As it happened, the quail chicks and guinea keets hatched on the same day – this morning! As I was sitting in the quail cage, staring adoringly at the tiny baby quail and filming them, Layla suddenly started going absolutely mental. See what I have to deal with! 😉
This is our Kali, the huntress, trying to hunt down a helium balloon. Not as easy as it sounds! LOL!
Hope you’re all having a great weekend 💚
Hello everyone, sorry I haven’t been around for a while! I have been insanely busy with work, kids and animals. Missing deadlines left, right and center. Really had to knuckle down and get some work done. But I still found time for donkey training, so let me update you!
I have come to the conclusion that training a donkey is more like trying to train a cat. A cat with the intelligence of a dog. (Not that cats aren’t clever, of course!)
Donkeys have superhuman patience and they have a mind of their own. They are very clever and they often understand perfectly what you want from them, but if it doesn’t suit them, they’ll ignore you. But – and this is important – if you’re in possession if The Treats, they’ll follow you to the end of the world. If I want to put Layla in her pen, all I need to do is walk there with an armful of grass, and she’ll follow me like a dog. If she goes on strike, the promise of a carrot will often make her move again. If it does not – there is something the matter. You can depend on that. And you better take it seriously, because she is not giving in.
But that does not mean that they can’t be trained. When they see it’s to their advantage, they have no problem doing everything you ask. They are very affectionate and they are creatures of habit, making connections very quickly. Layla has learned to connect her halter with treats and walks outside, so she lets me know she wants it.
She takes it in her mouth like a dog and tries to put her head inside. It’s adorable and incredible!! I have never ever seen a horse behave that way. Admittedly I have never been so lucky as to train a horse of my own, but still.
Talking about horses – I’ve started taking her to visit the horse stables on our walks. The stables belong to the kibbutz but the horses don’t, people from town rent the space to keep their horses there. I often linger and admire them, now I do it together with my donkey, LOL. I waited until her quarantine was finished and gave her worm paste – wouldn’t want the horses to catch anything! Layla is interested in them, but not obsessively so. The horses are very excited to see her.
So what do I mean by two steps forward, one step back? Well, it seems like every second day, a minor disaster occurs – but the day after, she behaves like an angel. Sometimes it seems as if nothing is going right, but on the whole, we seem to be making progress rather than standing still or going backwards. I have finally been able to lift her back hooves – the first time I tried, she kicked backward so hard that she almost splintered a small tree. I have been VERY cautious since then! But now she seems to understand I’m just trying to clean her hooves, not to tie ropes around her ankles. Kicking is a thing of the past, fortunately. She has also mostly got over her fear of trucks and tractors and is not bothered in the slightest by dogs following her and barking at her – a huge advantage over here!
We do still have a bit of an issue with running off – or trying to run off. I perfectly understand how she came to be wandering around on her own. She is an escape artist. She understands the words “come” and “halt”, but she only listens to them when she feels like it or knows it makes sense – like when she has to stop to let a car pass.
Last Saturday, I made the mistake of taking her out after she had been in her pen all day – and of putting her on an extremely long lead rope, thinking that it would give her some space to move, like a retractable dog leash. Unfortunately, it also gave her space to build up speed and run off. When I hold her by the head, she has to drag me with her and that does slow her down, lightweight though I am.
So last Saturday was the first and only time I was forced to let go of her. She ran around the kibbutz like a donkey possessed, no doubt egged on by the lead rope dragging behind her. I thought we’d lost her when she ran down the field road, but for some unclear reason, she turned sharply and thundered back again the way she came. In the end, we found her nibbling on some bushes by the synagogue. Sacrilege, Layla!!
She seemed to have run out of steam and followed me back home without protest. I was still quaking in my shoes and didn’t dare take her out again until days later. I tried to devise ways to give her more exercise without me being dragged around by her like a helpless rag doll. I tried one morning to turn her loose in the fenced basketball court, but all she did was roll on the floor (looked very uncomfortable) and then stand around waiting until I took her out again.
Then, I made a huge mistake. I tried to make friends with the horse people, hoping that they would let me use their paddock for training or even let Layla run in the horses’ field now and then. The horse people here are all macho men, and I knew they would regard me as a silly girl who has no idea what she’s doing, but I thought I could handle it. What I hadn’t counted on was that Layla couldn’t handle it.
