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How can we show that we are pampering our animals?

 
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Paul and I are working on the higher level badges for Animal Care in the PEP program.  We could use your help!

We're trying to encourage people to care for their animals in ways that are better than 99% of all farm animals.  Per Paul and Shawn's Better World Book there are 7 levels of animal care and we're aiming for something approaching #7:

1. factory farms
2. organic factory farms
3. what most people do when raising their own animals
4. the animals are all set free
5. providing a life better than a life in the wild
6. pampered
7. something that would inspire a Disney movie about a little girl and all of her homestead animal friends

We are trying to figure out examples of things you can do to pamper critters AND ways to prove they are pampered.  We're somewhat focused on 6 key species (cattle, chickens, pigs, turkeys, honeybees and fish) but examples for other species are greatly appreciated.

Some examples of ways to pamper animals include:  No manure, lush paddocks, variety of forage, dry stout shelters, really clean water, no predator worries, winter bug supply system (for fowl and fish), 2 acres of flowers (for bees), etc

Some examples of ways to prove animals are pampered include:  You'd eat their food, you'd drink their water, you'd sleep in their shelter, they'll play or sing with you, you can take them on voyages to look for Maui, prolific milk production, they'll come when called, etc

What can we add to the list?
 
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Trust: 'Child friendly' and 'stranger friendly' is usually an indication of an animal being well socialised.

 
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Mike Haasl wrote:
Some examples of ways to pamper animals include:  No manure, lush paddocks, variety of forage, dry stout shelters, really clean water, no predator worries, winter bug supply system (for fowl and fish), 2 acres of flowers (for bees), etc



Unless it's subsumed under "stout shelters", you may want to include "shade trees in paddocks" or some other access-to-shade notion.  I know PEP is somewhat Montana specific and I'm unclear how much truly hot weather Montana gets in the summer, but around here, ranchers often cut most tree to maximize grass production, and if there's an exceptional tree in a pasture, you'll see herds jostling and shoving in an attempt to all fit into a too-small shade footprint.
 
Mike Haasl
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Good ones!  

I think shade is important even up north since we may have breeds that are acclimated to the cold and when it gets "hot" they start to suffer.  My chickens start to hide in the shade when it gets over 75.

People friendly is a great one too!  If you're not nice to them, they won't be very friendly to others.

Thanks and keep 'em coming!!!
 
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The first thing that occurred to me was kobe-breed beef in Japan being fed fine, human-grade grains and massaged with sake by beautiful women. While I know I'd probably enjoy that, I think we need to think more about the animal perspective than the human.

For anyone who's had a dog made to feel uneasy by some environmental trigger, fireworks or thunderstorms come to mind, it should be obvious that even a creature who's lived so closely with humans for so long in their development isn't comforted by the same things that comforts their humans. Giving a dog a hug and pats doesn't really make them feel any better about the sky exploding. In fact, their human being so worried about their canine being so distraught is bound to make things worse. Aside from a sound-proofed space, I don't think anything could make a noise-averse dog feel better in those circumstances, but for the one who confidently commands and rewards to suddenly be worried and looking to the canine for cues is strange behaviour. Dogs like routine and the normalcy that follows it, and the predictability of their human acting as their human does.

Most of these animals are prey for something in the wild, which means that their sense of safety is informed by that predator fear. For some that means plenty of cover that also function stacks as some of their forages of choice. For some, that means really good sight lines, and the ability to herd together for safety.

It also means more subtle things, in my opinion. Let's take rabbits, for example. They are prey animals. For that reason, they generally don't want to be picked up, because if a predator were to do that to them, it would mean imminent death. It is so ingrained in them that if you flip a rabbit upside down, which I entreat you all not to do, except at extreme need, they go into a state of shock-driven paralysis, which can actually cause heart attacks in weaker individuals. So for rabbits, one of the things we can try to do is have a system that emphasizes that rabbits are not handled in that manner, except at extreme need.

