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Trial & Error

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

Reflecting on the care of our farm animals, pets, and wild visitors. When caring for animals, it's important to know what to do and what not to do. When to intervene and when to back off. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way.

Never ending summer

It's been a long summer and I am feeling it. Autumn can't get here soon enough for me. I have learned some things this past summer and spring, when it comes to animal care. Things I didn't know before that may be useful to anyone who has pets or rodent situations. I learned about which plants and flowers are 'pet safe', find out more here I also figured out how to safely and comfortably groom my fussy cat

Speaking of cats

One thing I will never do again is buy a flea/tick collar or any collar for my cat. Buster had a bad experience with this and it was heartbreaking for me as I was responsible for putting him in that situation. Never again. It happened early one morning when he had come inside from his morning jaunt and jumped up in my chair. As I approached him and knelt down to pet him, I noticed his face. My heart sank, he had a cut just under an inch long near his eye. I immediately called my aunt. She usually has antibiotics on hand for animals to treat infections and so forth. She would be on her way soon to treat him. I also applied a topical med for cats to the wound. In the meantime, my mind raced trying to figure out how he was injured. At first, I assumed he may have been in a fight with another cat. Then I noticed his flea/tick collar was missing.

That's when it hit me. He had scratched himself.

Cats are very agile creatures and evidently, he had gotten it hung on something and panicked trying to get free and in his efforts, scratched himself on the face. Luckily, he was able to free himself from the collar. I still have no idea where this happened as I have not located the collar. From now on, we do an application of the Front Line flea/tick meds to be applied on his back between the shoulder blades. *I get no compensation for the products I recommend. I have tried other brands and I haven't found one to work better. If you have to use a collar, please get one with a 'break away' feature. On the plus side, his wound healed very quickly with no infection or complications.

Damn Groundhogs

However cute they may be, they are a nuisance. They dig holes under the foundation of my house and dig holes in the pasture. If your cattle steps in the hole and breaks its leg...not good, it means death for the cow/bull and a loss for the farm. Our animals are our responsibility and that means protecting them from pests and predators. They are everywhere around here and I have tried just about everything to get rid of them. Makes me wish I had a few dogs. Right now, that's not an option with Buster. Buster couldn't care less about groundhogs, rabbits, or mice for that matter. Mostly he just likes naps. I have managed to shoot one from my kitchen window. Hey, when the opportunity presents...Cowgirl up. I am extremely cautious about shooting them, though. As anyone with firearms should absolutely be. I am always aware that there are houses near me and I don't want to shoot into the field either because of the cattle etc... Plus, I have to bury the thing to keep the smell down. I don't know if you have ever smelled dead groundhog, not pleasant at all for anyone in the vicinity. So, shooting them isn't my 'go to' unless the opportunity presents itself.

I have spent some time trying to deter them. I have a few of those solar powered, motion-censored, vibrating stakes you place in the ground. They aren't full-proof but they do offer some deterrent. Given my situation, I can't rely solely on them. Ammonia is another thing I have tried. You pour it into holes they have made. It has had some success. I have also been paying attention to plants they don't like such as; spices, garlic, and lavender. I planted some thyme and lavender and while the groundhogs may not like it, the rabbits have been eating it. Sigh, so this fall, I plan on planting some garlic. I love the smell of it growing outdoors.

The number one thing that absolutely will work and it's free is human urine. They hate it, can't tolerate it, and will avoid it. So, I have been encouraging my boyfriend, brother, and male cousins to pee around my house in groundhog known locations whenever the mood hits to insert our dominance by marking our territory. Groundhogs are now giving my house a wide birth.

Helping Birds

I have had several encounters with birds this spring and summer. Oftentimes it is hard to know when and if help is required. Here are some things I have learned:

  • If a bird flies into your house - It's important to remain calm. Open the nearest window or door and slowly, calmly, approach it in a way to guide it in that direction. When it sees the outside, it will (unless injured) naturally head towards freedom. If it is stuck, carefully pick it up using a towel and free it. If it is injured, contact animal control and/or a vet. After taking care of the bird, figure out how it entered. You may need to close or repair an opening you didn't know was there to prevent future occurrences. When birds fly near windows, they can be confused by the reflection. I bought some double-sided bird color forms and placed them on the window. This lets the bird know that something is there, it breaks the reflection.

  • If a baby bird falls out of its nest - Assess the birds age and condition. If you feel it is injured, contact animal control or a vet. For young birds that are almost ready to fly, and I found out this the hard way, it is best to leave them alone. Remove any immediate dangers i.e., a cat or dog, and leave it alone. You may want to help it, but momma bird is likely nearby watching over it and feeding it. I recently attempted to help a young goldfinch in this way. In my heart I was trying to help it. I couldn't reach the nest so I made one for it and placed it in the same tree. I tried to get it to eat a little. Sadly though, it didn't live until morning. I realize now, I should have taken Buster inside and just let it be. Its mom was probably nearby. For a baby bird (nowhere near ready to fly) that is abandoned; your best bet is to take it to a vet. If you try to feed it; use an eyedropper, you will need to mix things it eats in a blender as it can't handle solid foods. Momma birds chew up foods first before spitting it into the baby's mouth.

Poultry & Predators

It's been a rough summer for my brother's chickens this summer. He's lost a few to coyotes, which have been rampant this season, when someone left the coop door open. I have been helping out during his vacations this summer and have learned a couple of things. 1) Close those coop doors and 2) Keep blind chickens separate from the others. During his first vacation; someone had left the coop doors open. I went over mid-day to check on their feed etc... and I noticed the rooster was out. I decided to come back right before dark because they won't head back in the coop until then and I would need to lock them up. Later when I went back, the rooster and the chickens were in their coop but the blind hen in the other coop was missing. That's one thing I learned; if you have a blind hen (or rooster), it will need to be kept separate from the others, if not, it will be pecked to death. This told me that both coop doors were in fact left open. Oh no... My cousin and I frantically looked around for the blind hen and the sun was setting fast. No signs of feathers...nothing. It broke my heart to alert my brother about her being missing. She is a very dear inhabitant as she is his first chicken. Still, there is hope to be had, we didn't find her body after all, and no signs of struggle. I vowed to return the first thing in the morning to investigate further.

My boyfriend and I headed that way at sunrise and we looked around everywhere. I spotted her in the nearby field and proceeded to climb the fence to get to her. Being blind, she wasn't at all difficult to catch, thankfully. I had my boyfriend lift the fence and passed her to him underneath and he carried her safely back to her coop. I looked her over and she seemed none worse for the wear. I got her some fresh water and if a chicken could ever appear grateful, she definitely was. She was very thirsty.

With love, comes responsibility

We love our animals; they are our babies. It's our goal to do our best to ensure they are taken care of and are safe. Most importantly:

  • Make sure they always have access to fresh drinking water. Don't let it get hot and stagnant. Rule of thumb, if you wouldn't drink it, don't expect them to.

  • Buster has the freedom to come and go as he pleases but if you have a pet pen. Keep it clean and make sure there is adequate shade for the hottest of days.

  • Place their food in an area where it can't get rained on. I wouldn't want to eat soggy food. Also, if feeding outdoors, make sure their food isn't infested with insects i.e. ants, or even being stolen by a stray animal. Buster is fed indoors now, but I used to keep an extra bowl of dry food on the porch until I noticed the birds were stealing his food. He does have fresh water both indoors and outdoors at all times.

The best we can do is our best. Somethings we know and sometimes we learn as we go. Thank you for reading and have a blessed day with your pets.

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