Yesterday, I met up with one of the guys who has two horses there. I initially liked him because he told me donkeys are very clever and more loyal than horses. Not that I needed him to tell me that, but still. Well, he immediately started lecturing me on how to handle equines and seemed all set to give me a lesson. He told me I didn’t control the donkey and I was “too nice” to her. He took her lead rope to “show her who’s the boss”. Layla did not like it and tried to get away, but he kept pulling her around, touching her rear end with the rope, which she HATES. “You see? She knows I’m in control!” he told me as she danced around him like a nervous filly. Um, right. Can I have my donkey back now?
As soon as he handed me the rope back, Layla took off, dragging me along with her. She seemed dead set on putting as much distance between her and him as she could. I was surprised, since he didn’t do much to her except pull her around a bit, but she was extremely put out. She came to a halt in the middle of the road and would not go back, no matter what I tried. I admitted defeat and took her the other way. Immediately, she was sweet and calm again.
On the way back home, we met the macho man again when he was riding out on his horse. He had his yearling mare – beautiful creature – running loose behind them. The young horse was excited and started dancing around Layla. But Layla had had enough of horses and cowboys getting into her personal space. She kicked out at the horse and then took off again, me resignedly whizzing along – rag doll comes to mind again – and did not stop until they were out of her field of vision.
So, that was a bit of a disaster. Layla and I both felt the worse for wear after that encounter. I swear Layla was annoyed with me for putting her through that – she turned her back to me and did not call after me when I left, as she usually does. As for me – my confidence was dented. Was the guy right..? Was I being too nice to my donkey? The way he spoke to me brought back some very old memories. Being shouted at and told off by my (male) riding teacher while I tried desperately to get my horse to do what I was expected to make it do. Never quite feeling up to scratch. Always feeling like I failed, no matter that I was one of the best riders in the school after years and years of practise and sheer determinedness. Always biting my tongue while people (men) told me – get this – I was TOO NICE and I should be tougher. Always trying to prove how tough I was, even if it didn’t suit me at all.
Too nice, my a*se. Layla and I have more in common than I thought. I’m pretty sure men put those scars on her feet, just like men put those (and worse) scars on my mind. I have had enough. From now on, I’m doing things my way – actually, I was already doing that, ignoring men who tell me I’m spoiling the animals. My animals love me, they greet me, follow me and eat from my hand. This is what I want, not for them to be intimidated into obeying me.
End of story, cowboy.
… Eggs everywhere!! We have grabbed a few for our annual hatching project with the children. It is always great fun and the kids are so excited! It is very amusing how hard it is for them to wait three ENTIRE WEEKS for those chicks to hatch. They are convinced it can’t take that long. Three weeks is like an eternity when you’re four years old! At the end of the first day, I caught them crowding around the incubator, telling me the eggs are hatching. “We saw them move!!” “They have cracks in them!” They don’t always have the firmest grasp of time measurement. “It takes three minutes for them to hatch!” one boy told me earnestly, then looked confused when I told him: “Weeks, not minutes.” What’s the difference, really..?? LOL!
The weather is lovely and everything is green, green, green. I’m enjoying it and taking advantage of it as much as I can, because all too soon, it will be scorching hot and the fields will be yellow and brown. But for now, we still have wonderful greens for everone to enjoy!
This brings me to Layla/Tiltan (the name Tiltan does not stick, she’s definitely Layla now…) Our little donk is absolutely mesmerised by all that green. It messes with her head. When she is faced with the wheat field, every thought of her humans and her training is chased out of her mind, to be replaced by: “GOT TO GET TO THE GREEEENNN!”
So today, we tried to trick her. We think she needs more exercise than she is getting right now, but every time I take her out, she makes a beeline for the wheat field and no team of horses can drag her away from it. I was kind of nervous to take her out by myself, so my friend S. went with me. We took her for a walk, but to the other side, away from the wheat field, into the kibbutz. And it went perfectly well! As long as she doesn’t see the sea of green, she is biddable and sweet.
We had a very enjoyable walk, but the one who was happiest might have been S.’s dog. She has a dog of a native breed – a Saluki, a very skinny and swift desert animal. The dog was beside herself with happiness when we took the donkey out. She ran around us in circles like a sheep dog gone crazy and tried to get the donk to play with her. Layla observed her with mild curiosity and did not kick the crap out of her. The dog snapped at her back legs, sniffed her tail and almost jumped on her back. If that was me, I’d have two hoof prints on my stomach – I still haven’t been able to lift her back feet. She seems to like dogs. It was a great opportunity for us to make jokes about their shared Bedouin heritage. Oh, good times.
