It’s not a secret that the world has a massive garbage problem. Our landfills are overflowing and there is so much plastic in the ocean that it’s actually getting concentrated in the bodies of the fish (some people) eat. The world’s population is growing, and the plastic problem is getting worse and worse. It blocks waterways, sea life gets caught in it and end up dying. Those are just a few examples of how detrimental plastic is to our planet and it’s wildlife.
Several years ago, I went on a Panama Canal cruise with my dad. One of the excursions we picked was a jungle river tour in Costa Rica. We travelled along a bumpy dirt “road” in a coach bus. As I stared out the window, my heart broke. Beautiful beaches, that should be populated with children and families, frolicking in the sand and enjoying the sunshine. That was not the case. The entire beach, as we travelled, was littered with garbage. Not a single person, just piles of plastics and rubbish. I was told that this is because the people can’t afford to have their garbage picked up and disposed of, so they throw it into the ocean and onto the beaches.
My heart broke even further when we were on the small boat in the river. There was some really amazing wildlife, exotic birds, etc. It was an experience of a lifetime. What broke my heart was seeing a crocodile on the shore, laying right beside an empty milk jug.
Plastics are a killer. It kills plant life, ocean life and causes danger to many different animals. Plastic is made from toxic compounds known to cause illnesses and it is not biodegradable. It does not break down. It is overused, less expensive and causes harm to the land and life when it is burned.
One of the biggest problems is fishing nets. A lot of people around the world consume fish for their daily meals. The nets are made from plastics and actually account for 46% of the plastic in the ocean! Also having the nets in the water for long periods of time, releases pollutants into the water and the fish themselves.
Plastics leak pollutants into the ground and water. This is killing so much wildlife. It is also affecting us as humans. We are using so much plastic, such as water bottles, plastic shopping bags, food containers, etc.
So the question is: what do we do about it?
You’ll find a lot of restaurants now use cardboard or paper straws. You can help with this by not using plastic straws. There’s actually metal and glass straws that you can buy, wash after each use and just carry it with you when you go into a restaurant.
When you go grocery shopping, skip using the plastic bags to bundle and carry your groceries. Use paper bags (which are biodegradable) or cloth shopping bags, which can be reused over and over. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
Instead of buying boxes of items like cereal, pasta, etc. buy them in bulk and use a bag or container that you care re use.
Do you chew gum? There are many reasons not to chew gum, but it is made from synthetic rubber, which is, you guessed it, plastic.
Another idea? Don’t use plastic cutlery. It is plastic. I have been guilty of using plastic cutlery in the past, but after learning and realizing how detrimental it is to, well, EVERYTHING, I have switched to regular stainless steel cutlery.
There are a lot of ways we can reduce the use of plastic. It just takes some effort. But if you could look and see how it is affecting innocent wildlife and land, it just might give you some incentive to change.
Not only is plastic hurting wildlife, but it is hurting humans as well. By burning it, it is releasing toxins into the air we breathe. Maybe that is enough to make the change from plastics to biodegradable items?
Whatever your motivation is, we need to make a change. It’s that simple. We need to cut out the use of plastics in our lives and be aware that it’s hurting fish, the land and other wildlife – which is then affecting humans.
I hope places like Costa Rica can find a way to dispose of their garbage in a more sensible way. I know it’s difficult with third world countries, but, if we can start the change right here in Canada, maybe one day that milk jug won’t be sitting beside the crocodile.
Author: Alex Singleton
A Home for Hooves is home to several Muscovy ducks that were rescued in January 2019. They are bush ducks and are very sneaky on where they hide their nests and eggs. Michelle and the volunteers at A Home for Hooves have quite the ordeal trying to keep track of all the nests and eggs. They collect the eggs and then feed them back to the ducks so they can retain the nutrients they've lost through the egg laying process.
There are between 140 – 175 birds in the Anatidae family, which includes all ducks, swans and geese.
