For the next six weeks I am keeping my four yearling purebred Clun ewes in a jerry-rigged stall at the end of the barn aisle. I created it with two rigid welded-wire panels from Premier Sheep Supply that I had in the hayloft. The stall is 6’x9′ and plenty big enough for the four girls overnight.
The curly connector holding the two panels together also serves as a hinge so I can open half as a gate. The next time I am at the hardware store I will buy a few double-ended snaps and eyebolts so I can fix the edges more securely, but for now I just tie them to the side posts with baling twine.
The nice thing about this set-up is that it is easy to put up and take down. It weighs less than ten pounds and I can lift it aside in a twinkling. This is crucial since the door behind the girls is the dutch door all the animals have to pass through to go in and out to the barn paddock every day.
Early this fall, realizing that my main sheep stall would be too crowded by lambing season, I trained the four yearlings to peel off from the flock and hop into the lamb stall across the aisle.
I did this by snagging each one by a hind leg with my crook, dragging her out of the group stall, and then showing her the lamb stall where grain was waiting. After three nights of being pulled out, all the teen girls understood that snacks were regularly scheduled in the lamb stall.
After that, on rushing into the barn, they would bound into the group stall with the older ewes, wait for the horse and cows to go by, and then dart happily across the aisle to find their waiting treat.
Now it is more complicated because there are lambs in the lamb stall, and I’ve had to come up with a new plan.
So: now the yearlings must bound into the group stall, wait for the horse and cows to go by, wait for me to set up their stall in the aisle and put out their grain snack, and then dart back out into their new accommodations.
It is the waiting that is hard. They have to stay focused, right at the gate. But Cluns are wild and smart. After only two nights, the young ewes Mulberry, Edelweiss, Magnolia, and Geranium (my Flower Girls!) have already got it. I’m very pleased.
Of course this complicated regimen of opening, closing, and erecting gates means there is no way I can delegate my current barn chores. The chances for chaos when simply letting one horse, three cows, one bull calf, fifteen sheep, two geese, and seven chickens into the barn for the night is high even without the Marx Brothers’ gate routine. But for now, for me, it works — and I’m satisfied!