Now I am not saying don't pet rabbits, and don't get cuddly with them. I'm saying that to properly show them affection, it has to be on their terms. It is necessary, because we are such large creatures that smell like omnivores, to get down on their level in order for them to get to know and trust us. If we pick them up and insist they sit on our laps, some part of them, even if they sit still for it, will be certain that hungry jaws are soon to follow. If we get down, on the ground, go nose-to-nose, and massage their cheeks and the tops of their heads, from the nose, between the eyes, to behind and between the ears, well they'll see that we most certainly aren't rabbits. But they have all four on the floor, they can escape any time they choose, and from their perspective, the finger caresses they are receiving are really close to the way rabbits are groomed by their herdmates.

But to treat such an animal as though it were a dog or a cat isn't pampering that animal, even though a cat or a dog might consider it as such. They aren't comforted by the same things, and their anxiety isn't triggered the same way either.

So to truly pamper all of our animals, I think it's necessary to take onesself out of one's human perspective (and even for vegans, it's helpful to assume that they view you as an omnivore), and try to view their environment and interactions with humans as potential prey animals would view their environment and interactions with a potential predator.

I definitely agree that making sure they have endless clean drinking water and a constant source of food that is safe to eat as much of as they like (hay for rabbits, for instance, as opposed to a more nutrient-dense pellet, that can cause bathroom problems and/or overfed conditions), and a variety of foods that they like to supplement with, are steps that can keep animals from getting sick, or resorting to behaviour that might injure them, like eating medicinals because their regular feed is contaminated.

But for it to be a proper pamper, it can't be just the kobe beef pampering, a human-centric judgement. It needs to be an [insert specific animal here]-centric assessment of how they see their existence, which is a lot more difficult than assuring they have proper feed, shelter, and room to move.

Though don't discount the massage thing. I have found that my rabbit loves full-bunny massages. She actually gets tiny bunny knots, and will binky around after I work them out. It's just that pigs will probably prefer to be massaged with mud or pig shit, for instance.

One other thing that occurs to me is insects. If there was something that could be used as a scent deterrent against biting insects, something herbal, it would probably result in less animal stress. If this were a spray that could be applied to each animal as it exits its shelter, semi-regularly and certainly after every rain or when insects seem to be bothering them most, it might result in more time grazing/foraging and less time tail-flicking and running away from clouds of insects. It might, in some animals, also cut down on insect-borne parasites or infection of insect wounds.

I would also explore herbal calmatives, at least insofar as ensuring that those herbs that are safe for that purpose are present in their paddocks' animal medicine chest. If chamomile, or any other herb that produces the desired effect without side-effects, is safe for them, I would make sure there's lots of it available. If they need a calmative, they can treat themselves to it. I don't think cows can get stoned on chamomile, but I know that my rabbit sure loves the taste. I suppose the greater observation here would be to make sure they have a fully stocked animal apothecary in addition to way more optimal forage than they could ever run out of, so they don't try eating medicinals as roughage.

These are just a few thoughts. I would love to see other ideas. It's an important sphere within the realm of permaculture that could really be done well by those that care.

-CK
 
Mike Haasl
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Beautiful Chris, thank you!
 
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Provide a shaded shelter for pasture animals.

Provide a shaded and wind/rain protected shelter for pasture animals.

Provide a rubbing/scratching post for cows.

All above could be voided with decent trees on property.

Add minnows to animal trough for mosquito and worm protection. There is a specific fish that will eat maybe worm larvae? The type of worm that will get in an animal.

Plant a protected tree (mulberry?) To drop fruit in pasture (various animals including chickens)

If hay will be used, throw seed on ground before putting hay on ground. Even if hay is elevated. The hay drops will mulch the seed. The hoofs will push into soil. Show pics of sprouted seeds.

Use baled hay to mulch by spreading the flakes over an area vs dropping the full bale. Show pics.

Make a hay bale from pasture grasd. Can build box for this purpose to hold and compress the grass.

The 2 things that come to mind with fish are no aeration and no feed. Provide a setting where neither are needed. That would mean a spacious environmemt without overstocking, then harvest to keep that in balance.

Other things to do with fish, possibly on a smaller scale:

Add light over water to attract bugs. Bug will feed the fish.

Hang a carcass or head over water. Maggots will drop in water to feed them. Same could be done for chickens.

 
wayne fajkus
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With bees i might think to install it and leave them alone for a year. Don't go in or inspect them
 
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No manure



my chickens and ducks love the manure pile.  It's their happy place.