Wild Muscovy ducks have dark plumage and can be found in forested areas. The domestic varieties are heavier, less agile and have different plumage which varies. The domestic varieties live on farms and in parks in warm climates around the world.
Wild Muscovy ducks have strong claws and spend a lot of time perching in trees. As Michelle has found out, they make their nests in tree cavities, hidden in the brush and bushy areas.
The largest duck in North America is the male Muscovy duck, while the female is only half their size. The female Muscovy ducks lay 8-15 eggs and then plays protector of the eggs also raises the ducklings. The ducklings have sharp claws and hooked bills which they use to climb out of the nest.
Muscovy ducks are peaceful, calm birds that are quiet and friendly and even hunt flies. Like other ducks, they need water to survive and are hardy in all weathers.
I found this quite funny… if a Muscovy duck is happy or excited, they wag their tales! They also do this as a greeting sign but a male has been known to do it in aggression as well. Muscovy ducks have a flocking behaviour which makes them want to be around people. They live around 8-12 years in the wild but in domestic situations they can live up to 20 years.
Muscovy ducks are their own species. Many people believe that Muscovy ducks are more of a goose than a duck. This is thought because they do not quack and are known as being quackless.
Muscovy ducks eat a variety of different food. They are omnivorous which means that they feed on reptiles, fish, worms and insects. They love finding larvae under rocks, and also eat snails and crabs. Muscovy ducks also eat different plant material like weeds, leaves, seeds and roots.
Female Muscovy ducks start laying eggs when they are about six months old. In the wild, ducks will start laying their eggs in the spring.
Muscovy ducks have something called “caruncles” which are red fleshy parts around their face. Caruncles help Muscovy ducks keep their feathers clean while they peck at the ground or search the water for tasty larvae and insects.
These ducks will lay up to 180 eggs a year and have about four sets of ducklings. The eggs take longer than other poultry to hatch - an egg takes 33 to 35 days to hatch, but a chicken egg hatches in 21 days.
A note if you are going to the sanctuary to see the Muscovy ducks – bread is bad for a bird’s health. They fill up on the bread and then don’t get the right nutrients from insects and other staples in their diet.
Muscovy ducks are gorgeous looking birds. When visiting A Home For Hooves, make sure to ask Michelle to introduce you to these beauties at the sanctuary.
Author: Alex Singleton
This week’s topic is goats. All about goats, and even talking about how sneaky they can be in escaping their corral panel pen at Home for Hooves!
There are four resident goats at A Home for Hooves. These mischievous guys are Finnegan, Buddy, Smurfy and Remi and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting these silly yet beautiful boys. A few weeks ago, I had a good laugh with Michelle about the three little ones escaping their new pen and the difficulty she had keeping them in.
Did you know that goats were one of the first animals to be tamed by humans? They’ve been herded for over 9,000 years now. Goats were one of the first animals brought to America and there were goats on the Mayflower!
Goats are very intelligent and like dogs, can even be trained to have a name and come when called. Their lifespan is about the same as a dog. And how could you not like goats? They make you laugh, they smile, and they are oh so mischievous!
You probably know that baby goats are known as “kids”, but did you know that the birth of a baby goat is called “kidding”? No, I’m not kidding…
Finnegan, Buddy, Smurfy and Remi are well into their senior years, but I couldn’t tell when I met them. They’re playful, intelligent and always make me smile.
Did you know goats don’t have teeth on their upper jaw. They use their tongue and upper lip to separate through twigs to get to plant’s leaves. Goats are more intelligent than you probably realize. They live in complex social groups, they are experts at getting hard to reach foods – for example – some goats are known for climbing trees in search of leaves and other vegetation. Goats live for a long time and they are able to build up memories and skills, unlike some other short lived animals.
There is a misconception that goats like to eat garbage. Well, I can assure you that at A Home for Hooves, the four handsome boys are fed fresh, delicious hay and their diet is fine tuned to keep them healthy. Surprisingly, goats are picky eaters. They are able to pick leaves off thorn bushes or seek out the perfect bit of grass.
