Category Archives: animals

Scaring a koala

I meant to write about this ages ago and then forgot:

I was out at the farm, talking to the new owner and her young daughter at the front of their house, when New Owner looked up to see a koala lumbering across the front lawn towards the cow paddock. You rarely see a koala in daylight, let alone one walking across the grass, so this was unusual, but I had seen it happen before when I lived there: early one morning I’d heard a commotion in the cow paddock and looked out a window to see a koala barely escaping from a mob of cows who were chasing and prancing around it.

I told New Owner that I’d walk the koala across the paddock so that my cows wouldn’t hurt it, so off I went, into the paddock. And all my cows except one did as they were told and stayed at a distance. But Baby1, who is a bossy big thing, wouldn’t stay back, and kept trying to push around me to get to the koala. (Cows aren’t usually aggressive, but they do get touchy about their territory being breached by unknown things.) I kept pushing back against Baby1, and I mean I was really leaning into her full-strength, trying to push her away. But it wasn’t doing much good, and I was starting to panic because I was scared she’d run around and step on the poor koala (who was galloping as fast as it could for the far side of the paddock). I knew that if Baby1 started running then the other cows and calves would follow her, and it’d be a mob scene, a mini stampede, and I’d be unable to protect the koala.

So, I was already panicking, okay, and so was the koala, I’m guessing, because suddenly it changed course to head for the only tall thing in our vicinity: a wooden electricity pole. I tried to head it off, but no, it leapt at the pole and started to climb. I thought, “No! It’ll be electrocuted!” and I grabbed its back legs around the ankles.

The koala was climbing the pole with its front legs and I was hanging onto its back legs, and it was a tussle worthy of comedy. I don’t have a clue what the cows were doing, except I know that Baby1 wasn’t interfering, so I guess they were standing back and marvelling at my stupidity. I was marvelling myself and wondering what the hell was going to happen next.

I thought that if I let go of its legs the koala would climb to the top of the pole and be electrocuted. That’s probably rubbish (I think you have to touch two wires at a time to be electrocuted – that’s how bats die – and why would the koala have done that?). But I wasn’t thinking straight. Coming so soon after the cow panic I just couldn’t think, so I just kept hanging onto the koala.

But the koala kept trying to climb. So I started smacking it about the head, yelling “No! Stop!” or something like that. All I can remember about this is that the koala was screaming (no, really) and it smelled like timber (a strange smell I’d never smelled before).

Sometime around now I started to wonder how this was going to end… I’m hanging onto a koala and smacking it in the head, and if I let go it’s either going to electrocute itself or tear me to bits. I could not think of anything to do other than look over my shoulder and wonder what had happened to New Owner.

And yes, she leapt to the rescue. She ran across the paddock with a pair of thick gardening gloves and a beach towel, and threw the towel over the koala’s head – at which point it calmed down and relaxed, and we were able to lift it down from the pole and wrap it in the towel and carry it across and out of the paddock (to where it appeared to have been headed) and release it onto the ground far from cows. He or she raced up the nearest tree.

I shouldn’t have touched the poor thing. It’s a wild animal. It wouldn’t have been electrocuted, it would have just hung onto the pole till nightfall and then climbed down again to go on its merry way in peace.

I hope it wasn’t hurt. I don’t think it was.

And for me, I have a little laugh now whenever I hear a koala calling from the trees at the farm. The poor thing is probably terrified I’ll try to pull its leg.

 

Listing

It’s nearly Spring and the year is disappearing without me noticing things, so here’s a quick list:

– Fluffy the chicken has disappeared. She’s missed two nights now. I’m still hoping she’ll come back, but it’s possible she’s been killed by a fox or a feral cat or a tick. She was healthy the last time I saw her, so I don’t think she was ill. Yesterday I walked up and down all the coffee tree rows, hoping to either find her or spot some sign of what might have happened (feathers strewn about, for example), but there was nothing.

– The chickens got into the habit of staying out all day because:
(a) I house-sat my sister’s place at the beach for three weeks which involved walking their dog twice a day, the afternoon walk needing to happen just when I would have had to go back to the farm to let the chickens out of their day pens so they could get a walk themselves, so instead I just let the chickens stay out all day. (I had been hoping to teach the dog to travel by car so I could walk him on the farm instead, but he gets car sick and couldn’t adjust in the time we had available.)
(b) And the neighbours (next to the farm) now keep their chickens penned in most of the time, so there was less chance of mishap when my chooks are wandering around (the neighbours’ roosters aren’t around to fight or chase them).
When the house-sitting was over, the chickens liked staying outside all day and, now that green grapes aren’t available to bribe them with, there was no way to get them into the day pens, so they still stay out all day.

