Although it was not an easy decision for me to make, I could see that it was time: Natasha and her tiny twins, Odessa and Oleg, had to be released from their jug into the general population. I had been waiting for other lambs to be born so that they could socialize in a smaller group before going out into the larger flock, but the wait was getting too long. The lambs were determined to make friends and were beginning to put themselves at risk, poking their heads through the panels of their jug to greet passing lambs. One wrong push from a lamb or adult ewe and they could have been killed. I knew I had to let them out.
Our flock is usually slow to get going in the morning. Although we have tried bringing bottles out to our bottle lambs at 6 a.m., our flock doesn’t get going until closer to 10 or 11, so they usually won’t take a bottle until that time. Going out any earlier generally finds the flock lounging around, half asleep and happy to watch my activity from a reclining position. There is no activity and little noise — it is my favorite time of day to visit the flock!
In my thinking, it also seemed the perfect time of day to let Natasha and her lambs out into the general population, so when I went out this morning with Olive’s bottle, I removed the panel that separated the rest of the ewe flock from Natasha’s new little family, allowing them to mix for the first time. It went pretty well, although the transition was not nearly as calm as I had hoped it would be.
The lambs were thrilled to leave their jug behind. As soon as I removed the panel, they took off, running and gamboling around the inner perimeter of the barn, hopping over sleeping lambs and generally taking full advantage of their new-found freedom. Natasha, on the other hand, panicked when she saw that her lambs were gone. Although she called and called for their return, they totally ignored her pleas and continued to play.
Of course, the other ewes heard Natasha’s cries and came to the conclusion that there must be a lamb-napper among them. They, too, began to cry for their lambs — and soon those lambs began to answer from all corners of the barn. Before long, everyone was up and active, the entire barn filled with the panic of lost lambs. Ewes ran around to find out whether their own had been taken, since Natasha continued to sound the alarm. Ewes called lambs, lambs answered their dams, and Natasha’s voice could be heard in panic above it all. After trying unsuccessfully to re-pair various ewes with their lambs, I was unable to take the din of noise that surrounded me, and I left. I knew that in a very short time, all lost lambs would be found and all worried ewes would be calmed.
When I returned hours later to feed, everything was indeed calm — except for Natasha, who was still occasionally crying for her lambs. Odessa and Oleg, on the other hand, were happily exploring their new environment, playing with other lambs and generally behaving as any newly released lambs would. Yes, they are still much smaller than even the most recently born lambs (see them in photo with Ivy’s daughter, Osage), but they are finding their way in a new, much bigger world — and their mother will eventually get used to the fact that, with each passing day, they are becoming more and more independent. Eventually, they must stand as independent members within the flock, and this freedom to socialize is their first step. And they seem to be doing just fine!