Chronicles of a yarn farmer, shepherdess, and fiber geek!

Chronicles of a yarn farmer, shepherdess, and fiber geek!

December 2, 2008

A Tribute to Darla

A sad day when we found our little Darla dead in the pasture. We knew she wouldn't live a full life but hoped she would be around for a few years or so. I didn't even get a chance to shear her and make something special with wool. That would have been special. Oh well, the pics below are great memories of our little Darla.
Darla - about 12 hours old

Darla was a triplet and half the size of the other two lambs in the bunch. She was four pounds and for a BFL that's very small. Born about 6 p.m. she was up and competing for milk very soon. From the get-go she was active and feisty. At the last barn check of the night (about 11:30 pm) I found her way over in a drafty dark spot of the barn. She was very limp and just barely shivering so I knew she was still alive. I ran her into the house, wrapped her in towels, and put a light over her for warmth. Her temp was 94...extreme hypothermia!

Trying to gain strenth to stand up.

By 5 am she had the strength to lift her head. I milked some colostrum from her mom and fed Darla through a stomach tube. I continue the tube feeding throughout the day and by evening she graduated to a syringe, than a bottle.

"Look Mom"

After that Darla thrived. She gained strength, played with the cat, spent all her days outside in her pen, and stayed close to me whenever she was out of her pen.

Outside in her pen.

Dog crates are great for little lambs.

An oversized stuffed sheep makes a great "pen pal"!

Darla loves Lukes!

Yes, that's her bottle. No, didn't burp her!

The first day Darla felt the grass under her feet (oops, hooves)!

Sniff, sniff. "Smells like......"


"Are you my mama?"

School girls love Darla.

Darla loves the girls but loves her bottle more.

Darla meets Grandma and Aunt Anne.

"O.k. Grandma, I won't do that again"

Oliver likes Darla. Darla likes bottle.

Rachel looking for Darla in the crowd.

April 2008 - September 2008

She rests under the sunflowers


Becky Utecht said...

Oh she's so sweet! Sorry you lost her.

ColorJoy LynnH said...

Some animals are extra special. My only pet I've ever had was a runt cat of undetermined breed. I lucked out, I had him for 17 years, but I still miss him 12 years later.

Sorry for your loss. At least you have good photos and good memories. Life just isn't fair sometimes.


Claire said...

Oh gosh, this is soooo sad. She is so much like my little one now. Fortunately mine is up and walking around today, but she is so tentative and slow compared to the "bigger" one (who is still under 8 lb). Why do you think Darla eventually died? What else can I do to help this little one?

Carol said...


I hope your little lamb girl is hanging in there and getting strong. When Darla was with us, she was a joy, and when we could put her with the other lambs, it was even better!

Noticing Darla was very small I kept a close watch. The triplets were born around 6 p.m. and I stayed in the barn until about 9. At 11:30 I did a final barn check and couldn’t find Darla in the birthing stall. She wiggled her way through the wire fence and was curled up in a dark, drafty area of the barn. I scooped her up to find she was barely shivering.

In the house I set up a wicker basket lined with towels and placed a strong utility lamp near the basket and shaded her eyes from the light. She was very limp. Her rectal temp was 92 and I kept her covered with towels in the basket and the warm utility light very close to the towels. At 5:30 a.m. she finally lifted her head and looked around. I took her temp a few times throughout the night and by the morning it was around 100. I tube fed her some colostrum (that I milked from the ewe) a couple of times throughout the day, then started the bottle. By the time she could handle standing and walking and eating (a good couple-of-three days), her mom didn’t want anything to do with her. The familiar scent was gone.

The ewes’ recognize the scent of their own colostrum and milk (once it goes through the lamb’s system and they start to poop) in addition to the scent of the lamb. Darla lost the scent on her wool and the smell of the milk replacer we were feeding her wasn’t mom’s. So she became a true orphan lamb (or my adopted child :-)

Darla stayed in the house in a large dog kennel at night for about a month. During the day we put her out in a small make-shift stall we made for her right next to the other lambs so she had nose to nose contact. When she grew and gained some weight, we put her with the other lambs in the nursery area (she learned real quick to dodge the big ewes). When the other lambs were weaned, we kept Darla with them 24/7.

Looking back, I think she died from an overload of parasites. We were treating her for coccidiosis. We worked with our vet and had her on a treatment plan, then would wait about a week and do a fecal test to see if the treatment worked. It really didn’t and we treated her three times within about seven weeks. One evening she looked a little off and was not bleating like she “always” did. She sort of looked glassy-eyed. That night there was a severe thunderstorm and she was in a small paddock with our wether. I don’t know if the storm knocked her around or she couldn’t find her way to the hut, but the next morning she was lying dead near the fence, soaking wet.

A few months before she died she got into some grain and had bloat. I thought she was a gonner then. After quickly thumbing through all my sheep ailment/remedy books I found a remedy of water, cooking oil, and baking soda. I fed her that through a syringe over the course of an hour or so and saw a very slight improvement. The next morning she was fine and very vocal. There was very watery light tan colored poop all down her back legs so I think the baking soda concoction finally cleaned her out.

She was 35 pounds at five months when she died and sometimes I think that because she was so small that maybe her system couldn’t handle things like parasites and overeating like the other lambs could handle. Someone told me that a small lamb like Darla will never live a full life and breed like her full-size pasture mates. Something along the way is going to do her in.

She always had soft poop, borderline diarrhea at times. I tweaked the milk replacer – water ratio a few times but I can’t remember that she ever had normal bean-type poop. I was always washing her butt with soap and water so she didn’t attract flies.

If I end up with another “Darla”…I would tube feed her out in the barn using the ewe’s milk and try my best to keep her close to her mom so that bond forms.

Good Luck!

Claire said...

Wow Carol, thanks for the wonderful response. It is so interesting to read about everything that happened to little Darla. My first house lamb was last year and she is still a bit small, but she seems to hold her own. She had runny poop for the longest time indoors, resulting in daily butt washings which she hated. Once she transitioned outdoors, her poops became normal, even though she was on the bottle for a while yet (she was in for about 2.5 months because at the time we were being tested for Johnes on our farm, which is an 8 week test, and I didn't want to put her out with the others until we had results).

I'm interested in your baking soda remedy if you ever have the chance to look it up - the recipe sounds like something that could be made with on-hand materials and could end up being a lifesaver.

I think that if my little one makes it to maturity, she will be small also. However, since mine are primarily a spinner's flock, I can keep her without breeding her. On the other hand, she may have parasite problems like Darla did, and she may get pushed around by the other sheep. We did buy 2 Jacob ewes last year that never grew properly - I think they should never have been weaned at the age that they were. Neither one is 60 lbs yet and they are a year old now. I think they will always be small too. I guess I will eventually need a "small sheep" pasture and a "big sheep" pasture!

Thank you so much for the extra information on Darla. It gives me some ideas on what to look for as my little one grows up (which she hopefully will) and perhaps with that knowledge, I might be able to catch a problem before it escalates.

If it had been "normal" lambing time of year for us, I would have considered leaving her with her mom, except since she could not stand at first, it would have been risky. However, since we bought these ewes bred, we had no choice on their early lambing. We aim for mid-April at the earliest here. Then it would have been warm enough to leave her in the barn.

Thanks again!