I told you last time that I would further explain the details surrounding our new arrivals. There is an older gentleman that lives right down the road who has a multitude of animals on his property: Cows, sheep, horses, donkeys, pigs, geese, etc. He’s well known in the area, but we hadn’t met him yet. So I finally stopped by one evening a few weeks ago to meet him and chat. He knows more about animals that anyone I’ve ever met. During the course of our chat we got to talking about sheep, and 4-H, and it turns out that he used to run several 4-H clubs, and their main emphasis was showing lambs. So I decided to buy some from him for the boys to use as their project.
I was also wanting to add another tool to teach them responsibility. These are their sheep. They take care of them. After we decided to get them, and Mr. Dean picked out some for us, he had the boys come over every afternoon for a week to train them. They had never been halter broken before, so he started the boys on a regimen of progressive steps to train them. I made the conscious decision to stand back and not intervene, advise, or even correct. The boys are at the stage (or coming to the stage) where they need to learn to learn from someone else. So I let Mr. Dean do all the instructing and correcting.
And I was proud of my boys. They listened (mostly). They learned, and they did what they were told. And 5 days later we brought 4 new lambs onto the farm. They went into a temporary pen the we built near the RV (so we could use the awning as shade) until we could build their portable pen. The goal is to acclimate them to the farm little by little, and train them to return to their pen, so that we can eventually let them free.
Every day since the lambs have been here, they are led around by the halter by the boys for about 15 minutes. Last night the family tried the next step of this process. We led 3 of them around, but picked the most timid of them to roam free. The thinking was that she would stay near the flock. And we were right. When we led the other 3 into the pen, Ally followed right along.
Naturally, this led to a brilliant idea of mine. [Hey, I heard that...some of you laughed already...you don't even know what's coming yet!] I asked my DW “I wonder what would happen if we leave the sheep pen open for a while? Will they try to leave?” I asked this as we were topping off their water. The answer, for those of you who haven’t already guessed, is a resounding YES. We laughed at first, but over the course of the next 15 minutes, some of the laughter was bordering on panic. One sheep got separated from the group when she turned right to go up on the deck, and the other 3 turned left. This one at one point was under the house, crying for her sisters who she could hear nearby.
During this time our male dog Max (Catahoula hound) was right there with them, circling in and around them. We kept reprimanding him to sit, or go inside. Then, as the flock of 3 runs up the hill, Max somehow magically (or perhaps, naturally) puts them into the old sheep pen up by the RV (the gate had been left open since we took the sheep out last weekend). It was as if he’d been doing it all his life. One minute he was running along side them, and the next they were in the pen and he was looking at us with this “See…I had this…just let me do my job” expression. [I realize I could be anthropomorphizing slightly here].
We learned several valuable lessons last night:
1) Max just might know how to heard animals…his breed is known for its cattle herding abilities.
2) Sheep will choose to be together, no matter what, where or when. Control half, and you control them all.
3) They aren’t quite ready yet for total freedom.
4) Interesting (yeah, we’ll go with interesting) things happen when I start a sentence with “Hey, I wonder what would happen if…”
Here’s a video showing the boys early last week, training their lambs over at Mr. Deans barn.
Until next time…