Ever-Evolving Herd Dynamics
Penny and Blackbird finally went to a wonderful new home on Friday morning. They were the last of the 2018 kids that we needed to sell, and while it's always hard to say goodbye, it's also wonderful to see goats go to a really good home where they will be well loved and cared for. 

I was concerned that Blackbird's sister Skeeter, and Penny's sister Rita would be sad to see them leave and might look for them for a while. But this didn't happen. Instead, something far more interesting took place in my herd within fifteen minutes of their departure. The oldest 2018 doeling, Skeeter, had been bullying and picking on all the other 2018 kids for about a month. She'd even gotten up in the faces of some of my older herd members and rose through the ranks really quickly. She started being pushy and mean at the hay feeder and was also butting and biting ears on our walks. She was quite bossy toward her sister Blackbird, and she became especially nasty toward my sweet little 2017 doe Coral, who never bothered anybody or got in anyone's way.   

Penny and Rita were a little more "background" goats, but Penny was the more dominant one despite being smaller than Rita. Rita was the wallflower goat that everyone ignored and seemingly had no strong friends or enemies. Penny would occasionally pick on Rita because they were sisters, but that was about it. Rita might as well have been scenery for all the attention she got from anyone, including Phil and I. Rita was not shy, but whenever I'd go out of my way to pet her or feed her treats, Penny made sure to shoulder her way to the front and center while Rita would quietly slip into the background. 

About 15 minutes after Blackbird and Penny left, I saw a great hubbub outside the window. Rita was up on her hind legs, ears held stiffly back, challenging Skeeter with everything she had. They went at it hammer and tongs for a good 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the fight, Coral came over and took Rita's side against Skeeter. Skeeter's mother, Petunia is our herd queen and she ignored the entire thing. In fact, Petunia deliberately turned her back on the fight and let her daughter duke it out with the two others. They went at it until they were all tired, and I think Skeeter won the day for now, but she has a much deeper respect for both Rita and Coral now. Later in the day, I saw Rita walk past Skeeter and Skeeter gave her the "hairy eyeball". But instead of scooting around, Rita stared Skeeter down and both of them kind of walked around each other with their hackles raised. Skeeter looked a little intimidated and backed off. 

Today, it was fairly obvious that Skeeter has maintained her top position, but she's a lot more humble in her authority now. Rita challenged her again this morning for quite a while before everyone ran off to graze, and there were a couple of times when I saw Coral sneak up and pull Skeeter's tail just to provoke a reaction. Coral would have been terrified to do this just a few days ago.   

It's fascinating to me how removing two seemingly insignificant, lower-mid tier members of the herd is totally changing the dynamics. Rita and Coral have not only formed a tight alliance in a very short time, but I have a feeling they're going to be close friends from here out as well. It's good to see because for a long time Coral didn't seem to have any friends, and I felt like Rita was friends with Penny more from family obligation than any personal attraction. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year.   
The herd dynamics have changed for the better since Blackbird and Penny left. Skeeter is no longer the high and mighty herd princess she once was, and she's completely quit bullying Coral. Rita and Coral have formed a strong bond in a short time, and Tigerlily has sided with them as a sort of matriarch. Yesterday Skeeter shouldered her way up to the hay feeder and tried to jostle Coral out of the way. Tigerlily went into attack mode, pummeled the tar out of Skeeter, and drove her away from the hay rack. Skeeter cried for her mom, but Petunia is no longer all that interested in defending Skeeter. She's pregnant with new babies due in April and Skeeter is a big yearling doe now. Skeeter is going to have to figure out how to get along with the other goats on her own, and she's quickly learning that she can't bully her way to the top without her mom to back her up. Petunia is a fantastic mom and herd queen.

Rita has never shown much overt attachment to anyone before. She didn't cry when I sold her mom last October, and she didn't even say goodbye when Penny left last week. But the other day when I removed Coral from the pen to milk and left the other goats locked up because of bad weather, Rita started screaming her head off. She was overjoyed when I brought Coral back 20 minutes later. It's nice to see Coral have a close friend too. She's never really had one before. She's not an outcast, but she's never had anyone to snuggle and share with until now. I think she's enjoying it.
Yesterday one of Coral's teats had a cut on the end that looked like a bite mark. I'm pretty sure Rita tried to nurse! What a weird turn of events. It's hard to believe that selling two seemingly insignificant mid lower-tier goats would shake things up so much. And now Skeeter seems to be forming a bond with Sadie, who has been the lowest of the low goats on our "goatem pole" ever since she was born. Sadie has been something of an outcast ever since her mom, Nauti, left last September. TinCup kind of looks after her, but none of the goats her own age would be her friend. And now Skeeter and Sadie are sharing the mineral feeder and walking around hip-to-hip like best buddies. So crazy!
Well at least it makes for good winter entertainment.
Yes, it's all very entertaining. Coral has officially knocked Skeeter off her pedestal, and we no longer have a tyrannical little bully in our herd. It's so funny because Skeeter was absolutely merciless to Coral before Penny and Blackbird left--biting her ears, smacking her so hard I know she saw stars. Coral would do her best to stay out of Skeeter's way and run off if Skeeter came toward her, but Skeeter would seek Coral out just to give her a beating. Now Skeeter is afraid of Coral! Coral occasionally pays Skeeter back for her earlier meanness, but not much. Coral is a sweetie-pie at heart and isn't one to turn bully even if she can. Coral is bossing Rita around now too, but Rita is still very attached to Coral and cries when I take Coral to the house to get milked. No more bites on Corals teats though! It looks like she put a stop to that nonsense right away.

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