before, since I sell them as meat breeders. It’s really common for people to just not know what they’re doing when they go to get an animal. So many people think rabbits should have carrots and then also get those “mixed” foods from the pet store and then are shocked when their bunnies waste half the food digging through to get their favorite bits and get fat and can’t breed and have health issues… I never want to see someone caring for a rabbit improperly so it’s important to me that I explain things like diet to them in such a way that they will ACTUALLY listen. If I were just talking down to them like idiots they’d go home and do whatever it is they want anyhow. And if I don’t sell them a rabbit someone else will.

      Sometimes I think people think everyone should take some sort of class before they are qualified to even brush their teeth at night.

      I think there’s a time to listen but nobody should be ridiculed for not knowing something that they’re completely new to.

      Thanks for reading! It’s good to know I’m not alone.

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