But they don't like it where they sleep.  they like it better if they can walk a distance to it twice a day and dig around, then go back to their home zone.  
 
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Don't keep single animals (of herd species) It's actually illegal here as they are social and require company.
 
Mike Haasl
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Great stuff everyone!  A number of Wayne's things are in the other parts of our Animal Care badge and once it's ready for full review I'll post it.  Yes Raven, I was thinking more along the lines of no manure in their home base (or limited greatly).  Chickens picking apart cow patties is great.  Keeping herd animals in a herd, awesome.  No aeration or feed needed for fish is great.

Thanks everyone, keep em coming!  I'm guessing this list, when complete, will really allow people to think more deeply about what it takes to care really well for animals.

 
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I made an old swing set into a chicken swing for my chickens a few years ago.  It has since been removed, but the chickens really seemed to enjoy it.  I also hang things for them, usually a cabbage that I run a piece of paracord through for them to peck at.  Gives them something to do in the winter when they can't be out as much.
 
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Nice idea!

It really depends on species, but as a general rule, I would add: keep/promote naturally healthy breeds, which can do well on their own but also have developed trust in people, so that human interaction isn't stressful for them. Breed for health in body and mind, not for fancy colors, looks etc.

Use training methods based on positive reinforcement whenever possible; see clicker training (but there is more methods based on those principles).
 
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A line I like to use, but it should show up way before level 7 is: My chickens are my valued employees, not my slaves.
I find it gives people the message that we shouldn't abuse our all-powerful 'human' vs animal just because the chickens don't speak human.

Which takes me to the specific concept that by level 7 a 'supportive human' should be able to read the non-verbal behavior and sound noises of their animals at least at the macro level.

Level 7 "pampering" to me supports what Chris said above - it isn't about giving an animal too much of what it shouldn't have that you make it sick, but about giving them what they're associated with humans for. For example, the original domestication of chickens was an exchange of safety and a few food scraps in return for humans pilfering some of their eggs. It wasn't about battery cages. The chickens got to work for a living finding bugs etc and raising young. When our chickens/ducks get access to fresh grass, they immediately start hunting for bugs, so despite all the domestication, that need and desire is still there.  

I'd also like to back up Flora about responsible breeding. Since most domestic breeds aren't out there choosing their own mate, we need to keep track of whether in-breeding is happening. I can understand the human drive to choose traits we like and want, but when there's pressure to breed to a standard that is cruel or damaging to health, such as cows whose udders are so large they can't live a decent life, I think Level 7 people should be prepared to advocate and educate for responsible compromises.
 
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Something I have seen discussed which seems relevant here;

we can care for our animals well when they get to express their natures.

Chickens get to express their "chickenness" - do they get to roost somewhere high and secure, do they get to scratch and explore their environment, do they have a rooster to take care of the flock? So they raise their own young?

Might this line of thinking help you pin down some ideas?

 
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Jay Angler wrote:A line I like to use, but it should show up way before level 7 is: My chickens are my valued employees, not my slaves.



I like that! Reminds me of a friend who, when teaching horse riding, used to say: "with love!" when giving riders commands to do something.

Which reminds me of another skill - teaching an animal to do its job. E. g. raise a puppy to be a herding dog, train a "green" horse, etc.
And then teach someone else to do so.
Also, teaching humane and respectful butchering, as a next level after learning it yourself.
 
Mike Haasl
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I think (hope) you all are going to like the badges once we're ready to share them.  The list of things is around 12 pages, everything from pollinator habitat to supporting a pregnant ewe to naturally discouraging flies to systems feeding systems and on and on and on.

I like all these ideas and especially Jay's idea of being able to translate animal behavior.  That indicates a level of partnership and interaction that is clearly good.

Any other ideas of ways to "prove" that your animals are exceedingly well cared for?
 
