Author needs ranching-related advice - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 33 Old 08-09-2019, 09:38 PM
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Forget to turn the water OFF thus wasting a lot of water and flooding out a horse pen and causing a soupy muddy mess?
THAT! Leave the water running and flooding the paddocks! Or have the run-off go into the barn and flood the stalls!
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post #12 of 33 Old 08-09-2019, 10:03 PM
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1. I guess, realistically, now that you ask and I think about it, he probably wouldn't have left the OUTER (property) gate open. I can imagine a scenario where certain animals are kept in a paddock and he leaves the gate from the paddock to the big pasture open. If they were ponies or overweight horses, this could possibly lead to them gorging on the rich grass in the pasture and getting founder or colic, both of which are terribly serious. Or if it were something like sheep or cattle, they could get out into the big pasture and be really hard to round up.

2. If he left the hen house open, more likely what would happen is a predator would get in, rather than the chickens getting out. Chickens are very light sensitive (they are only active when it's light) and aren't likely to leave their safe spot at night. One time when raccoons got into our coop, we rounded up the survivors (who had all fled toward the light) and because it was so dark, they were trying to go to sleep within 10 minutes, even though they had just been through a terrible experience. "You left the chicken coop gate open and something got in there and killed several of them." If it's a YA novel, rather than a child's novel, you could describe the result: clumps of feathers still stuck together, blood spots, chickens screeching and jumping around. Now that I think about it, if the coop were within hearing distance of the house, and they were light sleepers, the people would probably wake up when it happened. Then you spend the rest of the night worked up and unable to sleep, thinking about what you did and how you basically killed those animals. No one would have to say anything, just give the kid a frustrated look.
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post #13 of 33 Old 08-09-2019, 11:33 PM
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I was in the middle of something when I posted my last suggestion. I wanted to add to it.

It's the middle of the night and this kid is tossing and turning for some reason. He has some sort of nagging feeling something isn't quite right. Then suddenly he hears a terrible commotion from the chicken coop. He gets up and runs out, waking the family in the process. They all follow him out there. Someone grabs a flashlight. Something shadowy runs off into the darkness. They point the light at the coop door, which is open and obviously was not latched closed. They look inside and see the carnage.

"Somebody must have left the chicken coop door open."

"Who was out here last?"

He gets a feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knows he must have been the one who did it. Should he say so? Will they find out if he doesn't? Surely someone will remember that he was the last one out there. He looks inside at the feathers and blood and feels like he wants to throw up. He can't believe how stupid he was. And then he notices that one of the hens who is missing is Susie, the most friendly hen in there, and everyone's favorite. Maybe they didn't get her, maybe she just ran out. Or maybe they got her and she'll get away. How could he have done this? Maybe she's OK somehow. But he knows she isn't. He knows she's dead, and it's all his fault, and soon everyone else is going to know it, too.

Does he volunteer that it was him or do they find out? Either way, probably all he would get is a really disappointed look from everyone. They're too tired (it's the middle of the night, remember) to say anything. His father shakes his head and closes and latches the door, looking pointedly at him as he does so. They all trudge back inside. Of course he can't go back to sleep. He just lies there thinking about all of the dead hens, and especially Susie. He remembers how she would always jump up on his arm if he held it out, and he'd give her little treats that he saved from dinner. He cries and cries and cries, but of course crying won't bring her back...
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post #14 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 09:39 AM
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Everyone- thanks so much for these excellent suggestions! I need it to be really simple, and I think leaving a gate open is easily understandable by any reader.....so I've narrowed it down to two options: 1) he leaves a gate open and a bunch of horses get loose....the hands waste a whole afternoon rounding them up. If that's the case, which gate SPECIFICALLY would he leave open, and how many horses could reasonably get loose?

2) He leaves the hen house open, and a few get out and are eaten by coyotes (?)......I like this option because a kid would presumably feel terrible about causing the death of animals. If I use this option, what EXACTLY would the situation/wording be: For example, "Left the (such and such) open, and the $%$#! (hens?) got out, and we lost (2? 3? 6?) of them!"
#1 Gate - That's going to depend on how the place is set up and how big it is. If it's a huge place like the 4 Sixes down in TX, it could total 1/3 of a million acres. Not that big now, but it's still around 275,000 in 2 places. If the remuda gate got left open then you could have a LOT of horses milling around in places they didn't belong. If it was a pasture gate leading to the ranch house and it was daylight hours, those horses could potentially turn down the driveway and get out on to the road. I say daylight because a lot of places close the driveway gate at night. How many is a LOT? It would depend on the day and why the horses were all gathered up, call it 100? They put at least that many in their Return to the Remuda sale every year.

