Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Please don't run through the electric fence, honey

Oh my. What a night we had.

Last night was an important learning experience for the humans of Critter Farm. It was also an experience that, I hope, will not ever be repeated. Holly, one of my jennets (female donkey), became disoriented and walked into our electric fence. This freaked her out so much, that she then fought her way *through* it. All the way through it - to the other side.

Of course, I take full blame for the situation. Up until now, I have let the donkeys tell me when they want to come in for the night. This is generally between 7:00 and 7:30pm. Last night, though, I looked out the window at 7:30 and nobody was waiting at the barn. Finally, around 8:30 - it was still light out but the sun was setting - I decided it was time to go round them up.

By the time I got their water buckets filled and had gotten their bucket of "tempt-you-to-the-barn" sweet feed, it was definitely dusk. I was rattling the bucket at the barn gate, calling "Donkeys!! Donkeys!" I could see them looking up at me, but not really moving toward me. Finally, my three burro boys came trotting up and quickly and easily went into their stalls. The two girls, Sarah and Holly, and the youngster, Ian, were still hanging out in the middle pasture.

My sweet man, Jim, offered to help coax them up and took off with the sweet feed bucket. Ian Donkey came pretty quickly and was on the other side of the fence separating the two pastures with Jim now. Holly, forgetting there was no gate where Jim and Ian were standing (with the treat bucket), walked straight into the fence. I was coming down the hill to help just as this whole thing transpired. I heard the panicked noise she made in her confusion and watched her come bursting through the fence. It was horrible.

Things I've learned:
1) Don't try to stall donkeys at dusk in a wooded area. It's dark and hard to see.
2) Don't hold a tempting bucket of treats outside a fence section that has no gate.

Thankfully, sweet Holly is fine today:

but she was pretty frazzled last night. She was pacing in her stall and even her best buddy, Sarah, was unable to soothe her. Talking to her in a quiet and low voice, I went into her stall and started to brush her. She let me brush her for almost forty-five minutes. Generally, she's a "quick and to the point" kinda girl with the brushing, so I felt happy that she let me comfort her in this way. She was much calmer when I finished our brushing session and she nuzzled my face before I left her stall.

Now I'm off to find some materials to repair the fence. Two of the seven strands are broken, leaving a huge gap in the middle of the fence:

I am so glad it was an inside pasture fence and not a fence to the road:


  1. How scary for everyone involved! I'm so glad she didn't cut herself on the wire. I might be wrong, but you may be able to hang pieces of plastic tape from a strand or two, as long as it doesn't touch the next wire.
    Her troubles last night may have led to her reluctance to leaving the barn this morning. Since Jim was directly involved with the situation, I'd have him hang with Holly to make sure she doesn't associate him with getting "stung". This is all just my 2 cents worth--I don't own donkeys, but have had horses.
    Again, so glad you all are alright!!

  2. WOW, sounds like quite an event! Poor Holly! Must have been so frightened! I think even if I had a treat bucket, Daisy would never come near enough to the fence to get shocked--she's totally afraid of it.

    Holly looks like such a sweetie! So cute!

  3. How frightening this must have been for you to see one of your beloved animals in panic and confusion. Luckily it was a scare 'only', but despite your care and caution, things do happen.
    Hope everyone is back to being as peaceful and content as they were yesterday afternoon. I had a wonderful time being right in the middle of those great big beautiful animals. What an experience!
    The chickie girls and boys have grown so much and are so at home in their environment. Question: Do you still have the chick radio on?

  4. Oh Danni! Poor Holly. Poor you. I am glad she is OK today. Are you OK too? It was good that you brushed her and comforted her last night. You are a good donkey mom. They know that. Bet she doesn't go near the fence again though.

  5. Oh Danni I am so sorry for you!!! At least she is okay! It must have been so horrible for you.

  6. Poor girl. That must have been scary for both of you! I'm glad she is calm today.

  7. Poor thing. That had to be scary for her. And for you. Hard to watch it happen. I glad that shes doing better.

  8. You are getting in the trenches of life on a farm quick. I'm glad Holly didn't get hurt.

  9. Ohh!! Poor Holly! Poor Danni!! Glad she's doing better today. Hope you guys experience minimum growing pains from here on out!

  10. I'm amazed at what you've been through. After that ordeal and spending nearly an hour in the barn calming her down with a good brushing, I would have had to have had a good soak in a hot tub with a nice glass of wine waiting for me. Way to go, Danni!

  11. I feel for her Danni and you! It's all a learning curve. You'll all be pros in no time!

  12. Hi ceecee - thanks for your equine words of wisdom. You're right, I am very fortunate that she didn't cut herself - thank goodness for those springs!
    Actually, the leaving-the-barn issues was the morning of the fence event. The day after the fence event, she literally trotted out into the pasture like nothing ever happened! :-)

    Hi Mellimaus, yes, the more I read about it, the more I realize what a freak occurrence this was. Horses/donkeys do not intentionally go through electric fences. Poor girl.

    Hi zitrone-mom, yes, everyone is back to normal, thankfully. It's been raining now for two days straight - you and Bill need to come back out with your sunshine!
    (And yes....I do still have my chicken monitor. During daytime hours only, though, just so I can keep an ear on what the scoop in the coop is!) :-)

    Hi farmer jen, it's funny, my husband read my post and he said that what struck him the most about what I wrote was that I spent 45 minutes brushing Holly after the event. He thinks I'm a bit obsessive over the donkeys and will alienate readers who don't "get" the donkey thing. (In other words, he doesn't really get the donkey-thing) lol

    Hi judy - just think, some day I will get my laptop fixed and will be able to comment on *your* blog again. I tried again just yesterday from this big pc to leave you a comment and -again- the comment page just hangs and never finishes loading. :-( what the heck??!!

    Hi christy, it was really scary, but I'm glad it's over with. Holly doesn't seem to have any recollection of it, which is good, I guess.

    Hi frugalmom, and you could've been so much worse. I feel so lucky she didn't get hurt.

    Hi sugarcreekstuff - tell me about it! I'm really livin' the farm girl life now, aren't i??!! :-)

    Hi farm mom, I'm pretty certain I'm no where near being done learning certain farm "lessons", I just hope the next ones aren't at the expense of my babies! :-)

    Hi californiagrammy, ha, ha! What makes you think that isn't *exactly* what I did when I came in from the barn? ;-) Thanks for the "way to go"!! :-)

    Hi eve, if that's the case, I'm clearly at the bottom of the curve right now. Fortunately, I'm a pretty quick learner!!

  13. We have worked with a lot of different critters using electric fence, donkeys, goats, cows, horses, etc. I find it very important to include a thicker strand of poly wire on the fence. Helps them remember where the fence is when it is hard to see. I like the products from Premier 1 fencing. You can find them on-line. You seem to be on the same journey we are. You can check us out at

  14. and her Mom said,
    I'm so sorry for Holly's misadventures with the fence but I imagine it was worse in some ways for you.
    We're using electric fencing in some areas also and it scares me but Bull doesn't come near it. We have it flagged as well for a visual aid but he was trained to it long before we got him.
    My heart really goes out to you and Holly.

  15. Wow ~ sounds scary for everyone!!


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