Freddie the Bottle Lamb

Kara had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb… Well, actually, Luna (our first black sheep) had the lamb. It was her first pregnancy, and she had twins—two lovely but small boys. Luna was a little nervous about the project (who were these tiny beings in her life anyway?), but after a while she settled into being a new mom.
Most of the time, when a prime (first-time-momma) gives birth, the ewe will have one baby. That’s plenty for her to take care of as she learns her way through the process with a mix of hormones, instincts, and guidance from the shepherd. The next year, she is likely to have twins, which pairs well with her gained experience and fully-developed udder.
But Luna didn’t go along with the program—outdoing herself with two babies in her first go-around. For a while, it seemed like it might work, but when the bouncy little boys both reached around 11 pounds, momma’s milk couldn’t keep up. One became her favorite and the other one lagged behind. An ensuing cold snap left him vulnerable to pneumonia, and Kara had to make the tough call to pull the lamb from the mixing pen of other mommas and their lambs.
Luna didn’t even seem to notice. She already had her favorite.
The farmhouse kitchen has been a notorious haven for baby animals in need of extra TLC. Piglets, baby chicks, wounded ducks, puppies, and certainly lambs. It’s warm and safe and easier to reach when the little ones need care around the clock. In wintertime, an animal under the weather especially needs to be warm and away from drafts, so the haven of the kitchen provides greater shelter than can be created in the barn. The fact that the floor is easy-to-clean linoleum is also definitely a plus.
So the little lamb had his dog kennel shelter in the kitchen, a heat lamp for extra warmth, and plenty of towels for snuggling. Both sheep dogs Lena and Finlee are quite accustomed to having baby farm animals in the house, and they loved giving the little guy kisses and checking up on him. And pretty soon the sink was full of salvaged water bottles now repurposed as lamb baby bottles.
“He’s got a pair of lungs on him!” Kara sighed at breakfast. “Lordy can he baaa. If he can see or hear me at all in the house, off he goes.”
Now, you can’t have an animal in your house very long before it gets a name, and Kara’s little lamb soon was called Freddie.
“I think he’s actually Ready Freddie,” I laughed as Kara brought him out one sunny morning for a romp in the barnyard. “He’d follow you everywhere.”
That’s a good sign, since this follow-you-momma trait is normal behavior for a healthy lamb of his age. It means that Freddie has overcome his stresses of being cold and undernourished and is back to his playful, bouncy self.
Animals, just like people, are pretty food motivated, and it didn’t take Freddie very long to learn that two-legged Kara was the new food dispensary and surrogate momma. Glad to stretch his legs, he bounded about in the snow, losing himself in the game, only to suddenly realize he had strayed and come leaping back towards Kara. She was his “safe” place amidst the new sights and smells of outside.
It really did look like how you might imagine the “Mary had a little lamb” song playing out in real life.
Freddie soon outgrew his original kennel, and our neighbor Gerry let us borrow one of his. I can’t imagine it will be too much longer, though, until the little porker outgrows that space as well! But, once the other lambs are weaned, Freddie can rejoin his playmates. Right now, with no sheep mom to run to, the other ewes would bully (and likely hurt) him if he remained in the flock. For now, inside is the safest place for Freddie, with dogs and cats as his daytime friends.
But now Kara is away at a horse ranch in Arizona, and guess who’s taking care of little Freddie? Yup, surrogate sheep mom number two is lucky me.
Kara had all the bottles lined up in the refrigerator, ready for me to top off with warm water and mix with a good shake. Freddie didn’t seem the least bit perturbed that I wasn’t Kara, bashing the bottle with such vigor that milk sprayed all over my coat and glasses before he began sucking it down with glee. Guess that’s what I get for pretending to be a momma sheep.
Stewardship is about moments like these with Freddie. It’s opening your house to the animals that need you most; it’s about making tough decisions that are the best for the lives in your care, even when it’s inconvenient for you; and it’s about treasuring the moments of joy along the way. Freddie is still a member of the farm’s livestock, not a pet, but he’s been able to transform from the unloved weakling in the group to a sturdy, healthy, happy lamb who will be able to return to the flock at weaning.
Speaking of which, I probably need to go and feed Freddie again. He’s quickly learning that the sound of the old farmhouse door opening means someone’s coming in—someone with those amazing thumbs that bring milk from the fridge just to him. Lucky little fella. See you down on the farm sometime.