Monday, December 28, 2015

Carrot Monsters

Our neighbor used to have several horses next door, but due to zoning issues moved them a few miles away.  I miss three in particular, but now have these cuties to talk to in the mornings on my way to the donks.

Behind Eyeshadow stands her cutest-of-the-cuties, daughter May.  The neighbors say she was born in May but I found a photo from April 28, when she was just a few days old.

It has been so much fun to see her grow up.  Learning to run, learning to leave mom's side just a little longer each week.  And now, learning to love carrots.

But cute doesn't hid the fact both of them are carrot monsters!  Of my own creation.

Now, each morning before I reach the donkey yard, they look up and eye me to see if I'm stopping at the fence to offer carrots.  If not, Eyeshadow will yell at me.  If I do, she'll nicker to May.  Just the other day, May was in the back of their property with the two cows and mom called to tell her it was carrot time.  She came runnin' at a full gallop, sliding to a stop by mom at the fence.  For the first time, the cows came on the fly behind her.  Now the cows are carrot monsters too!

Guess I'll need to go to the Farmer's Market next weekend to stock up.  Ay yi yi...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Donkey Mornings

Alice tries to enjoy her oats...

...until Luigi comes in the barn to investigate.

Luigi insists he needs to be co-manager in distributing hay.
(while Gabby, the grain co-manager, makes sure the lid is securely fastened) 

And, in this abnormally warm December in Michigan, there is the ever-present mud.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Donkey and Chicken Fraternization

During the day when four chickens are allowed to roam with four donkeys, comraderie reigns.  I actually continue to be a little surprised.  Donkeys don't mind chickens underfoot (and I do mean underfoot) and chickens don't mind big ole 300 pound beasts looming above.

The four girls are in heaven when they get to the straw before the donkeys.  Those little feet get to work immediately to separate the pile so they can gobble up the chaff.  Which, of course, is exactly what the donkeys are after too.

And when I give donkey Alice her oats mixed with a little oil, ooh-la-la, if the chickens are out, they fight her for it in the bowl.  Alice, being so passive, just stares at them eating her oats.  Some mornings I have to stand guard.

Here the girls are scrounging the remains; not only what was in the feed bowl but also what stuck to the kitchen bowl I mixed the oats and oil in (rats, ending in a preposition!).

There is no doubt that they are treat terrorists.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Remembering a Friend

One year ago yesterday, I lost a good friend.  The 4-legged kind.
Natural will be in my heart forever.

We were together 24 of his 30 years.  He was my first equine love.

He was low man in the small herd of our second barn.  But when we moved to our last barn of 98 acres and 50+ herd he came into his own.  And was the head honcho for many years.  June, the barn owner, would tell me, "I don't know how he does it.  He doesn't need to nip or kick.  He just pins those ears back and the waters part."

One of my wonderfully vivid memories.  Natural was in his prime.  I owned another horse at the time too, Friea.  I had taken my son out with me, who was maybe 8-ish. Freia, my son Zach and I were standing in one of the pastures. From the back 40 you could see the whole damn herd coming toward us at a gallop, up over the hill, with Natural flying in the lead.  I yelled at my son to "Go to the fence -- NOW!!"  I was holding Friea's lead line wondering what she's going to do as the herd is almost upon us.  Thankfully, Friea was nonplussed about the whole situation and just let the herd whiz by without batting an eye.
But to see my boy out in front of the herd, mane a flyin' in the wind -- what a sight.

And then there was the time when he and I were first a team and my son was 1-ish.  I was pushing the stroller with one hand while I had Natural's lead line in the other.  Natural bent his head down to take in the smell of that little human in the stroller.  And my son took in the smell of that big face in front of him.  Melted my heart.

He'd gleam like a copper penny with his chestnut coat against the snow.

And when I'd lunge him and ask for a canter, he'd kick out one of his hind legs as though to give me the finger.  Each and every time.  

He sure wasn't perfect.  Before he came into his own, Natural would jump at his own shadow, with me in the saddle, and just quiver if I used a stern tone of voice while atop him.  And I got dumped on more than a few occasions.  But I surely did love that horse.

