Bribery & Building Trust

So here’s a lesson I learned in the last week: I am never going out in public again without a five-gallon bucket of hand-sanitizer and cattle prod with which to deter anyone who exhibits so much as a sniffle from coming within a five-foot radius of me ever again. Because listen, having a fever that lasts for three days is basically like spending a long weekend in one of Dante’s inner circles of Hell and I have done my time, okay?

I could spend another few days just whining about how bad last week was, but suffice it to say I was miserable, and I’ve never been happier than when that damn fever broke on Friday. By Saturday I had the urge to start about eight new projects, which is how I knew my brain was back to normal, even if my body still needs a little extra rest before I’m back to full-strength.

I did manage to get caught up on about a weeks worth of farm-chores over the weekend, which brings me to the story of the day… one that revolves around this little guy.


This is Doc– aka Houdini– frolicking around outside of the pasture the weekend before I caught the Plague.

You can basically see the thought-bublbe over his head, “Freeeeeeeeedooooommm.”

I thought it was funny for about 5 minutes and then realized dude was not coming back in on his own, and in the ensuing chaos Parker also escaped and it took me and two neighbors the better part of an hour to herd them back into the pasture.

Carrots were just not a tempting enough bribe to bring them back in, and what I learned from this scenario was that:

  1. I need a bigger fence ASAP.
  2. I need a better bribery system.

My mom, actually dusted off some old horse knowledge from her days at camp and suggested I train them to come when they hear the sound of oats in a bucket, so I immediately went to Tractor Supply, procured oats and a bucket and started with Bribery 101…


So far so good.

I also decided to start taking the boys out around the property on the leads so that it wasn’t such a BFD if they ever broke out. I finally got a chance to take them out on Saturday, and a personality difference between Doc and Parker quickly became evident.

This is Doc (and his too-big halter… I had to special-order smaller ones that haven’t arrived yet.)


Doc is like, “What up, Freedom? I’m just going to hang around out here and munch on some grass.”

Parker, on the other hand…


He was so unsure about this whole thing that he spent the entire half-hour with his face pressed up against my leg like a two-year-old. If I moved 2 steps away, he’d walk right back up to me and lean in.

Besides just straight-up melting your heart into a big pile of goo, it’s actually a pretty astounding thing when you think about it, that an animal–particularly one that was neglected– would say, “I’m not really sure about what’s going on out here, so I think I’ll just hang out here next to you.”

If nothing else, it tells me that the time I’m putting in to building trust with these guys is totally paying off.

Plus the nuggets totally come when I whistle now…


I might just have a knack for being a farmer after all.

13 Responses

  1. My dogs do the same thing. The youngest loves freedom, while my oldest never leaves our side. Too bad a dog doesn’t come for oats. I have yet to find something he wants more than what the next mailbox smells like and what that plant feels like and what’s around that corner. We finally got him to stop bolting out the door, but if he gets out, you’d better hope you have your sneakers on.

  2. Been ther edone that trying to get donkeys back in there pasture. Thank goodness for good neighbors because tis almost impossible to do single handedly, especially with two of them! And a bucket of grain is helpful sometimes. Glad you are feeling better!

  3. Glad to see that you are up and moving about.
    Enjoy reading about the “farm life”.

  4. I have a similar issue bribing my dog when he escapes. I usually can lure him with a fake truck ride. All he has to hear is “truck ride?” and he comes running. Not sure it would work so well with a donkey. 😉

  5. So glad you are feeling better! Sweet Parker! He is simply happy with his momma. Keep working with them, and pretty soon they will come, and Parker will become more independent.

  6. What wonderful affection from your creatures. You’re definitely doing the right things. Animals don’t lie. Aside: When I was a kid, our layer hens had a very long narrow run. My sister and I would stand at opposite ends and call, “Here, chick, chick, chick.” Without fail, they would sprint back and forth between us. This behaviour originated with my grandmother who used that call when she gave the hens lettuce. We were just empty-handed children–and annoying ones at that.

    1. That’s so funny. I have a specific whistle that I do when they get a treat, so I’m hoping they learn to come when I call!

  7. OMG. How do you get the mcnuggets to come? I can get my 6 pack of girls to come for mealworms but then they bug out and go back to pretending like “the big scary boots are out, RUN!!!” Are yours almost big enough to be coop chickens yet?

    Glad to hear the Ebola passed and you are back to motivating the rest of us poor sods. Cheers.

    1. Bread crumbs are the trick, they love ’em. (Ususally one grabs it and then they play keep-away for the next five minutes, which is hilarious.) I also have a specific whistle I do when they get a treat, so I’m hoping they learn to come when I call. We’ve definitely moved from “terrified to see me” to “running to the door of the cage” when I come in the room, but they still freak the hell out if I have to pick them up.

      I think we’re still 4-5 weeks away from being coop-age (because of the weather up here)but I’m going to start giving them a little “outside time” this weekend.

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