Thursday, April 28, 2016

When Rocket Became An Orphan






 I was going to write today about knitting, or bread baking, but something happened at the beginning of the week which has made all my plans go out the window and completely consumed every day.
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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24 comments

  1. I love reading your blog, how sad for little Rocket and you to loose Sage. Thankfully here in the uk we don't have venomous snakes . Extra work for you to raise him, I hope he continues to do well in your very capable hands. Love your pictures.

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    1. Thank-you so much! Rocket is doing very well x

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  2. Hello,
    thanks so much for being a foster mum to Rocket !
    Best of luck to all of you and please send us more pic of the little one and his friends.
    Greetings from Switzerland

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    1. Thank-you & I'll be posting more photos of Rocket for sure x

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  3. What a bitter sweet story Good luck and Rocket shows his appreciation by how he looks at you now as his new Mom. Love this blog Greeting from NYC. joanne

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  4. What a lovely sad/happy story. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank YOU for reading and taking the time to comment x

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  5. Poor little Rocket. I got all teary just reading about him curling up next to Sage after she died. He looks like a little fighter and very spirited so I am sure he will be just fine now. What a little star! Have a lovely weekend.



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    1. Thank-you Dawn. Rocket certainly has a lot of personality and is doing so well x

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  6. Aw, little Rocket. What a sweetheart. So sorry to hear of Sage but pleased he's happy.

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  7. Poor sweet Sage. :( I am glad that she had caring owners who gave her a good life and accepted her as she was, temperament included, and will make sure that little orphan Rocket is well cared for. I can almost picture the reproachful border collie side-eye of disapproval at a lamb in the house. Hehe... Enjoy your new baby!

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    1. Thank-you Laura. Sounds like you understand Border Collies well ;-)

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  8. Oh no, I am so sorry about Sage and I feel sad for Rocket. But, it seems he has taken to you very well and I know you will take good care of him. I know what you are going through with bottle feeding, somewhat. We had a Labrador retriever a few years ago that gave birth to 17 pups. She was a first time mom and was totally exhausted after giving birth. She just didn't know what to do with all those puppies, so we ended up bottle feeding them. Sadly, we lost 10 of them over the week after they were born. We also had another lab that gave birth to a litter only a couple of days before and she stepped in and claimed some of the other pups as her own.

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    1. Oh my gosh - 17 puppies!! That must have been so hard losing them across the week, but I imagine that in a litter that size they would have been pretty small.
      How lovely that your other dog gave a helping hand x

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  9. The ups and downs of livestock rearing!

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  10. Oh, poor little Rocket. I guess it was a good thing that the snake didn't attack any other animals, including Rocket. He's a sweetheart, and I'll be you miss him in the house when he heads back with the herd ;) How fortunate that he took to the bottle. Enjoy your surrogate mother days ahead!!
    Wendy

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    1. Thanks Wendy. It will be strange putting him out in the paddock when he's older, but I'm crossing fingers for a smooth transition x

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  11. What a story! I am very sorry for Sage and I hope it will not happen to other sheep you have. Rocket looks very happy though, you are a good mum :)

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  12. Oh this is one of the more heartbreaking parts of having animals and farming isn't it? This little lamb looks very special and I can just tell he is being very well cared for! Happy days to Rocket. x

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    1. Yes it is Jane. As they say, if you have livestock you'll have deadstock. Doesn't make it any easier though.
      Rocket is really happy now, he's settled in so well x

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Maira Gall