Rose and Heather have been here three weeks now. They continue to settle in, but slowly. An experienced "donkey friend" once told me that it takes donkeys six months to a year to actually settle in to a new environment and feel completely comfortable.
During the past ten years I have witnessed this process - it's not that the donkeys act or behave strangely, but the levels of "settling" are palpable and hard to describe. You'll notice something ... maybe the way they respond to something or greet you, how they enter the barn (or don't!) or how many times they lift their head while eating - there are so many subtle changes if you are observant.
Yet, these small behaviours are clues and I take note. I am careful (or try to be) to not add additional stress. One of the first things we learn as positive reinforcement trainers is: set up the environment for success. This means - look around - what could go wrong? - what might cause distraction, antagonism,
create an aversive situation?
So when integrating new donkeys, I try to keep this in mind, especially around feeding time. Feeding time is important and delicate to my way of thinking. The last thing I want is colic! I used to clean hooves, groom and generally make my presence felt while the donkeys were eating, thinking, this is just routine and they have to get accustomed to all that is going on ... no more! Now I try to leave them alone while they are eating and not mess around. Let them eat peacefully. Let them work it out, although I am careful to "set the environment for success!" Meaning at least 1 more pile of hay than the number of donkeys ... 4 donkeys, 5 piles of hay, or 6 ... so if one gets bumped, she can move off and still eat.
Rose and Heather are experiencing a lot of new things and I see they are still adjusting. They had been living with a number of jacks who brayed during the night. Those sounds are gone. No barking dogs either, but deer and raccoon moving through the underbrush at night. Lights from houses and buildings are different, different patterns, different shadows - the coastal trees look and smell strange compared with the Okanagan. There is fog here at this time of year and rain - all different.
So I watch and take note - it's very interesting! Donkeys are adaptable and eventually Rose and Heather will call this home. For now, they are still visiting!