Researchers have found that goats are just as smart and loving as dogs, and are just as capable of building emotional relationships with humans and other domesticated animals. Unlike sheep, goats are comfortable in living outside of a flock.
So, throw out all those misconceptions you have about goats not being intelligent or good companions. They are just as smart as dogs and make just as good a companion. Head over to A Home for Hooves to meet the four goats and I will assure you, they will make you laugh and are known to pose pretty well for pictures!
Author - Alex Singleton
Did you know that chickens are quite intelligent? The very idea that chickens can actually count and do simple math is puzzling to most people. But, they are actually very smart and can even be cunning in how they react to other chickens, and other humans. Chickens have abilities that compare to a human toddler.Some facts about chickens. Chickens have some degree of self control, and can be quite sneaky. They can actually learn to refuse food, if they knew they’d get more later. As humans, we can recognize thousands of different people. Did you know that chickens can recognize about 100 different individual chickens? They can also recognize different humans. So, they can recognize Michelle coming to feed them, and they can also recognize the volunteers as well! There is an interesting concept that if you show a chicken an object, then take it away, the chicken will actually look for the item as to where you have put it. Baby humans are not able to do this until they’re a bit older.
Chickens can count! They can actually do basic math as objects in front of them are moved. Hens can count to at least six. Even chicks can do basic math. If you shuffle five items in a game, they mentally keep track of the items and choose the area with the higher amount of items. Chickens can do this better than toddlers!
Chickens can multitask. They use one eye to forage for food and the other to look out for predators. They are social animals, and it has been shown that they recover from stress quicker when in the company of other chickens. Also, they can share precise information about the location of food and presence of predators by using different sounds and calls. Ever wonder what the chickens at A Home for Hooves are saying? It’s pretty interesting to know that they are communicating with each other and socializing. They will even change behavior depending on who is around them. Chickens have over 24 types of ways to vocally communicate. They use different vocal sounds for things like an incoming predator or to communicate to stick together. They also can show empathy, they do this by an ability to be protective of their chicks and even the chicks of others!
I mentioned earlier that chickens can be sneaky. They can show Machiavellian manipulation. Machiavellianism in psychology refers to a personality trait when someone is so focused on their own interests, they will manipulate, deceive and exploit others to achieve their goals. So, chickens use this behavior to get what they want. For instance, my example of refusing food, knowing that if they did, they would get a larger amount of food later.
Chickens have a complex nervous system and are sensitive to pain, pressure and temperature. It has also been discovered that chickens can see a broader range of colours than humans.
In relaxed situations, like a Home for Hooves, chickens show a range of behaviors and emotions. They like to play games like hide and seek. Did you know, that by stroking a chicken, it can actually start purring like a cat. Ask Michelle at a Home for Hooves to show you!
So, I’ve personally learned a lot by researching this topic and writing about it. I had no clue how intelligent chickens are and they have feelings, emotions and traits similar to humans, and can actually perform tasks.
Next time you think a chicken is “stupid” – think again!
Author - Alex Singleton
Potbelly pigs are very intelligent animals. They have herd dynamics and to be content, they need the companionship of both other beings and most importantly – other pigs.
Pigs stay together to keep safe, because they are a prey animal. But, they also need other pigs to play with, eat, sleep and sort out the herd. It is important for pigs to live with other pigs because it provides enrichment, mental and physical stimulation and a unique companionship that other animals can’t provide. Believe it or not, if a pig doesn’t have a companion, they can become bored and depressed, and those can lead to the pig becoming ill. Pigs entertain each other, so by getting 2, you will spend a lot less time providing physical and mental stimulation.
Pigs are some of the most social animals. They form big herds in the wild, mainly as a form of protection.
