Domestic Animals on the Range

 

 

Contents

 

General Comments

Domestic animals are brought onto the range by us for companionship, food or fun. The local predators and parasites like dingoes, pythons and ticks take a different view of the matter. They view such additions to their environment exclusively as a food source and act accordingly. You should seriously consider whether you are prepared for the additional effort that domestic animals require, and the possible heartbreak of losing a favourite animal to ticks, pythons or dingoes. (It is not that unusual to hear of a cat, dog, or chook gone missing – usually preyed upon, resulting in death.)

In addition to their being preyed upon, some domestic animals are predators themselves and owners have a responsibility to keep animals on their own property. Many pet-owners are responsible, however the few who are not make life very difficult for all.

Council Local Law No. 2

The Moreton Bay Regional Council Local Law No. 2 (Animal Management) 2011 requires that all domestic animals (including cats and dogs) must have a proper enclosure and be restrained to their own property at all times. These animals must be kept from creating a nuisance — this includes defecating on other people's property, making excessive noise (e.g. barking to such an extent that disturbs other residents), chasing or acting aggressively towards another person or animal, and being walked without a lead.

Dogs over the age of three months are required to be registered annually with the Council. The registered dog must wear a collar or chain with the yellow registration tag attached. Cats are limited to two per household although application may be made for up to four.

The Local Law provides for the de-registration and removal of a dog from the district where it has consistently been allowed to act as a nuisance. Impounded cats and dogs will be held at the Council's Pound and release fees apply.

For further information or reporting of problems contact the Council, Ph: 3205 0555.

Fowls (chooks)

"Handy Hints" (Chris Leonard)

Living as we do "in the bush", we all seem to go through the same learning curve regarding the new challenges we have to meet, bushfire safety, gardening and weed control, water collection and reticulation, fencing, animal and livestock management plus the use and maintenance of things like brush cutters, chainsaws, pumps etc.

And so to chooks ...

Fresh eggs. Most people coming to the Mountain have a desire to keep an animal and I can't think of anything more appropriate than chickens. Chooks are relatively simple to keep and in return provide eggs, meat (if you are so inclined!), manure and with their superb scratching ability, a tractor system which can be used to good effect.

The coop. Step one is to build your coop first before you get the chickens. There are many predators waiting for you to bring your new charges home so it is critical that the roost area be built securely and able to exclude carpet snakes (number one enemy), dingoes, goannas, dogs, cats and foxes. True free range, I have found, does not work up here and if it isn't predators on the ground it will be those from the air which will get your birds.

The run needs to be fully enclosed with ideally small bird wire to exclude snakes and should have something solid like roofing iron sheets standing on their sides and buried 4" - 6" deep into the ground to deter dogs or other large predators from pushing through or digging under what would otherwise just be wire. Your run design should allow a minimum of 1.5 square metres per bird and ensure adequate shade for hot sunny days.

The birds need to be locked up every evening in the roost area and given access back to the run in the morning. An ideal job for the kids. The next thing to free-range is the deep litter system with the run becoming your compost area. This creates an ideal situation which will benefit both you and the birds. You may be familiar with bare dirt runs which are like concrete in summer and mud baths when wet. This situation is unhealthy for your flock.

Spread a layer of any organic material such as sawdust, straw, weeds etc. initially about 150 mm deep throughout the entire coop, continually add to it and you will be assured of a constant and perfect compost supply for your garden. This has little or no smell and attracts no flies.

For the average household 4 - 6 birds are sufficient and this would probably give you extra eggs to swap with friends.

Although initially more expensive, start with point-of-lay pullets. Feed costs will be your largest expense. So unless you want the experience, it is not economic to raise them from chicks. All of our food scraps are put into the run so we don't have problems with flies as in many conventional compost bins. Birds cannot exist on food scraps alone so it is important that they have unlimited access to either pellets or coarse grain mix kept in a feeder which the birds can't spill or scratch the feed from.

For healthy birds it is important that they be given fresh water every day. I have found the ideal drinker to be the "D" shaped ones with an automatic float which are popular with horse owners. Make sure you get the black Poly type which have a drain plug in the base of them. If they are mounted approximately 8" off the ground, you won't have any problems with birds scratching dirt etc into it. Green pick is also a necessity and may comprise fresh lawn clippings, weeds, lettuce and grass. Hang them in a wire basket which allows the hens to peck without trampling it underfoot.

Cats

"Cats" (John Ravenscroft, Mountain News)

It is an undoubted fact that cats pose a significant threat to our native wildlife. With cats being kept in over 30% of Australian households it is estimated that millions of individual animals from over 200 known native species are being killed each year throughout Australia.

Both domestic and feral cats alike are responsible for this slaughter of our wild life, with the large amount of domestic cats providing a continual addition to the feral population. This is especially true in areas such as Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious where the many varied native species of wildlife live in close proximity to large numbers of cats from the surrounding suburbia. Ring-tail possums, bandicoots, native rats and mice together with many different birds and reptiles fall prey to cats in this area.

Aside from the obvious effects of cats killing wildlife in our forests and backyards, their devastating effect has been responsible for the decline or extinction of some native species. They have also prevented or made difFicult the re-introduction of endangered species such as the Mala, or hare-wallaby, in the Northern Territory.

SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE ?

Firstly, people need to ask themselves if they really want or need a cat. Often we hear of cats being obtained to satisfy a child's wish. A suitable alternative is to teach children about our native animals and encourage them to look for wildlife in their own backyard. Buy, or better still make, a birdbath and plant some native shrubs and trees. A cat-free yard with suitable gardens soon has birds, lizards and other animals making it home.

If you must have a cat, the two main things to do are have it de-sexed and confine it to home at night. Bells placed on collars probably serve more to soothe the conscience of owners than protect wildlife but it is better than nothing.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service will be pleased to assist with any further advice people may need about cats and native wildlife.

Dogs

"Our dogs on the mountain" (Geoff Ginn, Glenda, Charles and Sam, former residents, Mountain News).

When we first moved to the mountain, our family included our dog: a much loved mate and companion to our youngest member. As time has passed, he (the dog) has reconfirmed our affection for him in the many likeable and useful things he does. All this makes it quite a painful experience to learn that he is not lovable at all times and indeed, is not welcome by large groups of people on the mountain. It is more distressing to learn that he has been seen chasing wildlife. The distress comes when the family must choose a solution to the dilemma.

The community has a right to have its flora and fauna undisturbed, the family has a right to a dog. There is an onus on the family to manage the pet. As relative newcomers, we don't pretend to know the answer nor to presume that we are alone in the quandary. So far we have decided, because we can't part with him,

a) to not have pets in future

b) to fence an area (about one acre)

c) as an interim (until (b) occurs) to give the dog:

1. Time "on the wire" – linked by a lead to a series of stretched fencing wire lengths. 
2. Time indoors 
3. Time on long walks at the leash 
4. Time on his bed with a long lead attached.

 

At a recent Residents meeting, attendees were alerted to the power of Council Law 2 (DOGS) The association has a copy of this by law should you like to read it. Some aspects are:

It defines as "ferocious", a dog that " has attacked, injured, worried, annoyed, put in fear or caused damage to a person, animal or poultry..." Two complaints in writing can cause a dog, so defined, to be removed from the shire in 7 days.

Even if not declared ferocious, a dog who has been perceived by the Chief Health Surveyor as potentially capable of behaving as above could be destroyed.

Finally, may we again invite other comments on the options available to dog owners from those who have been through the experience successfully.

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