Layla might be younger and greener than I initially thought. I don’t think she has been ridden before. The reason I think that is, well… I tried, and she threw me off. Well, almost. I leaned on her back, then put my leg over, and then quickly jumped off while she performed an impressive rodeo-worthy buck, then stood looking at me with an offended expression on her face. So that didn’t go down too well! Anyway, I am probably a little too big for her, but I didn’t feel comfortable with letting the kids try it. I won’t try again now. Better wait until the vet had a chance to check her and to see how old she is. At what age are donkeys fully grown, anyway..? Back to Google!
Also, she is even cleverer than we thought. Except opening doors by pushing, she can now also open doors by pulling. Half-doors, anyway. She simply puts her head over the door and walks backward while pulling the door with her chin. Our jaws were on the floor!
Hope you’re having a good week and aren’t being thrown off donkeys! 😛
Spring is around the corner, my friends! I know this because my hens have announced it. They are very clever that way. This is their announcement:
This little girl has been sitting on 8 guinea fowl eggs for the last week. She sits in a box in the donkey’s pen, which might not be the best place for little fluffbutts to be running around in. In my experience, it is very hard to move the nest of a broody hen, so I will just wait until the keets hatch and them move everyone to a safer location. How cute, the first chicks of the year are on the way!
Although these ones might hatch before the guinea keets:
Another little quail hen has made a nest and sits on 10 eggs. Bless!! The eggs take only 17 days to hatch to 28 days for the guinea fowl, so they will probably be the first! 💚💚💚
I have no idea what the ducks are up to. They seem to be so very frightened of the donkey that all egg-laying has ceased. Some of the muscovy girls have returned, but not all. I was so grateful to see Katya, our oldest muscovy female, back again, but she flies in and out as she pleases now and I am worried she is nesting somewhere outside. We have tried to find the nesting site but have not succeeded…
Tiltan is still adorable and feisty. I have figured her out now – it’s really very simple: she will go wherever you want, as long as you are in possession of the most desirable food. If there is better food somewhere else, then forget it. We might have to accept that this is how her mind works! 🙂
But if the food is all finished, then sure, she’ll walk with me wherever I want, stop when I ask, turn around… I have started grooming her, which she shrank away from at first but now minds less, and I am trying to teach her to stand tied to a tree. This does not work as well as I had hoped yet. When I tie her, she starts pulling with all her weight until the halter slips off. Darn it. The only way I can make her stand still long enough to be tied and groomed, is to give her a bowl of rabbit food, which she LOVES.
I have also started trying to lift her feet and pick her hooves. Extreme caution is necessary because understandably, she does NOT like people touching her legs – in the past, people have tied her feet together with straw twine, which left four neat scars circling each sensitive ankle.
The first time I touched her front leg, she struck out with her hind leg, but didn’t touch me. It was a warning. The left leg seemed more sensitive than the right, so I tried again with the right. I was able to lift that foot and then gave it right back to her. In time, she accepted lifting the left foot as well. I can now lift and pick both front hooves. They are so light and small! Not like a big horse’s hoof! 🙂
The hind feet are harder, and I am kind of wary. When I touch one of her hind legs, she strikes out. Not forward, but backward, which tells me she isn’t trying to hit me, only warn me. Caution and patience, I guess!! And swallowing my discomfort! What’s the worst thing she can do to me? Oh, that’s right – fracture my kneecaps. Oh well.
She’s a sweetie anyway! 😀
Hello my dear blog friends! I hope you’re all having a great weekend! I had a very eventful and productive donkey-training week, I will tell you all about it! 🙂
We are getting to know Tiltan a lot better now, and she us. We are having some minor troubles with the name – I like Tiltan (Clover), I think it’s a very cute name and also, my 2 year old niece invented it, so I am honour-bound to keep it! 🙂 But I keep calling her “Jenny” and S. calls her “Layla” (Night), so the poor thing is probably totally confused. We should really sort it out!