In the wild, potbelly pigs live in about 8 members of a herd. The herd usually consists of 3 sows and their babies. With these pigs, a social hierarchy is formed and promotes social maturity. Also, in the wild, communal nesting is common. When cold, the herd will huddle together.
A potbelly pig is not protected by fur. Remember that when you have them outside, that they have adequate shade and shelter. In the wild, potbelly pigs wallow in the mud to protect themselves from the sun. As weather changes, make sure to keep your pig warm, dry and away from drafts in your house.
Pigs are also good animal companions for humans, as they are affectionate and trainable. The potbelly pigs at A Home For Hooves sure love belly rubs! A lot of the pigs at a Home for Hooves have been rescued from bad situations like neglect and abuse. The fortunate thing is that pigs learn to trust humans, which is quite evident at the sanctuary. It does take them time to be comfortable around other people and trust them, but they learn that not all people are going to hurt them.
Pigs also require a good diet. A Home for Hooves ensures that all of their pigs are fed healthy food, and they love treats like watermelon and apples. Your pigs will need a good living space, where they can root around and have enough room to be comfortable.
Potbelly pigs have an average life span of 12 to 18 years, so please remember they are a lifetime commitment!
Author - Alex Singleton
A lot of people are tempted to surprise their child with a cute, fluffy rabbit as a pet. But are YOU and your CHILD prepared to give them the proper care they require? It is a fact that rabbits are, besides cats and dogs, the animal most taken in by shelters. The sad fact is that people are buying rabbits and not realizing that they are a very big responsibility. A lot of rabbits get abandoned or “released” into the wild, often killed by predators, or starve to death. There is a high number of rabbits that are bought as gifts that don’t make it to their 1st birthday.
Well cared for, indoor rabbits typically live 7 – 10 years. They are not your typical pet, a normal veterinarian is suggested for rabbit medical care, however they do not need the same medical care as a cat or dog. Rabbits also need to be brushed, fed well and live in a clean environment. Their diet consists of grass hay, high fibre pellets and green veggies, like broccoli. Rabbits are designed to eat large fibrous food in order to remain healthy.
Rabbits poop. A LOT. So, be prepared to clean their cage well. The cage is their home, would you want poop where you sleep? To clean the cage, you wash and scrub it using dish soap and wipe down with hot water and vinegar, this will help with stubborn urine marks.
Rabbits love being outdoors! A lot of people will keep them in a cage or hutch outside. But, you have to be mindful of a few things – rabbits are prey animals that are in danger of being attacked by dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, etc. You should also ensure that the cage is secure so that the rabbit cannot escape. Make sure that the cage or hutch protects your rabbit from the elements. Rabbits do not handle extreme temperatures or being wet very well.
Be aware – when you have your rabbit outside, be knowledgeable of the vegetation that is poisonous to rabbits. Things like daffodils, tulips, and lilies are toxic.
Rabbits can also get lonely. A lonely rabbit may develop behavioural issues such as being hyperactive and angry. Social interaction with other rabbits is extremely important for their mental health. And yes, a rabbit can die from loneliness. When they are bonded with another rabbit, they form a very strong relationship. If that bond is broken, through physical separation or death of the partner, it severely affects the rabbit. A lot of shelters will have a single adoption fee for two bonded rabbits in order to ensure they have this necessary companionship.
Also, rabbits chew a lot. Their teeth grow continually all their lives and the act of chewing helps keep the teeth trimmed. There are tons of rabbit toys out there for chewing. You could also try branches from apple or willow trees, grass mats and cardboard. But also keep in mind that if your rabbits friends are hoping around in your home, some of your belongings may get damaged.
Rabbits can be great pets. They just need proper care and understanding of their natural behaviour. Please do not leave your “unwanted” rabbit on the side of the road or release it into the wild. Shelters will take them, and most farm sanctuaries rescue rabbits as well. Yes they are cute, but don’t be fooled – they take a lot of work!
