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.