The day after the "chosen few" 9 sheep arrived at the summer pasture, they were happily munching on fresh green grass when a professional looking horse trailer rolls up the Wiles Lake cart road and directly into the summer pasture. The sheep walked up to the trailer, expecting to see more of their sheep folk hop out to join them for the summer. But, no. The door opened and no one came out. I went into the trailer and came walking out with... a donkey. I had spent months asking person after person if they knew where I could get a donkey. Coyotes are a very real predator in Lunenburg county now, both in Wiles Lake and Petite Riviere. Previous years in Wiles Lake I have depended on two wires installed above the pagewire fence as well as above the gates, covering the entire perimeter of the 30 acres of pasture: one ground wire and one electrified wire. I use a fencer which creates the charge, powered by a deep cycle marine battery. The fence has to be checked many times a week to ensure the voltage is high enough to deter a marauding coyote that tries to crawl over the top of the fence. The "hot" wired fence is defense line number 1. I also have "fox lights" hanging in key places where the sheep are anticipated to settle at night. Fox lights are an invention of a smarty pants in Australia. The smarty pants created a light that turns on in a variable pattern with also varying colours of lights. It is intended to re-create Aussies hunting at night.
Even with defense line 1, hot wire and defense line 2, fox lights, I have still been nervous about potential coyote attacks. In summer 2017 the coyotes killed and ate, everything except one bare leg bone, a deer that got its leg caught in my pagewire fence while it was trying to run from a pack of coyotes. I have listened to people's opinions for over a year about guardian animals. Guardian animals stay with your flock of sheep day and night and have varying responses when a predator shows up. A guardian dog barks at night to let the coyotes know of its presence; if a coyote enters the pasture it attempts to kill the coyote in typical dogfight fashion. A llama walks around with the flock quietly; when a predator approaches it will grab the coyote with its teeth and can eviscerate the coyote. A donkey also stays as one with the flock, does very loud "ee-aww" noise when something unusual approaches and can kick, very hard, with both back and front legs, killing a coyote. Having listened to many opinions, I chose to try to find my guardian animal, a donkey. Lets face it, given I used to be a horse-crazed human, a donkey, that looks like a horse with long ears, swayed the decision heavily.
May 17, 2018, enter defense line 3. Earlier in May someone who told someone who told someone, contacted me and said someone had a donkey in New Brunswick. All the flooding in spring 2018 created a situation where there was not enough pasture for the person to keep the donkey they had only received a few months previously. The donkey had been in a pasture with horses; there was no indication this donkey had ever met a sheep, but hey, what is life without risk? I called James, a man I trust to transport animals for me from far away places. James agreed to pick up the donkey and bring her to the summer pasture. What I did not know until the donkey arrived is that it took 5 strong men to basically carry the untrained donkey onto the trailer as, in true donkey fashion, the donkey flatly refused to walk on the trailer.
A few days after getting on the trailer, I opened James' trailer to meet this 3 year old female who was not trained for anything and as far as I know had never seen a sheep. My daughters had already chosen a name for this girl, based on the movie Shrek.
Hello "Fiona" I said. Armed with a pocket of carrots which I had heard donkeys like, I put a lead rope on her and suggested she join me in walking off the trailer. Having had so many changes, walking into an open pasture of fresh grass was very appealing so she took me up on my suggestion.
Enter the 9 sheep. The sheep and donkey stood around looking at each other for a few minutes. Then, with a lunge, the donkey lunged toward the sheep. The sheep took off with the donkey in pursuit. There was a few minutes of ears back chasing on the part of the donkey with the sheep dodging her bared teeth. Although she looked vicious I could tell she was just dominating them, setting her place as "boss when the boss isn't around"; she had no intent to hurt them. The sheep eventually figured this out also and stopped running. Plus, they were tired of the exercise because sheep generally consider running a total waste of good calories. Fiona the donkey is now clearly in charge of these 9 sheep, telling them where to go and when.
I left the group alone to get to know each other. Checking the summer pasture the next morning I found all as it should be, sheep bedded down in a corner of the pasture with Fiona the Donkey also lying down napping, a comfortable distance from the sheep.
Defense line 3 appears to be working with 9 sheep that do not have lambs. I wonder what will happen when I introduce the mommy sheep and babies to this mix?