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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Protecting Lambs and Kids from Coyotes with Guard Donkeys and a Pen

By Bryan Welch 

Tags: guard donkey, lambs, kids, geese, coyotes, protecting livestock, Rancho Cappuccino,

GooseIt was a small mistake, really, born of wishful thinking. On the farm, small mistakes often have fatal consequences.

In past years, I’ve always penned our new mothers up overnight with their guard-donkeys when the does and ewes are having their babies. Baby goats and sheep are very vulnerable, especially during their first 24 hours. Compared with human babies, the goats and sheep are precocious — they stand up within a few minutes of birth, walk within half an hour and run the next day.

But a sheep that can’t run is known to coyotes as “food.”

When the birthing began three weeks ago, I didn’t shut the pen the first couple of nights. The grass is green and growing and the moms were out feeding at first light every day. If I penned them up they would have to wait for me to let them out on the fresh grass. I might not be there at first light. My insomnia might go into remission.

The second night of lambing we had five lambs on the ground. The next morning there were four.

Worse, in a way, was the loss of another of the pen’s residents. For three weeks a mother goose had been incubating her clutch of eggs on top of a big bale of hay inside the sheep pen. She hissed at us as we walked through. Her husband stood guard just outside the pen every day, then disappeared at night to his own quarters somewhere.

That morning she was gone and I found bloody eggshells along a path that led from the haystack to a wet mat of her feathers in the pasture.

And it was all my fault.

I must admit that I took some solace from the thought of a warm pile of coyote pups asleep in their den with full bellies under the bank of the creek, half a mile away across the pastures.

But the next night I pushed the sheep, the goats and the guard-donkeys into the pen and locked the gate.

Photo by Bryan Welch





9/19/2009 2:03:29 PM

That is a very sad story. I adore animals and try to make their life as comfortable as it is possible. Though it is not very nice of me but I think you were a little bit careless of them. But it is nice that you've understood it. Besides, I liked the optimistic sentense in your story. If I were you I'd also thing of pups who were lucky to be fed enough. You know I've found a book Keeping the paultry where nice pieces of advice were given. One interesting method to scare some birds is to put fur in the trees and on the ground. I found it at the files search engine . I believe there are also nice books about different domestic animals. You can try to find it there. Because the more we know the better.

9/5/2009 5:50:10 AM

We love donkeys for the natural affinity for people and their amazing hardiness. I'm sure Llamas and Alpacas are nice, too. I try to chose species, when I can, that have proven they can thrive in the wild in North America, as donkeys have. Now sheep and goats, well, that's another story.

katy brezger
8/17/2009 12:16:03 PM

somehow I doubt if happy coyote pups would make me happy, but then I think People and their food are more important. Having lost animals to coyotes; I doubt if those animals would be glad for their sacrifice either.

keith hallam_1
8/17/2009 10:59:35 AM

Hi, I think alpacas would be a better idea, they're smaller, eat less, don't spit as much as their big cousins and absolutely hate foxes and coyotes and wolves and marauding dogs. They'll take out your pet poodle if it's seen as a threat though. Neutered males are quite cheap.

ted christman_2
8/17/2009 10:31:07 AM

We have all been there. Forgot to pen up the 6 month old ducks just one night. Next morning 7 out of 10 left. Haven't forgotten since but the preditors are watching. By the way, have you tried Llamas as guard animals? We have had great luck.