Coyote Run Farm
Lessons Learned - The Animal Kingdom

Although it may not seem like it, we do actually learn a few things over the years. We thought it might be nice to share some of the basics.

1. Getting rid of mice

This is a must. If you have grain or even just hay, you will have mice in your barn. Although cute, they will cause all manner of problems and must go.

Don't try to use or build a better mouse trap. This is the 21st century. You're no longer a country bumpkin; you're an agricultural professional and should do what all managers do -- delegate.

Get cats to do the job. Traps are insufficient. Poison is nothing but trouble. Cats are ruthless hunters who will spend all day clearing your barn, never ask for vacation, are environmentally friendly, and don't get furballs when little mouse feet add roughage to their diet.

Cats who seriously hunt vermin
Donate generously, and nobody gets hurt

In all seriousness, you want to do the following:

a) Get two kittens

b) Have them fixed

c) Supply them with all the food they want

The idea is that they are essentially house cats, but their house is the barn. If you don't treat them as such, you will soon be inundated with scores of wild cats that breed a lot but don't get all the mice and are often diseased. The life expectancy for a cat in the wild is about 18 months.

2. Getting birds out of the barn

Literal Catwalk Cats will do this too. And you don't even have to pay overtime.

The trick is to make sure the cats can access any place the birds can. Don't try to seal parts of the barn. The birds and mice will still get in, and will then be protected by the boards, wire, plastic, underwear, etc.

Birds don't just use their flying ability to do poop bombing runs on your watering stations. The little blighters use the upper reaches of the barn for safety from your squad of feline enforcers.

Fortunately, this can be remedied by building a very small and narrow walkway up amongst the rafters. This, of course, is where the actual name "catwalk" comes from. And yes, the cats will use it, even at great heights. Our cats can only get up at one end, and yet will walk all the way down to the other end.

3. Getting rid of raccoons

Cats won't tangle with a full grown raccoon (cats aren't stupid you know).

Raccoons are also quite intelligent. They know that humans in the city aren't likely to really harm them. They know that humans in the country are likely to blow their little masked head half way to Katmandu.

Since we try not to kill things except as a last resort, we use the country raccoons sensible fear of humans to often drive them away with our mere presence. Keep your barn clean and clear of critters, food, nesting areas, etc. If you see a raccoon, explain the situation with a loud voice and a couple of thrown rocks. They'll give you some lip, but they'll go.

4. Moving sheep

Sheep are flighty animals which can be difficult to move from one place to another. A good handler will move them quickly, quietly, and make it look easy.

This isn't us. But we're getting better.

First of all, you need to understand that sheep do not think or react like humans, dogs, cats, or other animals we are more used to. We, and many of our pets, are carnivores or omnivores. We have a flight or fight instinct when we are confronted. Sheep have a flight or "give up and wait for the end" instinct.

A panicky sheep loses what little brains it had and becomes next to impossible to move or handle. A panicked sheep will repeatedly bash its head against an obstruction when there is an opening two feet to the left or right. It is important to remember not to be overly aggressive or you'll end up running all over the barnyard looking like an imbecile. (And everyone knows that is far more important than the actual farming.)

Here are some guidelines we've picked up over the years:

a) sheep are herd animals and will want to stay together - move them as a group and do not isolate a single animal

b) sheep will not want to go into a dark place - use lights if needed

c) sheep don't do corners - try curves instead

d) sheep most certainly don't do windows - remove all breakables from the area

e) sheep respond to punishment (such as a whack on the head) by hunkering down, closing their eyes, and thinking "I really don't like this" -- It will NOT occur to them to move away.

f) sheep like familiar surroundings - straw on the floor/ramp/race/weigh scale will do wonders

g) sheep need good footing - they wouldn't like the local amusement park

h) press them in together good and snug when handling - this actually calms them -- unlike humans

i) sheep will follow other sheep - but we don't want to hear of any of you dressing up in sheep costumes

j) sheep often get nervous when you make eye contact (it's predatory) - if you are trying to move amongst them without moving them, try not to look straight at them

k) sheep can jump with the best of them - make sure barricades are high enough

l) sheep can go under things, but tend to get stuck - don't leave any openings

m) sheep have no ethics and can be bribed - use grain

n) sheep will never intentionally hurt you, but they do panic easily and a full grown sheep can weigh as much as a human, has a lower centre of gravity, and has better traction

o) if they can't see it, it doesn't exist

z) remember that sheep really aren't very intelligent - things that are obvious to homo sapiens and the product of millennia of civilization, will stymie a sheep

You're the smart one. Try to think down to the level of a sheep. Trying to get sheep to think up to the level of a human will only attract an audience.

Sheep Traffic

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