Ok, so, I have some friends who have been asking for this story recently. I have 5 sheep, 3 shetlands, and 2 Icelandic/Shetland crosses. Now, both of the Icelandics are wethered (fixed) boys, which should mean that they are pretty docile. Unfortunately, that does not work for my two. James Baaahnd (ear tag 0007) was a bottle baby, so likes people and attention, which means he is relatively easy to catch. Q, however, was raised by his mama, and is one wary, wily son-of-a-gun. The Shetlands, Monet, Chocolatl, and S’Mores, are all wary too, but that’s partly due to the fact that they are older, and came from a large flock where they didn’t get handled very often, so I forgive that wariness in them. It also doesn’t hurt that they only have to be sheared once a year. James and Q, on the other hand, have to be sheared twice a year. James comes willingly, but once held stationary is all twitches and wiggles. At least I can catch him! Q, however, is hard to catch, but easy to shear.
Since they have to be sheared twice a year, once in early April, and again in early September, you would think they would have gotten used to the process by now. The spring shearing was my first time ever, and took some experimentation, but I finally got it figured out. James was easy enough, but had to be done twice, as the first time I left way, way too much wool on him, and he looked like a ragged mop within a day or two afterward. I had used both the “old fashioned” hand shears designed for sheep, and an older pair of sewing shears; the sheep shears are just way too large for sheep as small as Icelandics tend to be, but the sewing shears worked well. Q was a doll and laid or stood nice and still for me, once we caught him and he learned he was tethered.
This fall was a different story though. James was easy to catch, as usual, but so very twitchy that it took two of us to shear him, one to hold him mostly still and me to do the actual shearing. It took me about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, to get done with James. Of course, Q would have to wait for another day, as he had evaded capture once again. Now, James was sheared around the 6th of September, right on time. I knew I had a few days to work with, but that I would have to catch Q sooner rather than later, as we were due to leave on vacation on the 11th.
So I tried the next day to catch Q, put feed in the feed pen, walked away, etc, but he knew the jig was up, and would not even go near the feed, much less the feed pen. So I went out into the pasture to see if I could drive him in, then get lucky enough to get the gate closed. No such luck, but I’m sure I was quite a sight, chasing that darn sheep around with a bucket of grain…trying to get him to just come take a bite, in the hopes of grabbing him and then wrestling him into the feed pen. Yeah, not happening. Sheep 1, Shepherd, 0.
A few days go by, before I try again, but same story as before, only now he just totally ignores me! Feed? what Feed? Who cares!! was his attitude. I felt like he took one look at me and said “go away little girl, ya bother me!” Sheep 2, shepherd, 0
It was getting dark anyway!
By this time, I’m out of time before vacation, so I think, “Fine, he wants that coat so bad, he can keep it for a while!”
We go on vacation, during which time the weather was wonderful for shearing, nice cool days, and not-too-cold nights. However, by the time we’re back from vacation the fall rains have started. And they don’t stop for weeks. Of course.
By now it’s the first week of October. So I try again to catch him, not really intending to shear, just going to take the opportunity if it presents itself, which it did! I go take some feed out, and all the sheep go into the feeding area. I hesitate, wondering if I can get in and get the gate closed in time to catch Q, or if he will run wildly. I manage to get inside the pasture and get the gate mostly closed, but it gets caught on something, because it’s just really a loose section of fence that we usually keep curled back on itself to prevent anyone from getting hurt on it. So, determined now, I attempt to block the opening that’s left with the pasture gate and my body, during which time several things occur. Aslief the goat, and James both go out, thinking they have been invited out to graze, which is fine. However, now the rest of the sheep, still in the feeding pen, have realized that their escape may be cut off. They panic, and begin running around in the small space, trying to find a way out. I let Monet out, as he catches the opening just right, but am still trying to keep Q from escaping. At this point I have the pasture gate in one hand, and the loose fence that’s the feed pen gate in the other hand, and manage to body-block one escape attempt from Q. I think, Oh, good, maybe this will actually happen today!
Ha! But Q is smarter than I am, apparently. He takes one look at the very small space left between my hand/arm and the feed pen gate, backs up a few steps, and takes a flying leap toward freedom, ducking his head to ram full-force into the back of my left hand in the process. Now, I don’t know if you have ever had a 60+ pound sheep take a flying leap in order to head-butt the back of your hand, but let me tell you, I was seeing visions of the emergency room between the stars floating around my head! I was sure it was broken, and he had once again succeeded in gaining his freedom. Once I was relatively sure it wasn’t broken, but simply swollen, bruised, and scraped, I started seeing visions of roast mutton and a nice sheepskin rug. It’s a good thing my hand hurt so bad, as I was sorely tempted to come back and make meat out of that damn sheep. So, another week goes by, and now it’s the 11th of October. It’s a nice day, even been mostly dry for a few days, so I recruit my husband and we put the plan into action. We go out and set up the gate so that it will be easy to close once Q finally goes for the grain, and then we go about other business.
The next day, when we are ready, we both go out, with grain, and get them all to come into the feeding pen. Q is always the last to enter, and the first to leave, being as nervous as he is. I had to actually walk away and do something else, while Mark stayed to man the ropes on the gate. Once Q was actually in the pen Mark pulled the ropes and got the gate closed. Then we worked on getting the others out while not letting Q escape. This time we had to catch and tether him to the fence,which took both of us, as he puts up quite a fight!
Once we had him tethered we backed off to let him relax and assess the situation. Meanwhile I gathered my scissors, a small stool, and a garbage bag. Mark went back inside while I proceeded with the shearing. For all that trouble, Q was remarkably easy to shear, as once he got the idea that he could not get away he was all grace and bowed to the inevitable. It’s a good thing for him that he has such nice fleece, or I might have yet decided that the rug was the better end of the bargain!
As you can see from the photos, he had quite a lot of wool on him, and is a small sheep under it all. These last three show the final results, a sheared sheep, the “good stuff” in the middle photo, and the “junk” (legs, belly, face, etc.) in the last photo. That pile of good wool doesn’t look too big, but it completely filled a tall kitchen trash bag!