Monday, October 17, 2011

Fearful Hands

Every morning, I hand feed the alpacas with a large plastic bowl of alpaca pellets and I've been able to catch Thelma by reaching under and grabbing her catch lead while she's eating. But still, both alpacas are really timid and keep shying away. I want them to reach through my two open hands for the feed. They don't want to. At. All.

Eventually, desire for the feed won them over. Louise got brave, reaching through my open hands and began to feed. I was able to gently touch both sides of her face. Then Thelma reached all the way through my open hands to the feed too. I was able to stroke both sides of her neck and poll. They feed one at a time, taking turns. Progress!! I am thrilled that I am getting to lay hands on them at last. I love touching their soft fleece. The catch lead dangles enticingly between my fingers each time one of them puts their head in the bowl. I decided not to try to catch them all the time and hopefully it will get easier to catch either one of them as time goes by. Here are some photos I took of Skyy and the alpacas. She usually comes in with me and lays down under their necks as I feed them. The alpacas don't seem to mind her although once, when she got too close to their hindlegs, she received a swift kick. Poor Skyy, she didn't know what happened but she learned not to go back there.

I have a four stall barn but it is not your typical layout of stall plus run, stall plus run, etc. The first and second stalls are a double pen with the two adjoining stalls sharing one door into the barn from the second stall, and no pen divider. The third stall has a small run and barn door access. The fourth stall has no barn door access, but a large run and an outside gate with access to the arena. I keep Nadia in the first and second stalls so that she has privacy from the other horses and she can eat her food in peace but she doesn't need both stalls. The other three horses live in the fourth stall with the arena access. Unfortunately, it gets crowded when they all try to squeeze into the 12x12 stall during bad weather. Poor Scout usually ends up part way outside. I'm thinking that by adding some pipe rail fencing and gates I can make the whole set up more functional.

If I add a gate on the outside fence of the first stall and run a pipe rail pen divider through the first two stalls, then I could put the alpacas in the first stall for the birthing and the winter months. I can reinforce the fencing with portable panels in the beginning so that they would have safety from predators too. Remember, I did that when Yalla! was born because she kept going through the pipe rails? I wouldn't want coyotes or even Sandy sneaking in and hurting/pestering the alpacas. They would have adjacent fencing to the horses but they would have area away from them, as well. Nadia charges at the alpacas but I imagine they would get used to each other over time. They'd have too, right? The second stall could be Nadia's. I could put a gate on the pipe rail divider between the third and fourth stalls to open it up and allow access from the barn to those two stalls for the other three horses. Or, I could take down part of the stall (gate?) so that they have one large stall. Or just leave Yalla! and Scout together in stall #4 and give Annie her own stall #3 next to Nadia's stall #2. Hmmm, still thinking about the layout there. . .

For now, with Louise due to cria in the next couple of weeks (I think!) building the shed would take too long. I decided to go back to my very original plans, when I first bought the alpacas, of placing them in the barn with the horses. For now, this is an easier and cheaper way to go.Okay, so this past weekend, we moved the alpacas to the barn. During the past week, I've been pulling round pen panels over to the barn and and then my son and I set them up in the first stall. We sat in the alpaca pen, offering feed until we finally caught Thelma. I also seized the opportunity to treat her back with the MTG that was recommended to me for her skin condition.

We tied Thelma up and tried to catch Louise but she was just too skittish. I suggested to my son that he walk Thelma over to the barn and then maybe we could catch Louise easier. They are like Siamese Twins, always doing everything in unison, as if they are joined together.

After Thelma left, Louise became frantic, but she wasn't going to come up to us to be caught, even though Thelma was gone. My son and I joined two ropes and tried to corner her. It took a couple of minutes because she would dart around a tree and we'd have to start over again but, soon enough, we caught her. Then my son led her over to the barn too.

The horses were excited to see the strange creatures up close.

I expected the alpacas to cower in the corner of the stall but they didn't. Yalla! came right up to the pen and she nosed the alpacas right through the rails.

Soon enough the novelty wore away for all the horses except Yalla! She seems to enjoy standing just outside their pen so that she can get closest to them.
First night in their new pen and all went well. However, I woke up at 5:30 AM, in a panic. I could hear lots of coyotes howling just out back, near the barn, and I was afraid that they were going after the alpacas. The panels are high enough on the bottom for animals to crawl under and I'm not so sure that coyotes won't make the attempt. I told my son about my fears and we decided that tomorrow he would move the panels and the alpacas into the third stall in the barn so that they will be surrounded by the horses and then he will put some wire up along the bottom of the panels for extra protection.

This morning, as I fed the girls handfuls of pellet feed, Sandy came in and stood around watching me feed them, picking up whatever pellets they dropped. I was glad to see that she wasn't chasing after them but it reinforced my fears of how accessible the alpacas could be to the coyotes, especially with a newborn cria coming soon.

Oh, and I put on cowboy boots for the first time since I broke my ankle. It hurt like the dickens! Although I only wore them a half hour or so, I now have a raw spot on my ankle where the plate and screws are. That's why my son walked the alpacas to the barn. I had to do as little as possible to save my poor ankle from getting torn up worse.

Fearful Hands - song: Blackout, artist:  David Bowie, album: Heroes


fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like a good plan! Exciting times just ahead with the cria coming!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Great idea! I bet the alpacas will appreciate the shelter from the barn, especially with our winter winds and snow. I know that my llamas are quick to run into the barn when the weather gets bad.
Good thinking about doing some reinforcing of the fencing to guard from coyote attacks, too. In that 5th photo down Louise looks quite rotund. A cria will be so adorable!

I had to laugh at sweet Nadia today when I was up hanging out with Apache in her paddock. I said hello to Nadia and she nickered at me and then turned her head towards the alpacas as if to say, "Just look at what I have to put up with now!"
Poor girl!
(Remember how much she disliked my llamas? lol!)


Shirley said...

Would you be able to close the newborn and mama in the stall at night?

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

What a fun life you lead. Grat pictures.


Mary said...

Busy, busy, busy. You've got a lot going on there! I hope you can get the coyote situation safe. That would give me the creeps to hear the yowling about like that. I can't wait until the new baby arrives, I can only imagine how cute that's going to be.

Do you think your ankle will ever be alright for the boots? That sounds very painful. I would hate to hear about you re injuring it.

achieve1dream said...

So exciting that they are settling in so nicely. Reading about Thelma and Louise almost makes me want to add an Alpaca to my herd so that when we eventually someday take Chrome and Faran for trail rides Zeppelin won't be home alone. :) Now to see if I can convince my husband lol. They do respect fences really well right?