– The calf who had recovered from pink eye started to lose condition and was clearly ailing, though I thought it was only because there’s not much grass around during winter. I tried feeding him hay, which he only picked at, and then a grain mix, which he wouldn’t touch at all, and for a while I made sure he got a drink of water from a bucket every day (until I saw him drinking from the trough by himself, and knew it was okay to leave him to it). Well, he died. Poor little thing. After all the trauma of the pink eye and his stupid mother (who kept running away rather than look after him), he died. I think now it might have been better to send him off to market and death when he was blind, the way my father intended to do. I intervened and got the vet out to help, but all that did was give the calf a few months of – well, what? Further life? What if he was miserable the whole time? I hate it that I got to decide what to do with his life, just because I’m a human. I shouldn’t have that responsibility. It was his life, but unless he willed himself to death (which I don’t believe is possible), he didn’t get to decide for himself.

– I haven’t found anywhere to live, so I’m still at my parents’ place. This is so ridiculous and hard to believe I can hardly believe it myself. The problem is that I hate everywhere, and anyway there are very few places in my price range (low) that are in the country (which I think is necessary if I’m to keep the chickens – though now that Fluffy might have gone, I’m wondering whether I should keep the chickens any more).

– Baby the chicken might be a rooster. I can’t tell. She hasn’t laid an egg yet, even though she must be nearly a year old, but still mostly looks like a hen (I think), but now crows like a rooster, and has little spurs growing on her legs. (Fluffy did too, though; they just didn’t continue growing.) If Fluffy is gone and now I have two roosters, that’s a terrible situation and I will probably have to have them both killed. Don’t know how. Don’t want to decide. Yet another instance where the lives of others are for me to decide. It’s awful.

– Time flies.

Dogs on the run

This morning two little dogs from down the road ran up the road and attacked Mister the chicken. He wasn’t injured, thank goodness – probably because in trying to get away from the dogs he ran towards where I’d gone and when I heard his distress calls I was close enough to run back and rescue him.

He lost a lot of feathers, though; there was a trail of them across the lawn:

feathers strewn across grass

I was able to scare the dogs off by just screaming at them, which was handy. I don’t know what I’d have done if they’d had their teeth bared. Kicked them? I don’t know. They’re the sort of dogs who look misleadingly angelic, by the way, but in fact they’re aggressive and obnoxious. I don’t know what breed they are, but they’re little and white and have fluffy hair, and look like they should be carried around in rich women’s handbags on private jets.

After they’d gone and when Mister had calmed down enough to let me pick him up we went looking for the other chickens. I was scared the dogs might have killed them.

But Baby was okay: scared and shaking under a coffee tree, but uninjured. Fluffy wasn’t with her, though, and for about half an hour I thought she was gone. I put Baby and Mister into their day pens so they’d be safe if the dogs came back, then walked up and down the coffee rows, hoping not to find a chicken’s body or feathers, calling “Fluffy!” in an increasingly plaintive way:
“Fluffy!”
“F-l-u-f-f-y!”
Fluffy!

In the end I found her alive and well, scratching the ground under the coffee trees as usual. And she was so relaxed I think it’s likely she’d wandered off on her own before the dogs arrived and missed the whole thing.

Anyway, I put a letter about the attack in the dog-owners’ mailbox, asking them to secure their damn dogs; and I rang the owners of the property they rent, who said they’d have a chat with their tenants. The rental agreement specifies only that the dogs can’t live in the house, but there was an understanding between them that the tenants wouldn’t let the dogs cause trouble or chase cows (ours; the ones who were agisted on the property next door). We’ll see what happens.

Stressing

Things are not going well and I’m hoping that writing this down will help, or at least give me a good place to whinge (which might not help but usually feels like it does).

My parents are on holiday overseas until the end of June. Since they left last week, the cows on agistment down the road from the farm have escaped at least three times. Twice they went through a neighbouring property and then out onto the public road, where it was just lucky that nobody ran into them in the dark.

I haven’t found where they’re getting out. None of the fences are good – any individual cow or calf could manage to get through anywhere it wanted to – and there were spots where one line of wire has broken, but I haven’t found a gap where a whole group could go, and as there are calves in the mix too (including four almost-newborns I found yesterday) somewhere there must be an obvious and easy hole in the fence for them to walk through, and a track either side of it. And I haven’t seen anything like that.

One boundary of the agistment property runs along a creek which is forested, so that’s probably where they’re getting out – I can’t see the fence when it’s overgrown – but if they’re running under bushes there’d be a track into that spot, and I haven’t found that.