Author - Alex Singleton
I have lost count of the number of people who say they want to volunteer but either don’t show up, cancel at the last minute never to contact me again or come only once. If I had to guess, I’d say 80% of people that show interest in volunteering never actually commit.
Here are the basic job duties of a volunteer at A Home for Hooves which are not for the faint of heart:
Dogs Walked/Runned - Check
Henry and Gertie Fed - Check
Dodged Presley’s attacks - Check
Gracie Fed - Check
Charles Fed - Check
Pot Belly Herd Fed While Listening to Eugene Squeal - Check
Eugene and Violet Fed - Check
Goats Fed - Check
All Waters Filled Up - Check
Fresh Straw For Everyone - Check
Dogs Fed - Check
Close Up Roosters for the Night - Check
Put Gertie and Henry to Bed - Check
Put Dogs To Bed - Check
Put Tiny Human to Bed - Check
Feed the Cats - Check
Write Blog While Watching the Second Season of “This is Us” and Snuggling Our Cat Alice - In Progress
Asking for donations is pretty much the story of my life these days because running a sanctuary requires a constant inflow of funds. This is in order to ensure the operation runs smoothly and the animals are cared for appropriately. There are several grant opportunities available but we haven’t been able to apply for any of them because all the ones I can find require your non-profit to be a registered charity which we are not yet. But since we have been up and running for a year, we will soon apply for our charity status but this can take 1 to 2 years if we are approved. So for now we rely solely on donations from the public which is also harder for us to obtain because we are not able to issue tax receipts as this can only be done by registered charities. Our main sources of income are sponsorships, crowdfunding, Patreon supporters, fundraising and online requests for donations. Constantly asking for donations is definitely out of my comfort zone and it’s not something I’m fond of doing but I wouldn’t be able to run the sanctuary if I didn’t. One of the key reasons why I am writing this blog is that I want everyone to know how the money we receive is spent. All the funds that come into the sanctuary go directly to the animal’s care or to the infrastructure of the sanctuary. There are absolutely no administration fees and on that note you should check out the percentage of the money that actually goes to some big charities, it will blow your mind how much goes to administration fees.
Whenever possible I try and get items for free or second hand and if that’s not obtainable I must purchase them.
Here is a list of items our money is spent on:
· Materials to build shelters
· Labour to build – this is only for larger projects where I don’t have an experienced volunteer to take on
· Fencing (An incredible expense due to the high quality required to keep our animals safe and contained)
· Food (one of the biggest expenses)
· Equipment (halters, wheelbarrows, shovels, hoof trimmers, food dishes, water bowls, tarps, brushes and this list could go on and on…..)
· Medication (dewormer, antibiotics, materials for minor cuts and scrapes etc.)
· Unanticipated veterinary visits (A huge expense)
· Spays and Neuters
· Enrichment activities
· Bedding (Straw and Shavings)
I am truly honoured that there are so many members of the public that entrust their money with us. Please know that all the money that is donated goes directly to what you hoped it would go to along with my blood, sweat and tears. So I just want to simply say thank you!
The most difficult part of running a sanctuary is knowing when you have to say no. In one year we’ve gone from having two cats to having 21 animals in our care. In addition to caring for these animals I work full time, my husbands works away half the week and I have a 2 year old – if cloning was a thing I would happily sign up for two copies of myself. Prior to having my daughter and running a sanctuary I used to think I didn’t have time to do things; now that’s pretty dang funny! But I have to make note that without our amazing volunteers (Sarah, Carol, Kirsti, Rick, Karen and Andrea), who do majority of the physical labour at the sanctuary, this wouldn’t be happening without their help. They are all incredibly kind and generous individuals that I am extremely fortunate to have in my life.
At the moment I can honestly say we are at capacity until we have more infrastructure in place. The reality is, that every week I am asked to take new animals and as much as it breaks my heart, I have to say no A LOT! If I said yes to every animal I was asked to take, our animal count would be closer to 100 and I would be running the sanctuary irresponsibly. In order to ensure the safety and health of the animals in our care (and my sanity) I have to take several things into consideration when taking in a new resident.
