Most of you would agree when I say that humans are creatures of habit. Some more than others, but in general, if you are fed dinner at 6.30pm every night, and one night there is nothing on the table, you would be really hungry and not very happy. Animals are much the same.
Animals thrive on routine. Our chooks are happier and lay better when they are fed and let out at the same time every morning. They feel secure when they know that they will be locked in their pen (to keep the predators out) at the same time at night. Our cows love being taken into the stockyard at the same time every night. A lot of the time they stand waiting at the gate at that time! It helps that Tom gives them a rub, takes any ticks of them and gives the young ones a feed as well! In the morning they stand waiting for their morning snack and rub and are let out again. (We leave them in the stockyard overnight so that we can collect the manure in the morning, which is then used for compost. We are aiming to make a biodigester in order to collect the methane gas as well.)
Our son feeds the goats at around 5pm. Because we have a rest day on Saturday, the cows are not brought in on the Friday night, and the goats are not fed their snacks on Saturday night. They all know that now, the goats won’t bleat for their food on Saturdays, whereas they will if it is late during the week! Even the dogs know Saturday is a rest day, they just sleep in their beds most of the day, or lie in the sun when it shines… The dogs also like their routine; they know they are fed after we have had our breakfast, so they won’t leave me alone after breakfast, until they’ve had theirs!
Routine makes animals a lot easier to handle, they feel more secure, they know what is supposed to happen so there is no stress. Tom leads 2 fully grown cows on ropes at the same time, one in each hand, without any problems. He has to stop to close the gate behind him, which they know, so they stop and turn so he can close it easily. The goats stand where they are to be tied up when they are eating when it is their food time. Our 11 year old son has no problem handling them, because they know where to stand. We tie our animals up when they eat as part of the routine, so they don’t go and finish another animals food when they have finished. Apart from the chickens off course, but the larger animals chase them away if the chickens bother them. Once the animals have finished eating they are freed again.
Our animals are docile and friendly, and we attribute that mostly to routine. The routines we have in place also allows us to be in contact with the animals on a daily basis. The security that the routine instills helps animals not to feel flighty or nervous, a break in that routine takes the enjoyment away from both animals and humans and “if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong”. The animals know what is going to happen in a day and that makes them happy. If all humans had that peace of mind every single day, stress related illnesses would virtually disappear.
©2012 Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast – Animal routines and animal systems in a Permaculture system.