Containment Issues


I always used to find it so funny when I’d see other people’s farm animals walking down the road. I still find that entertaining, partly because they’re not mine. There’s probably something universally amusing about animals getting one over on their keepers. One thing I’ve learned since starting to raise farm animals is that containment is an ongoing pursuit, not something that’s finished when the fence goes up. Some animals are easy to contain. They are complacent creatures who settle into their abodes without a peep. Others are free spirits and constant escapees. I can keep just about any hen I want to keep in the chicken yard. They can all fly out if they want to, but most of them don’t. Put the Crooked Little Hen in there and she’ll be out in less time than it takes you to shut the chicken yard gate behind you.

Mr. Pibb and Rhett lounge contentedly in the new duck ‘n’ buck yard while Eclipse is out every time we turn around. He takes Sailor and Pirate with him most of the time, too. They never come out on their own, but they will follow papa anywhere.

Eclipse was frequently escaping from one field into another down in the meadow bottom, too. That’s where he perfected his “under the fence” technique. He works on a section of fence until he pushes under and out. He’s doing the same thing in the duck ‘n’ buck yard. The solution to this problem is to weigh down sections with pieces of wood. It’s an ongoing process. When they get out, sometimes they let themselves back in, too. I’m starting to think I have free-ranging goats. You know, to go with my free-ranging sheep.

Of course, any farm animal will “escape” occasionally, by accident if nothing else, such as the time Jack and Poky got out of the goat yard by rubbing on the gate. The gate fell open when the hook on the gate got pushed up off the nail. They weren’t trying to get out. We’ve had sheep get out when storms mess up the creek crossings. Otherwise, most of the sheep stay put–except for the two free spirits, Miss Cotswold and the yearling, who practically moved in at an abandoned house up the road and started mowing.

They were in and out (by themselves!) for the past month till we moved them all to Frank’s field this weekend.

We kept the donkeys in one of our fields, shutting off the other two fields to grow. To keep the donkeys put while the sheep were moved, I just loved on Poky and let her nibble my fingers. Jack, of course, stays where Poky stays.

And the sheep trotted up the road to Frank’s field, which should keep them busily fed for at least a month.

In the “nanny” yard, it’s always Nutmeg who gets out. As her other name is Rotunda, this is a conundrum since the less weighty mommies stay put while Miss Piggy seems able to squeeze herself anywhere, but it’s all about personality. Nutmeg is an escaper. Beulah Petunia has only been out one time, after leaning too hard on a section of field fence that had already been weakened by a tree falling on it in the meadow bottom. She’s a complacent personality. Glory Bee, on the other hand–

Yep, that’s the Giant Calf, on the other side of the goat yard fence.

She possibly got out in this section that had been damaged somehow, I’m not sure. Maybe she damaged it by leaning on it.

She’d never been out of the goat yard on this side before and she didn’t seem to know what to do about it so she just started eating.

She didn’t seem to realize just how close she was to mommy.

This is Glory Bee, outside the fence, near the goat house.

Pulling back for the big view, you can see how close she is to mommy. On the left of the photo (below) you see the goat house. In the middle is the chicken house. To the right you can see the milk stand (and BP).

She was just around the corner from mommy, but didn’t seem to understand how to get there.

And we needed her to get there because capturing her in the woods wouldn’t be easy.

Worried she’d go down the hill, we started trying to get her over to BP-land so we could recapture her.

Meanwhile, BP was in a state of confusion. It was milking time and she didn’t know what to do or what all the fuss was about.

The epitome of the placid family cow, clocking in at the milk stand at milking time:

I had to lure her out with some food and help her notice that Glory Bee was nearby and provide some encouragement.

We eventually herded Glory Bee over to the fenceline and discovered (in the good news department) that she wouldn’t go through or under the electric fence. It’s nice to know she’s learned that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with that!

So, we turned off the electric fence and lifted it out of her way.

Glory Bee finally noticed that the electric fence had been moved and she made a beeline for The Trap (aka mommy).

The lead got snapped right onto her halter and she was dragged kicking and screaming back to the goat yard.

I milked BP. This whole thing started on Saturday. Glory Bee, anguished by that one mouthful of sweet mommy’s milk, was out again by bedtime. And this time, she and mommy weren’t waiting around for our next trick. Off they ran to the hinterlands of BP-land, clutching plane tickets in one hoof and hastily packed suitcases in the others.

They spent Saturday night and most of Mother’s Day together before we got Glory Bee in lock-up again. This time I had to pull my faithful calf trick because Glory Bee wasn’t falling for that stick-her-head-under-mommy scenario where she’s distracted for a second and we snap a lead on her.


The easy no-drag way to get her in the goat yard is to just take BP over there and let her follow. She falls for that one EVERY TIME.

How that works is thusly:

Toss marshmallows in the goat house. Shut the goats up.

Open the goat yard gate. Open the gate to BP-land. Take BP to the goat yard. (Not difficult.) Feed her enough to keep her occupied and IN the goat yard. Back off and watch from afar as Glory Bee falls for it.

I wait on the porch. There she goes, through the gate of the goat yard!

She joins mommy!

Then all you have to do is take BP back out, and let the goats out.

Let the bellowing begin. Again!


  1. NancyL says:

    I’m so glad the cows came home! Now, how will you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen the city? I wish you luck!!!

  2. Barbee says:

    That is hilarious! I just had to read it aloud to my husband. When I read “toss marshmallow into goat house”, he said: “who is Marshmallow?”