* * *

Cheers to you my wonderful companion.  May your hay be sweet, your mares lovely to see and the sun warm on your back.  Thank you for sharing your life with me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chickens Veto Snow

In Michigan, we are accustomed to quick changes in weather, but yesterday's changeroo was abrupt even for us.  Balmy temps had been hanging around... until yesterday when we were walloped with a foot of snow in about 12 hours.

This is the chickens' first snow and, they are politely saying "no thank you".  Even in the early morning when there was only a dusting, they refused to step foot outside.  I've seen them in the rain (while the donkeys hunkered in the barn), but this snow business was an entirely different matter.

They're bored and whiny.

 Particularly Ruby Dee.  But Ruby does have a little pathetic whine in her normal conversation.  So maybe she's not as dismayed as she's leading me to believe.

In the afternoon hens were allowed in the donkey barn while I cleaned up.  They were so relieved to be out of the coop.  And when they found the remains of Alice's oats, they acted like they had hit the jackpot.  All four were in the bowl, excitedly diving for gems.

The donkeys took it in stride.  This morning when they had to trudge through the deep stuff, my original three were at the gate as usual, while Alice just bellowed from the shelter of the barn.  Have I told you she sounds like a foghorn?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Little Compulsive

Stronger than normal winds have been blowing through southeast Michigan for the past week.  And when I hear the forecast I get a little compulsive.  Or maybe you could say realistically thorough.  Yea, that's it.

We've lived in this house for over 29 years. Semi-rural.  Ten acres.  Well water.  Let me repeat that last part.  Well water.  When you don't got no electricity, you don't got no water.  Only five years ago or so a portable generator made it's way to our home.  In spite of that, when I hear the windy forecast, I start filling up water receptacles.

Dog water dish, my two drinking glasses, donkey water, teakettle.  Got the picture?

I'm only too well aware of that sinking feeling when the lights go out and, oh yes, you have no drinking water.  In my defense, I ask you, what if the generator fails?  Best to be prepared!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fuzzy Faces

I'm sure you can guess that the sleek summer donkey look is long gone.  That look I love the most and is so short-lived.  Sigh.  When they finally shed their winter coats about mid-summer, that sleek sexy look is utterly alluring.

And there is an in between time when winter hair begins growing but is not at its lushest.  And that's where we are now.

Franny bananie

Blabby Gabby, also known as Gabba or Gabs
And yes, she is known as Blabby for a good reason -- the biggest donkey voice on the place

Weegie peegie -- always the ham

Alice Badallas
with Ruby Dee

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Donkey Hole #2 -- You've Got To Be Kidding

Please read previous post.
Then view this photo.  No smirking or laughing or tee-heeing allowed.  Not even a little bit.

Yes, hole number two.  
Mistake number one -- leave town for the weekend.

Upon our return Sunday we find this doozy.  About one week after hole #1.

All donkey barn sides have now been covered in fencing.

No pardners, there'd better be no more chewing in this town.  Or Rick'll have yer hides.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Alice Through the Donkey Hole

A couple of days ago I went out for the morning donkey and chicken ritual (which has gotten a lot more complicated by the way with the arrival of sweet Alice) and what did I see.

A nice big hole in the back of the donkey shed.  I do think I stood there transfixed for a few minutes, not quite processing this sight.

The view from the back side

And a nice big fat close-up.

What in the world!  Never before have I encountered this with the donks.  I returned to the house and told carpenter Rick about it. I postulated either the donkeys had done some heavy partying in the shed overnight (with adult beverages), a non-donkey critter had gotten in and they had gone after it or there had been a major dispute and someone had taken out their displeasure on the wall.  After he had viewed the hole with a professional eye, Rick said, no, that hole was eaten.  EATEN!

Let me repeat, in the six years I've had the donks this has never occurred.

On the morning of Day 2 I reported to Rick that the hole was now yet bigger.
That afternoon it was repaired.

