No doubt you remember me writing about Rocket two weeks ago? He was the first lamb born for the year, and he's become a very special little lamb in the last few days.
His mum Sage died suddenly. I went to let the sheep out in the morning only to find Sage stretched out on her side, her breathing rapid. Within less than a minute she was dead, and Rocket was an orphan. We're not sure what killed Sage, but I think it may have been a snake.
Rocket sniffed his mama and curled up next to her, bleating his little heart out. I started crying when that happened, and my mind was racing with thoughts of how we were going to raise him.
He was 11 days old when he was orphaned, so I was worried that it would be hard to get him to except a bottle. Thankfully with Missy having calved only a week ago, we've got plenty of raw, full cream milk for Rocket to have.
It took him half of the day to get hungry enough to except the taste of Missy's milk. I fed him by sticking my finger in his mouth and dribbling in milk with a syringe. He seemed happy eating like this, and the next day we bought a lamb teat for him and spent the day fighting with him to get him to except it. It was late in the afternoon when he was kicking and jumping and having a full blown temper tantrum about the teat. I was looking at Rocket's hollowed in sides and thinking I was just going to have to syringe feed him when he suddenly lunged forward into the bottle and starting sucking with surprising force. The bottle was empty within a few minutes and due to his hunger strike he quickly downed another one.
The feeling of relief when he started sucking was immense. I just couldn't believe it. With his acceptance of the bottle, most of my worrying about him has disappeared. He has put on weight and grown, which is so important to notice at this age as they grow so very fast.
Rocket has decided that I'm his new mum and is happy to follow me around the yard and comes running up for his bottle. When I'm not supervising him outside, he is asleep in Bambi's old puppy play pen in the living room.
He wears a little dog jacket at night to keep warm, and has discovered that a pot plant is good fun to jump into. He likes the smell of hot cocoa and tries to steal cake crumbs from my plate.
Rilla won't go near him, she knows she is to leave lambs completely alone. And I'm sure Bambi disapproves of my bringing a lamb inside. She doesn't know whether to stare him down or look after him. She's sound asleep next to his pen right now.
Today Rocket has been completely content, his whole little body just looks happy. He seems to have settled into his new life, and was full of cheekiness today. He skipped about the yard this morning, and then this evening he tore around like a crazy animal. He is so happy! His little eyes light up when I walk past his pen, he runs over and bleats, and wags his tail when his bottle is coming.
I've raised motherless chickens before, and bottle fed a total of eight calves over the years (six we brought home from a dairy and the other two were drought orphans). This is my first time bottle feeding a lamb and he is a lot more work than a calf. But he is also a delight, and whilst I wish so very much that he still had his mum, I do enjoy looking after him.
We're in for the long haul with this little lamb. There's a lot of bottles and a lot of intense Rocket-focused days to come. I'm sure I'll be over it at points, but I'm also going to enjoy raising him. He's made his way into our hearts already. He certainly won't be destined for the freezer! Just what he is destined for, is a conversion (or two) for the months to come.
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