Do you remember the children’s shows where they feature animals and part of the segment is a fact sheet about the animal?
We make one of those fact sheets for every animal before they come to live at Fairy Wren Cottage. With so much parental guidance it has been a good way for our daughter Lil to learn about making responsible choices, being accountable for those choices, collating the information, being part of a group discussion, listening to everyones idea’s and learning to respectfully take other peoples opinions into consideration.
A lot of animals have not come to live here and that is a good thing, it’s because of that fact sheet, the research & reading done and we have realised we are not equipped to look after some animals.
It might be because:
1. Of our lifestyle, we don’t have the time to devote to a certain breed of animal.
2. The amount of land we have.
3. The way we garden, will an animal trample over the garden beds. We designed the garden so there are wide paths for a person and a dog to walk side by side or if our two dogs chase each other playing in the garden there is plenty of room on the paths, the dogs were easily trained to stay off the garden beds but some animals aren’t.
4. How our property is set up. eg, how high our fences are, what kind of enclosures we already have.
5. On going costs it takes to maintain an animal. eg. does the animal need grooming by a professional, those costs soon add up over a year.
6. What kind of pasture the animal needs to eat, what different dietary requirements they need. eg. when we first shifted to Fairy Wren Cottage we called the Quince Orchard area Woolly’s Paddock. The plan was to get a sheep once the fencing was in place, we would design the garden so there were different path ways and two separate areas for Woolly the Sheep to graze. But the more I researched, and the more I watched the grass grow during Winter, Spring, Summer & Autumn in that area I soon learnt that a sheep was not a good fit for the pasture or space. By the way, I just didn’t watch the grass grow, I mowed it, really studied if the pasture already there was suitable for a sheep to digest, there were lots of scrappy weeds, and in winter there was a really muddy area down in the bottom corner near the road. I also didn’t factor in that the wind blows South West and any sheep smell would go directly into our neighbours bedroom windows. Sheep on an over grazed area can really smell not to mention all the other complications resulting from over grazing.
7. We also play devil’s advocate, what is the worse case scenario that could happen.
For example, in the past we have had different breeds of hens and discovered they scare easily, are flighty and likely to jump onto any fence they see and jump over it. They might just be easily startled by a blackbird flying past, nothing that would remotely put their life in danger. So we think, ok if this happens and they do jump the fence, what is on the other side of the fence? How would that impact on the relationship we have with our lovely neighbours? We don’t want one of our hens scratching up our lovely neighbours garden, nor do we want our hen attacked by a neighbour’s dog, or the hen walking onto the road, the hen could cause a potential accident if someone saw the hen and swerved to miss it.
8. Holidays and day trips. Who will look after the animals? How long can we be away from home? Do we want to stay in dog friendly accomodation and have our dogs travel with us, it can be stressful finding toilet stops for them or cleaning up after the dog is travel sick. Just speaking from experience!
What do we do when we are looking at adding to our menagerie!
We don’t rush the decision and we talk to lots of people, they might have previously owned a certain breed of animal we are interested in, it might be talking to someone at the feed supply who also has the same animals we are thinking about caring for. eg. we had know idea that quail need a fully enclosed area because they are so flighty but we soon knew after a five minute talk about quail while buying grain for our hens.
Online research, good old fashioned books borrowed from the library. Looking online at registered animal breeders information, calling them.
Lots of discussions at the dinner table, some of those discussions can be very difficult especially for a young child who has their heart set on a new pet. But isn’t it better to have those discussions before getting an animal then realising you have made a horrible mistake and your life revolves around such a complication. How many dogs end up in dog shelters because they just weren’t the right fit for a family, the dog becomes destructive or barks all day because it is lonely, bored and home alone.
I know it is exciting when you shift somewhere new or your circumstances change and you have all these ideas about getting animals that you have never cared for before.
If I was able to give advice to a very younger me starting out I would whisper:
Go slowly, measure your choices.
Do your research, those fact sheets are such a good way to educate you and your family, make you more responsible, informed animal carer’s.
Avoid over stocking and over grazing, create systems where you grow a lot of food over the winter months eg. grow greens & beneficial herbs in a garden bed for hens, another for guinea pigs.
Plan well, build your fences first.
Research animal breeders, don’t be afraid to change your mind if something doesn’t feel right about what the animal breeder is promising. There are great animal breeders and not so great ‘animal breeders’.
When you are at the op shop (thrift shop) look for water dishes, the shallow casserole dishes made from pottery are great they keep the water cool in summer, enamel bowls are handy to carry grain, saucers are safe for little quail, chicks and ducklings to drink from, just like socks those dishes will disappear and you will need extra’s!
December 23, 2018