#2 Chickens - As others have said, if it's night time, more likely a predator (fox, dog, coyote, raccoon, skunk, 'possum, hawk, eagle, owl) got in. Day time, it's more likely to be dogs who have been dumped in the area. How many? Can be as little as 3 or 4 up to the entire flock. Birds of prey tend to only account for 1 or 2 at a time. We have problems with both hawks and owls. The birds are protected, you can't kill them regardless of how many they take. When dogs get in, the carnage is all over the place. Last time a dog got to my chooks, when I returned home it looked like a snow storm in my barnyard. Out of a small coop of about 50, I had 7 left. Especially frustrating because those birds had JUST reached point of lay. You raise them from hatchlings to about 6 months old before they start to lay, so VERY frustrating, not to mention expensive. Dogs don't just kill to eat. Chickens screaming and running all over triggers their prey drive and they run in, grab one by the neck, kill it and on to the next, and the next. Raccoons tend to behead them, skunks disembowel and given time, the skunks and coons eat most of the bird. When it's birds, it looks like an explosion of feathers with no body. Other predators will usually leave the bones or carcass for you to find. The extent of the damage is also going to depend on whether the hens are in the coop (night) or if they are out free ranging (day and if the person free ranges their birds).

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post #15 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 11:58 AM
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I agree that the open gate is the most plausible and understandable. Leaves room for any number of scenarios. Large stock of any type can get out and into all manner of trouble. Lost, stolen, crippled or killed. Even a delay for gathering them again could be catastrophic if they had been collected for market or breeding. If money is tight, extra money paid in wages will be troublesome.
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post #16 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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You may be in the wrong profession! Very well written......I won't need to go into quite that much detail, but that is really close to the feeling I want......the people are ticked off, the kid feels terrible that he caused this, it's his fault, everyone's mad at him, chickens are dead.....and those details---seeing the damage--would hit him really hard. Perfect.

Last edited by bjnick; 08-10-2019 at 02:08 PM. Reason: I didn't want a separate thread- just trying to respond to one particular post.
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post #17 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 02:17 PM Thread Starter
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The ranch in question is 8,000 acres. How about this: he leaves the coop door open (is that what it's called? The "door to the coop?"), a dog or coyote gets in, 8-9 chickens killed. Does that work? One issue that occurred to me is whether or not the grandpa (patriarch- he's over 70, still fairly active) and his son (ranch supervisor, early 40's) would trust the kid to do something and not check on it to make sure. So it needs to be something that they would consider so basic that they wouldn't double-check on it....either that, or the kid did something he was clearly told not to do, but figured "Oh, I'll just take a look, etc.")

Would it be reasonable for them to just say, "You make sure you close that door/gate when you leave, you hear? Something gets in there, it's bad news," etc.
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post #18 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 03:01 PM Thread Starter
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I'm thinking this mistake happens in the early evening as people are getting ready for dinner; say, 6:00'ish. It won't be discovered till morning......or, as someone suggested, a riot of noise wakes the house up in the middle of the night.....that would be ideal....maximum chaos, destruction, people losing a night's sleep, etc.
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post #19 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjnick View Post
The ranch in question is 8,000 acres. How about this: he leaves the coop door open (is that what it's called? The "door to the coop?"), a dog or coyote gets in, 8-9 chickens killed. Does that work? One issue that occurred to me is whether or not the grandpa (patriarch- he's over 70, still fairly active) and his son (ranch supervisor, early 40's) would trust the kid to do something and not check on it to make sure. So it needs to be something that they would consider so basic that they wouldn't double-check on it....either that, or the kid did something he was clearly told not to do, but figured "Oh, I'll just take a look, etc.")

Would it be reasonable for them to just say, "You make sure you close that door/gate when you leave, you hear? Something gets in there, it's bad news," etc.
Every ranch kid knows, is practically born knowing, that if you open a gate or door (coop, barn) you close it again. By the time most kids are 4-5 years old, they're the ones jumping out of the car or off the tractor to open and close pasture gates as you go through to work. Same with the henhouse or coop, whichever you prefer, and barn. You open a stall door then close it when you step inside, open it to go out and shut it immediately. Open the main barn door, close it again (unless you live in OK and it's 105 F with humidity that makes it feel like 115 F then you leave that sucker open and turn on every fan you can find and pray the horses & cattle do ok. Same with chickens, some of them are very susceptible to heat. I've lost a couple birds this year to the heat. But yes, close the henhouse door and that's just a basic like no muddy boots in the house.

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post #20 of 33 Old 08-10-2019, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bjnick View Post
I'm thinking this mistake happens in the early evening as people are getting ready for dinner; say, 6:00'ish. It won't be discovered till morning......or, as someone suggested, a riot of noise wakes the house up in the middle of the night.....that would be ideal....maximum chaos, destruction, people losing a night's sleep, etc.
This will be dependent on the time of year. Right now, 6ish is broad daylight. 3 months from now it will be pitch dark by then.

And farm folk eat dinner at noon and supper at around 5 - 5:30.

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