1. Are the current animals in our care sponsored?
2. Do I have the ability to quarantine them for at least 3 weeks?
3. Once the quarantine period is over do I have adequate space to keep them?
4. Are they fixed?
5. Do they have any special needs and I would I be able to accommodate those?
If I can answer yes to all five of these questions then I will seriously consider taking the animal in.
Just to give you an idea this is what we are planning over the next year as discussed in our AGM tonight:
1. Fundraise for a $11,000 perimeter fence, a $4000 large animal fence and about $2000-$4000 for large animal shelters
2. Determine how our one legged turkey, Gertie, will keep her mobility as she grows
3. Obtain a therapy chair for Henry (Cornish Cross Chicken)
4. Build a special needs coop for Gertie and Henry
5. Integrate Charlie #2 with the pot belly herd – this is going to take some time as he is very nervous around pigs so his integration process is going to be long especially considering we are coming up to the rainy season
6. Train and socialise our new rescue dogs Rocky and Lucky – these two have solid personalities (affectionate and gentle) but they don’t know any commands and they have never been around farm animals before.
7. Apply for charity status.
Some of these may seem daunting, especially number 1, but slow and steady wins the race and we’ll achieve these goals eventually. We just have to keep plugging along!
In December 2015 I was 4 months pregnant and had made the decision to have my 6 year old cat Athena euthanized as she could no longer battle the hereditary kidney disease that had taken her sister one year prior. I’m not sure if it was the hormones flooding my body or not, but having her put to sleep was absolutely devastating for me and it rocked me to my core. The only thing I was thankful for was seeking out a Veterinarian that came to our home to end her suffering.
When I had her sister Persephone put to sleep I drove to a vet clinic in town. While I waited to end her life it was rather unpleasant having strangers surrounding me while I was doing everything in my power to keep my composure. Persephone’s goodbye gift was biting me on the wrist when the veterinarian poked her with the needle. This landed me in the ER 12 hours later with a severe infection that ended with me being on IV therapy for 5 days.
When Athena passed the grief was so unbearable that I remember my husband and I driving around later in the day and I had the most powerful feeling that I did NOT want to go home. I couldn’t bear to be in our house and not have that beautiful creature come running to the door meowing her little face off as she told me everything about her day.
About a month after Athena’s passing I started to look for another bonded pair to adopt. Late one night I came across Koda and Alice on the BC SPCA’s website and they were being featured as the Pet on the Net which is basically animals that are taking longer to adopt than average. After reading their story I convinced my husband to drive down to Victoria to go and meet them. When we finally arrived and walked into their room we both fell in love; my husband latched onto Koda and I latched onto Alice. After spending about half an hour with them we went to the administration to review their paperwork. As soon as I started to read why their previous owner had surrendered them my heart sank because they quite the rap sheet! Alice was apparently guilty of being very active at night, peeing on the stove (I thought this one was comical), peeing on the laundry and scratching the furniture. Koda was guilty of peeing on the laundry, scratching the furniture and pooping on the bed when he was mad. I thought the pooping on the bed accusation was hilarious because how would the previous owner know it was him. I soon found out that Koda has massive poops compared to Alice’s dainty poops so you would definitely he was the guilty party. After I finished reading it through I thought there was no way my husband would agree to adopt them especially considering we were having a baby a few months later and cats are not typically welcoming of new attention seekers. I have to admit that my husband completely shocked me on this day; he said that he had a good feeling about them and wanted to adopt them. Well holy toledo was I ever ecstatic because I kinda have a thing for misfit animals that no one else wants. We’ve had these two, close to three years now, and I am happy to report that in our household they are only guilty of scratching furniture. Though I must admit they did leave one thing off Koda’s rap sheet and that is the fact he drips stinky drool when he’s getting affection which is kinda gross but adorable at the same time.