Complicating matters, the property is too steep for me to drive the tractor on. And walking around it is awful: in some spots the weeds are head-high (after walking through them yesterday, last night it took 30 minutes to clear my clothes of farmer’s friends, little spiky weeds that attach as you brush past them). And I heard reports that a neighbour saw three brown snakes only two weeks ago (even though it’s cold at night now, so I would have thought snakes would be hibernating). And the most likely reason the cows are getting out is that they’re being chased by dogs, either wild or domestic running wild, so I keep fearing that somewhere down in the valley out of phone range I’ll be, y’know, attacked by wild dogs.

Bloody hell.

Yesterday we reached worst-case scenario, kind of, because a neighbour who has had the cows through his property a few times already insisted (very nicely) that something be done about them because their manure is getting into his macadamia nut harvest, and the co-op threatened to refuse his output. The poor man rounded up the damn cows and put them through into a second neighbour’s place, and I walked around trying to find a hole in the fence and to get them back into the place they’re supposed to be, but by late afternoon I hadn’t been able to do either. Then, roughly 15 minutes after I’d left the cows at the creek (thinking they’d be okay to stay there overnight, seeing there’s loads of grass), they’d run back into the macadamia neighbour’s place again (I have no idea where or how or why) and he had to round them up and get them out again, this time into a third neighbour’s place. He rang me in some distress, and I was then stressing as well, and then, to top things off, on the drive home from the farm I found the cows had run through the latest neighbour’s property and out the front gate and were all out on the public road in the dark.

With some help from a different neighbour and the farm’s new owner (and her little kids, who jumped into the car and sat in it quietly while she helped block the cows into the yards by car-light and torch-light) we got the cows to walk up the road and into the farm’s paddock instead of putting them back into the agistment property. At least they won’t get into the macadamia neighbour’s place overnight.

So, the immediate problem is over for the moment. Next: there are still 4 or 5 cows and their very young calves out of the agistment property and across the creek in another neighbour’s place, and I haven’t been able to think of a way to get them back. It’ll be a long walk for the babies even if I can find a way to get them back to the agistment property, and I can’t imagine how they got over the creek in the first place, but now they’ll also have to walk back to the farm along the public road, which they won’t have done before, so it’ll be a slow trip. (It would be better to leave them where they are until Dad gets back, but if there are dogs down there the calves will be targets.)

Running out of time to finish my whinging, so let’s go to points:
– they’re not my cows and it’s not my property; I don’t see how I’ve got stuck with solving this;
– the farm’s new owners can’t help very much: the man has gone back to work (he flies in and out) and the woman has small children to look after;
– there are now too many cows in the farm’s paddocks for winter and I’ll have to buy in hay or something, which will be really expensive, and might not keep the cows happy enough not to escape again;
– I can’t ask Dad what to do because if he knows about what’s going on he’ll be worried all the time and it’ll ruin their trip, plus they’re on a ship at the moment and I doubt I could contact them anyway;
– I don’t know how to get the cows and calves back from across the creek.
– forgot to say earlier that a neighbour’s bull is in with them, and he’s previously created trouble when trying to move them around (he stands in the gateways and refuses to let anyone else through), but last night he was pretty co-operative, thank goodness.

A good reason to drive carefully

Last night on my drive home from the farm, at a bend on the highway near roadworks, under flashing lights and over confusing road markings, a big dog had wandered out into the middle of the road. It was really big – a Great Dane, or breed of similar size, but I only noticed it in the darkness because of having recently read about defensive driving and the need to look far ahead on the road. I think in my previously-normal half-asleep way of driving I wouldn’t have seen the poor thing until hitting it.

And I think a few other people didn’t see it last night. A semi-trailer had just driven past in the opposite direction, followed by four or five cars (all of them except the last one bunched up tightly) and none of them had slowed down or swerved.

I spotted the dog when it was right in the middle of the road, between my lane and the cars going the other way. I was only able to stop because there was nobody behind me – which is so unusual it’s remarkable. I stood on the brake pedal, the first time I’ve had to do that in this car, which in itself it was an interesting test: the car slowed really quickly and didn’t swerve at all. I flashed the headlights a few times to warn the driver across the road, and he or she slowed down too. By the time each of us had pulled off the road the dog had run back across my lane and had disappeared into trees. For a second I intended to grab a torch and get out to look for it, but then I heard cars coming up the hill behind me and started to worry about being caught there on the shoulder. (My car was off the road, but not far from the edge.) The other car drove off, and then I did the same.

The poor dog – I guess it was lost. There was a house next to where it ran off the highway, though, so maybe that’s where it lives. There was no sign of an animal on or near the road this morning, thank goodness, so I hope that means it’s okay.

I’m happy I had the chance to read about defensive driving in time. If you’re interested, this collection of notes seemed good: Unit 8: Accidents, causes and prevention at CA Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Education Curriculum.