Anyway we are enjoying the donk very much, she is clever, friendly and full of life! We definitely got lucky when we found her, and her previous owners lost out… No one has come to find her, and we are getting more confident that she belongs with us. I have no idea what kind of training she has had, but I’ve been working with her starting at the very beginning – come, stand, back, getting used to the halter… I think she has been sort-of-trained, but not in a positive way. In the Bedouin way, probably. She is terrified of machinery, which makes me suspect they forced her to move by driving at her with a car or tractor. I actually found people recommending this method on a forum. It’s a good thing that her pen is right by the field road, where tractors drive back and forth all the time. This way, she can figure out for herself that they won’t do anything to her. At first, she ran off whenever she heard one, but now she just stand there, looking suspicious.
I am determined to try and turn around any negative training she might have had. I want every single experience she has with humans to be a good one, full of treats, pats and kind words. I want her to learn to love us and to trust that what we ask her to do won’t affect her negatively. When she came to us, she did not like our hands coming at us and moved away whenever we made to touch or stroke her. I’m now trying to associate human touch with something she likes – such as food! She’s extremely food-oriented, which is mostly a good thing but has some negative sides too! 🙂
She is a very fast learner, makes connections quickly and is extremely inventive trying to get to the food. I’ve had to block access to the chicken food, but watch how she manages to get to this bin of bread:
I’ve put the bin away now, because it’s probably not good for her to eat too much bread! It’s my father-in-law who leaves the bread – he simply cannot bear that I’m paying good money for chicken food! So he brings me bread from the cow barn. Who am I to argue! 😉
I haven’t trusted the donk around children yet, because of this:
This is after I let her out of her pen in the morning! 🙂 She usually calms down after she’s run a few laps of the yard, but I would not want any small children to be around that. So she stays in her pen in the afternoons and on Saturdays, when there are visitors. But in the mornings when it’s only me, she can run free. After she gets rid of some excess energy, I give her breakfast and feed the other animals while she eats. Otherwise, she follows me around trying to get at the rabbit and chicken feed. Then I put on her halter – which is only possible by coaxing her with treats – and work with her for a while. I’ve been teaching her to walk with me, stop when I ask and back up when I need to open the gate. She gets a treat whenever she does something right, which works a treat – except that she got a little too frisky with her teeth trying to find treats in our hands. It was very easy to teach her to wait until we offered it to her though – I think she got that in about ten minutes.
Yesterday, I thought that I could try to take her for a walk outside again. Well! That turned out to be a bit of a misjudgment on my part. Think of the video I showed her of her running through the pet zoo like a donkey on speed, and then imagine her doing it while I’m trying to hold on to her. Phew! I totally blame myself though. It was Saturday, she’d been penned the whole day, and what red-blooded equine could resist the sight of this?
She was so excited by the sight of all that lovely wheat grass that she took off at high speed, dragging me after her practically flying through the air holding on to her lead rope. She only did it for about two seconds though, and she stopped quickly when she realized she was dragging me. She could have so easily shaken me off, kicked me, got rid of me – but she didn’t. We spent some time walking through the field, grazing. Well, I didn’t graze – she did. LOL. Then when it was time to return, she did need a bit of encouragement in the form of a sweet teenage girl with a bowl of rabbit food (thank god for my helpers!), but then she went back inside willingly enough, while I wiped the cold sweat from my face. I think we haven’t quite progressed to the stage where we can take walks outside yet! Maybe it will be easier after the wheat is harvested.
Today, we made major progress when she met a group of children for the first time. My youngest son’s daycare came to visit in two groups. I took her out of her pen while the children burst into the gate, all excited and eager to see the animals. With the first group, I kept the kids on a distance. She looked at them and they looked at her. She listened to the noise they made, little high voices chattering and laughing. I gave her treats while she stood still, then I walked her around the yard while the children played with the bunnies and looked for eggs. She behaved perfectly. With the next group, I gave her some food in a bucket while the children came up to her, crowded around her and stroked and petted her. She didn’t move a muscle! She was so focused on her food that she didn’t mind being stroked by lots of little hands. Usually, she moves away from our touch, even if she is eating. I did the same thing again, leading her around while the children were busy doing other stuff, and then put her back in her pen and gave her lots of grass. I was so proud of her! She will be a people-loving pet zoo animal in no time!
I just hope she won’t figure out how to unbolt the gate… I wouldn’t put it past her!! But if she does escape, I hope that she will return to us by herself. I think she is pretty happy here!