Oh yes, with fencing covering it this time.
I do need to add that before the hole was repaired, the chickens were delighting in hopping through on their daily walkabout.

Now, the really funny part was Alice's reaction to the repair.  (And, yes, I think we may have found the vandal.)  I found her standing in the shed just staring at the patch.  Next I saw her outside staring at the patch, then she walked back in.  Luigi joined her and perhaps they were conferencing about this new development.  I didn't stay long enough to check it out.

I took advantage of one of the many Facebook donkey groups to inquire if others had experienced the same thing.  Whoa, you betcha!  There were a few solid suggestions involving supplements, covering the shed with metal, and providing tree branches for chewing.

We may eventually try them all.

One final note.  We now have a blue shed, yellow coop door and big green patch.  Definitely a kaleidoscope of colors.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Helpful Chickens

A few days ago it was time to clean out the chicken coop.  Remove soiled shavings and replace with clean, pine scented ones.

Silly me.

Did I scoot the chickens into the outside pen and lock them out of the coop?  No.  They were allowed outside privileges into the donkey yard and pasture.  Ignoring their freedom, they were instead fascinated with my duties and preferred to stay underfoot the entire time.

Each pitchfork full of dirty shavings was examined as was the bare coop floor.
Then came time to replenish the shavings.
Helpful hens again...

I did manage to get the clean shavings in place, in spite of my helpers.
However, the allure of the hay aisle where I also happen to keep the shavings bags was pretty powerful.  It called liked a siren's song to all four.

Such silly clucks.  They are a source of my daily amusement.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Meds, meds and more meds when a girl founders

Over the past 24 years I've never had a horse or donkey founder.  So when Alice arrived at our home, pretty stiff-legged, and I called the vet, wasn't sure what to expect.

His diagnosis was that she had foundered, many times, in the recent past.And so began the meds.

This was our box of goodies on the kitchen counter for over a week.
Banamine, isoxsuprine tablets to be dissolved in a little water and put into one of the syringes, and DMSO in the other syringe.

After about 10 days on this routine I saw a little improvement, but not enough to feel good about her status.  Back out came the vet. He thought she had improved 60-70%.  Really?  But you know how hard it is to measure progress when you see your beasts every day.  We were able to ditch the banamine and the DMSO but she's currently on the isoxsuprine once a day (down from 2x daily).

I have to give the girl a pat on the back.  It seemed we were shoving meds into her every time we saw her and she never balked.  Our other three would not have been quite so accommodating, I dare say.
The donkey rescue had said she was an even tempered sweetie and boy were they right.
Doesn't she have a little of that woe-begone look that everyone loves on Luigi?

Keep your fingers crossed that she keeps a steady improvement.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Alice Joins the Donkey Herd

Rescue donkey, Alice, has been with us for just over a week.  And I'm fascinated with progress in her acclimation and her integration into our little herd.  Just fascinated.


When she arrived, the gang carefully checked her out.  Luigi was particularly fascinated with one anatomical area.

Early on, while the girls were either ignoring her or threatening her with alienation, Luigi was chaperoning her out to the pasture.  And over the next couple of days if she didn't immediately come out into the pasture, he would call to her, there'd be a short conversation and she'd wander out.

Now she seems to be buddying up to Fran.  One minute Fran is kicking out at her to cut her out of the carrot action and the next minute they're sharing a hay pile.  Girls, girls, girls.

She's a little bigger than our three.  Look at those giant ears.

But a sweet face indeed.

This afternoon, Alice wasn't posing well for her photo shoot.  On the other hand, Luigi was more than cooperative.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Preventing Chicken Escapes

Recently I did a little bragging on Facebook that my husband could build just about anything and fix just about anything (well, no, I don't let him near my Nikon...)  And the proof is in the pudding.

You may remember that our high-tech chicken escape mechanism was two sheets draped over the fence.  If the wind blew the sheets a little to one side, or worse yet completely off, chickens could easily scoot under the fence and have full access to the great outdoors.  Not advisable with two dogs running in the same area.