  3. Sandra says:

    It’s like a soap opera–“The Young and the Restless”…………

  4. collector1 says:

    I don’t know whether I should laugh at Glory Bee or feel sorry for you Suzanne or both. At least GB respects the electric fence — that may be important if she keeps escaping. (We had a boar many years ago who would climb the gates to get out — until we topped it with electric fence). Good luck — enjoying the story and glad it isn’t me :moo: :moo:

  5. TinaBell says:

    Grrreat post! Wonderful pictures; it was nice to see so many of the animal crew, and excellent story to go with….I laughed so hard at your description of GB and BP hurrying off with plane tickets and suitcases, I nearly snorted coffee out of my nose! Thanks for a good tale to start my day; have a good one.. :wave:

  6. lilacwolf says:

    Too funny! :dancingmonster:

  7. holstein woman says:

    With all you have to do in a day, you don’t need Missy GB being a Mother’s Day poop. I feel for you and hope you can keep the family where they belong. This is the time of year when ours go though the fences to get to the grass on the other side of the fence also.

  8. mika says:

    I feel so sorry for the calf and Mommy cow! Atleast they had part of Mother’s Day together. I have heard there is a “right time” to separate Mom and calf, from the farmers around here, but don’t know the details!LOL!

  9. cabynfevr says:

    Persistant buggers they can be! I had a gelding quarter horse that always thought the grass was greener on the other side. He would lean, and lean, over the wood fence until it would just snap like a toothpick. My mother would call me at work in a tizzy, “I just heard an explosion, I think Dude broke the fence again!” My first mare put her head through a metal gate that was about eight feet wide, lifted her head and took the gate right off the hinges! We received a call saying she was walking up the road with the gate around her neck!

  10. Ms.Becky says:

    oh my this is complicated. I’m happy that all I have to do is sit back and read about this and look at some fantastic photos, because I’m lost myself!!! :yes:

  11. msmitoagain says:

    We only have to try and keep our horses and dogs in….

    LOL…enjoyed the tail!

  12. DancesInGarden says:

    Any plan that starts with marshmallows must be a good one, I say! Glad everyone is back where they belong. For now 😉

  13. Madeline says:

    I do not know how you keep up with it all Suzanne!!! Nerves of steel, optimism, and a good dose of devil may care!!! I love reading your posts every morning!

  14. windspiritwhimsies says:

    :moo: GLORYBEE!!! :moo:

  15. Flowerpower says:

    These stories just crack me up! Makes me smile every day! :snoopy: Anybody who has ever had animals of any kind knows your pain trying to keep them here or there and out of places they don’t belong. Sounds like you have Miss Glory Bee figured out!

  16. bbkrehmeyer says:

    Holy COW!!!!
    We had a horse once who could actually manipulate the slide on a pole fence. Not only would he open the gate and let himself out, but would let all the other ranch horses out at the same time. These were horses who had been rounded up each day and who were to be ridden for the days cattle roundup. He didn’t want to go and he didn’t want his buddies to go either! He could also turn on the water spigot to get himself a drink of fresh water. Only thing he would never turn it off!!

  17. Katharina says:

    Oh my, you are a dedicated farmer/rancher/livestock rangler! I laughed and smiled at your narrative, although I know the frustration of having to out think animals and get them to go where you want them to go. Next time I will employ the marshmallow trick!

    I’m glad BP got to spend Mother’s Day with her momma. Maybe that’s what this was all about in the light of all eternity!

  18. Katharina says:

    oops, I meant BP got to spend Mother’s Day with her baby. And vice versa.

  19. Window On The Prairie says:

    We have cattle (about 60 head). We have barb wire fence and for one section of fence that is not so good, we have electric fence. They respect the fence and they stay put. Cows are notorious leaners over fences and would be out in a flash if we didn’t have barb wire at the top. If they got out on the road and caused an accident, well lets just say we don’t want to go there. Injured people and lawsuits wouldn’t make for a nice day. Not to mention injured livestock and unhappy neighbors. I do feel for you and your livestock going AWOL on you. You know the expression, “if you have livestock you have problems” It’s so true. Hang in there Suzanne.

  20. joykenn says:

    Window on the Prairie is right to point out the not so funny consequences of animals on the loose. Suzanne’s road is very quiet but she’s not too far from a real paved road. Imagine your horror if around sunset you round a corner and see BP or Glory Bee in your way. Looking at the minor accident Suzanne’s son had and imagine a collison between a cow and a car. Both lose. Dead cow, car hits a tree or rolls over off the side of a road. Injured cow and injured human. Not a pretty sight.

    We have stretches of forest near here. Some busy roads run through them. The stupid deer are sure that the grass just beside the road is better than any anywhere else. Then they hear a car and panic and run into the road. Serious accident. Not good.

  21. bonita says:

    For a long time it seemed that any time I watched a western or a cowboy show, there was a scene in which several cowboys were going to/were out checking/fixing the fences. I thought that this was just a filler scene for the times a writer had run out of action. Or perhaps, it was code for some adult activity not suitable for GP ratings. Now I find out it was just what it said it was…an on-going necessary part of farm/ranch maintenance. Who’d of thunk it!

  22. brookdale says:

    This story reminded me of when I was a child (probably around 10 yrs old)and I was “helping” my grandfather in the barn. I was supposed to go out front, and hook the barbed wire fence to the corner of the barn so the cows wouldn’t get out onto the lawn and driveway. Then he would let the cows out.
    Well, I tried and tried but couldn’t get the fence hitched, so I went back in the barn to tell him, but he had already let the cows out! So he ran out front but it was too late, they were all over the place. The only time I ever heard my grandfather swear.
    He probably thought twice about asking me to do that again.

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