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Some critters, like chickens and goats, get bored rather easily. Bored critters = trouble making critters &/or Houdini descendants,  so providing rotational entertainment, like recycled cable spools (one of Kate Downham's favorites!), 'playhouses' or 'jungle gyms' made of repurposed palettes, straw bales stacked askew, old ties turned into 'obstacle courses' are great, for goats. Chickens love repurposed kids furniture, swings, 'bobbing' for veggies, hung from trees or the ceiling in the coop, or even from swing sets...
 
wayne fajkus
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Since you mentioned pregnant ewes, it is wise to have a plan or " kit" in place to care for a baby that momma rejects. Its something that should be put together ahead of time as there is a run on it during breeding season. Our first year i had to go to two cities to find it. We were not ready.

Colostrum(sp?)  powder
Bottles
Heat lamps
Bedding hay
Shelter
?
?
 
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What comes to mind from my time as an animal behavior researcher, it's kind of roundabout, but showing the lack of signs of stress in your animals.

Examples:

condition of body covering: show glossy, full coat/feathers/scales

show good body condition scores. These are different for each species and breed. It would be different for beef vs. dairy cows fro example.
This is a chart for dairy cows:


Show lack of stereotipic behaviors:

From wikipedia

behaviours that are repetitive, morphologically identical and which possess no obvious goal or function.[2] These behaviours have been defined as ‘abnormal’ as they exhibit themselves solely to animals subjected to barren environments, scheduled or restricted feedings, social deprivation and other cases of frustration,[3] but do not arise in ‘normal’ animals in their natural environments.[4]



Examples of stereotypic behaviors: rocking, pacing, biting the fence, self harm like plucking feathers.
People might show lack of bite marks on the enclosure, lack of worn paths from pacing, and good body cover condition. They could also show opportunities for their animals to engage in natural behaviors, like someone else mentioned, chickens have places to scratch, etc.

Also a few have mentioned training to not be afraid of humans. I would expand that to training to enjoy other not so natural things in their environment. Like do they come willingly to the milking area, for medical treatment, on the trailer or however they are moved?

For fish I would add a place to hide where they feel sheltered from above. This could be a plant, or a ledge, or a dark spot.

Novelty: add something new to the enclosure every so often. Maybe people could show their plan to add a object every month for a year. This is good for fish too!

Other people said opportunities to play.

Show animals exhibiting relaxed behaviors: this will be different for each species. For fish you can measure respiration rate by counting gill movements per minute.

Special accommodations :  Animals of the same breed will have different personalities and different needs. People could show a special accommodation they have made for an extraordinary individual.
 
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I would like a multi species setup, where they are able to interact togather in a synergistic way.
Bees pollinating fruit trees, that drop fruits later in the year for other animals, chickens eating parasites. Birds warning animals, dog protecting animals, etc
 
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Planting polycultures and silvopasture to feed them

Planting special plants that they use to self-medicate e.g. tannin-rich plants and mulberry for worming

Giving access to any minerals and supplements they need

Creating a healthy 100% homegrown diet for them,  e.g. raising dairy animals and using whey and skim milk as protein for poultry and pigs

Growing mulch for chickens to scratch in

Creating a sprout-growing system to feed animals sprouted grain every day
 
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Keep record of their pedigrees! With birth dates and notes. Like lurcher breeders do. Maybe not doable with some species, like larger herds of chickens, but perhaps one can at least identify the males and families / generations.
 
Chris Kott
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Apart from ensuring that there's not too much in-breeding or line-breeding, I don't see keeping individual animal pedigrees as something that is inherently better for individual animals. I think that's more for us, and for the integrity of the system as a whole, not for the specific purpose of improving the experience of any given individual.

Also, wouldn't it be easier to identify the females, and keep track matrilineally? Unless there's only one male, or unless the individual males show physical differentiation, such that individual offspring could be identified by their physical characteristics.

I like the species of thought that determines what is best by emphasising the "chicken-ness of the chicken," for instance. I feel that's the best way to ensure a minimal stress reaction over the course of their lives. And for many, that means having an appropriate place to hide, or to get out of reach, when they even perceive the chance of danger. There doesn't even have to be real danger for them, but if they think it might be there and they can't shelter for their own peace of mind, they are going to feel less pampered.

There are some great answers here, though. Keep 'em coming, people.