Here is the chicken blockade Rick came up with that works wonderfully well.  You can see it propped against the fence off to the left

When slid into place, little independent hens can't slither under the gate -- and yes, I have seen them do it.
Isn't it nifty?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Alice, Sweet Alice -- A New Long-Ear

Regular readers (and I love you all dearly) will remember the tale of two BLM burros who were to join our critterdom.

Without all the details of the whys and why nots, it was not a good fit.  Instead Crossroads Donkey Rescue adopted "my" BLM burros and I'm adopting their Alice.

In August we arranged a meet and greet and I drove a couple of hours north to see the girl.

What a sweetie.

If things go according to plan, she'll be joining the crew soon.
I've spoken to the three troublemakers about this impending change to their domicile, but haven't gotten much feedback. The two girls will just have to share Luigi.

More story and photos will be shared when she arrives.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Calcium for Chickens

Here's the chicken question for all my hen experts/friends.
Do you all give your girls added calcium?
I'm not just concerned with the egg shell quality but also with their physical well being as the calcium is depleted from their bodies.
Is the calcium added to their feed enough?  If I add another form of calcium to their diet, what is too much?

They're only 7-8 months old so I've been told their calcium level should be optimum right now, but I'm assuming that egg production depletes their system even at this age.

I have been saving our egg shells, letting them dry out, and grinding them up to add to their feed.

Had only one instance of the girls attacking one of their eggs.  Occasionally I'll find an egg on the coop floor and yesterday morning, as I walked in they discovered an egg on the floor and ate the whole thing up.  If it happens again, I'll have to resort to a different method.

Anyway, can some of you share your knowledge and experience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Golda Finds the Nesting Hot Spot

Golda has clearly indicated her preference for nesting areas.  The primo spot (in her opinion) is the hay aisle of the donkey shed.

The other day I let the donkeys out into the pasture, then allowed the chickens out into the donkey yard (as is the new normal routine).  I was doing some clean-up and left the hay aisle open.  Golda saw her opportunity.

 If you look carefully you'll see her at the bottom of the straw bales on the right.  She started working on her nest immediately.

The other three were a little upset, standing on the other side of the aisle fencing.  Golda didn't seem pleased to have them there and was making an aggressive sound I've not heard before.  I left her alone, and sure enough, there was an egg.

So, clever me says, OK she must want straw bedding (I use shavings).  I cleaned out a nesting box, stuffed some straw in and she wouldn't touch it.  For days.  No one would.  Out comes the straw and back in go the shavings.

Yesterday we went through the same routine.  Hay aisle left open = 1 egg.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Golda in Peril

A few days ago, Golda, one of my favorite hens, almost met her fate.

I decided to wander out and give treats to donks and hens in the early evening, taking the dogs with me.  The two dogs raced up the driveway ahead of me as I biked.  When I approached them, I saw a loose chicken dive into the weeds with dogs in hot pursuit.

Now wait a minute, that must be one of the hens from next door.

Initially I didn't think I could do much to intervene between dogs and hen.  Then I ran for a whip, thinking I could screech (what I do best in panic situations) at the dogs and distract them.  Suddenly I see Golda appear from the weeds and dogs weren't going for the attack.

I scooped her up and she nestled right in.  Unscathed.  It was a miracle.

About two hours later I returned to the coop to lock up and the little girl was loose again.  I knew I had locked her up in the hen pen!  She didn't want to be picked up this time and was walking the boundary of the pen when, what do you know, there was a gap between side and end fencing for her to slip back in.  So I put a monkey wrench in her next great escape plans and slipped a motorcycle tire in that spot (we have them in the donkey yard to play with).

 Rick tightened that section up first thing the next morning.

I have to tell you the whole incident left me anxious for quite some time.
The hens have become an integral part of our menagerie and I thought I had lost one.
Took a while for my heart to resume normal operation...
The puzzler then was, what stopped the dogs.  Somehow I don't believe they know the chickens are not fair game for them.  But what else stopped the kill.