☆ July 1, 2015
Spoiler: Maia and Luna are a happy pair! After two days of using the squeeze chute to allow Luna to nurse safely and easily, it was time to transition to a more natural method – we didn’t want Luna to associate the squeeze chute with food and have that override her instinctual connection with Maia. Though Maia never really kicked at Luna – she favored headbutting – we decided to put the hobbles on Maia as we did last year, in hopes of keeping Maia standing still so Luna could nurse. Straight out of the gate, Maia figured out how to bunny-hop with the hobbles on, taking a step with her front legs and jumping forward with her back legs together. When Luna approached to suckle, Maia pivoted, violently headbutted Luna, and then ran away with her bunny-hops. Maia could cover some serious ground with her bunny-hopping, crossing the entire length of the corral in two seconds flat.
So we took off the hobbles and came up with another contraption to protect Luna from the headbutting. We clipped two horse cinches together with a carabiner, and tied them on Maia behind her shoulders. I then put a halter on Maia, and tied the lead rope to the cinch. Maia could still eat and drink, and get up easily and safely, but she didn’t have the full range of motion to headbutt with any force. Since Maia had never worn tack before, Mike was nervous about an epic protest in the form of bucking and snorting, but that never happened. Instead, she stood calmly beside me like a seasoned saddle horse as I fiddled with the halter and cinch and all the knots. Such a gentle, patient cow! Now we just needed to transfer that patience and trust to her baby.
With this contraption in place, we brought Luna over to Maia, and though Maia no longer whacked Luna with headbutts, she still wouldn’t stand still for Luna to nurse. So Mike took off his shirt and tossed it over Maia’s face. Maia, unable to see anything, stopped moving around, and Luna had her meal. We gave Maia plenty of hay to relax and distract her.
We couldn’t just leave Maia blindfolded, and didn’t trust her with Luna yet. Though Maia could no longer forcefully headbutt, there was still a chance that, if left together, Luna could accidentally get cornered and Maia could really hurt her. So, between meals, we kept them in adjacent sections of the corral, where Luna and Maia could see and hear and smell one another. I cuddled and brushed Luna and gave her some of the physical attention she wasn’t getting from her mother, and we brought them together for meals three times a day. We often found them lying side by side, with just the rail fence between them.
At meal time, either Mike or I (whoever was on duty) would toss a flannel shirt over Maia’s face and tie the arms under her chin, and open gates for Luna, who would run to Maia and plug onto a teat. As the days went by, we began taking the flannel off Maia midway through Luna’s nursing sessions and observe Maia’s behavior – sometimes she’d get antsy and angry and we’d put the flannel back on; sometimes, she’d stand calmly and nuzzle Luna. We began leaving them together after meal time and watching their behavior, and, once we felt we could trust Maia not to hurt Luna, we left them together overnight. The next morning, I walked down to the corral at first light and caught them in the act – Maia was standing calmly, of her own volition, as Luna nursed. Hooray! It just took a little darkness and time, patience and creativity, and trust in love.
In other news ~
I will be taking my Shop offline tonight (July 1) for all of July and much of August. If you would like to stock up on presents, prints, elk antler chew toys, books, or special stones, today is your last chance!
The baby chicks have turned into mini chickens….