-CK
 
Michael Cox
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On balance, I'm a little concerned about the use of the word "pampering" to describe some ideal form of animal care. Pampering feels like a human term, rather than something relevant to animals leading good lives. When I think about animals being pampered my mind goes to cute little dogs being carried around in handbags, and indoor chickens with nappies on. The animals are pampered, but unable to express their natures. Handbag dogs with socialisation issues is so common it is practically a stereotype.
 
Mike Haasl
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Good point Michael, I'm open to another word or short phrase to better describe what we're after.
 
Mike Haasl
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Speaking of nurturing our animals, I have another thread asking about which parasite checks to do for a different animals.  If anyone has feedback for that one, please skip over there and weigh in.  Thanks!

https://permies.com/t/133898/parasite-checks-cattle-chickens-pigs
 
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So this will based off my care of chickens as it is the only livestock I've raised.

- Variety of feed sources: most of the feed is foraged. Any feed supplied mimics natural feed (pesticide-free, whole seeds/grains)

- Coop/enclosure is a place you won't mind hanging out too (or a child could play in)

- Minimum egg breakage ( not including nesting boxes that have the eggs roll away)

- Entertainment (especially in winter)

- Variety of nesting choices

- Variety of roosting options

- Variety of shelters
 
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In the end, the consumer still needs to believe you do all these things.
So just say you do and post lots of pics.
People are buying into your story when they choose where to get their real food instead of the non-walmart-low-priced-cardboard-and-gristle.
 
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In the end, I think it's only healthy to just try be good enough as an owner. There will always be someone to criticise you, just like every mother is looked down on when her baby cries in public. Animals will get sick, bored, disobedient, stubborn, and so on. Just be good enough. They don't need "golden cages" and a Disney world to be relatively happy.
 
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How about counting as many different plant species as you can on their pasture (or in their pond if it's fish I guess), identify them, research nutritional and medicinal properties for some of them. Then come up with some kind of written care plan for it.  Weeding? Topping? Treatments, or lack thereof? Grazing management, that kind of thing.
 
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Probably not doable for PEP, but to me one of the best “proof” for well keeping an animal is their longevity. Example: a dairy cow or goat that is not only still alive, but thriving, happy and producing several years down the road.

Another one, also probably not applicable, few vet bills associated with those years of happy animals.

 
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We are trying to figure out examples of things you can do to pamper critters AND ways to prove they are pampered.  We're somewhat focused on 6 key species (cattle, chickens, pigs, turkeys, honeybees and fish) but examples for other species are greatly appreciated.



Ducks deserve winter heated water that gets refreshed quite often. Consider putting their food dishes inside  their shed to protect it from other critters, and having fencing that deer cannot jump for their pen is a wonderful idea, too.

We rotate them to and from our former garden area both to encourage grazing grasses in their pen to regrow and also take advantage of their contributions to reconstituting that garden soil.

A baby pool is pretty easy to dump and clean in warmer weather. We keep three different things for them to drink from or swim in during the summer.

Finally, food grade diatomaceous earth is safe for them, and you can sprinkle it around and inside their shed, then cover it in straw to reduce the chance of them breathing it, and to help control bugs. You have to keep applying it outside there due to the rains, though it is a low cost and organic solution for hard-shelled bugs.
 
Audrey Wrobel
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Mike Haasl wrote: We could use your help!
...

We are trying to figure out examples of things you can do to pamper critters AND ways to prove they are pampered.  We're somewhat focused on 6 key species (cattle, chickens, pigs, turkeys, honeybees and fish) but examples for other species are greatly appreciated.

Some examples of ways to pamper animals include:  No manure, lush paddocks, variety of forage, dry stout shelters, really clean water, no predator worries, winter bug supply system (for fowl and fish), 2 acres of flowers (for bees), etc

...

What can we add to the list?



As far as honey bees, I noted organic goldrenrod growing in a garden we didn’t plant in this year. It’s a fall favorite of the bees, so I only harvested some of it. However, I saved some of it that went to seed, and intend to plant a lot of this coming spring.

The bees and butterflies appreciate my Echinacea and chamomile in the summer, too. I puff that food grade diatomaceous earth on just their stems and foliage, so because it can hurt bees I don’t dust the floral heads. I use it to control thrips and other non-beneficial bugs.
 
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