Welcome to the July 2021 Workcation series. I’ve already given you a brief overview of the projects we tackled while at Kowalski Mountain for our annual workcation. If you missed the overview post, you can find it here. Now we are going to dig deeper to take a closer look at some of the tasks and what they entail. If we make homesteading look easy, I assure you, it’s not! The second post in the July Workcation Series is building the animal pen.
Unexpected Projects: Building the Animal Pen
This project was not on the project list at all. Since we are in the process of moving, on every trip to Kentucky we bring a loaded trailer and bring as many materials as we can. Philip disassembled the poultry enclosures at the Florida House in May. This trip was no different, we brought a trailer full, floor to ceiling. The materials for only one of the pens made it this trip. The plan was just to store the materials until needed. Little did we know, we would need the pen just a few days after arriving.
I first spotted the fawn the very first day we arrived. We hit the ground running as usual. Mowing was the first task on the list, especially the main areas around the RV so we can work more easily. Philip got on the tractor and bush hog, and I got busy with the weed eater. We both had been working around the area for quite a while, but it was not until I approached the bathhouse to weed eat the hill, did I see the fawn. I suspect he had been watching us from the moment we arrived. He was laying down right in front of the bathhouse, hiding in the deep grass. We didn’t bring Roxie with us this trip, and while she is not aggressive at all, I doubt the fawn would have hung around had he seen her.
This is right behind the bathhouse.
This is in the creek just up from the bridge.
I noticed the fawn limping right away. He did a frantic slide to get up as I approached. I didn’t know if he hurt himself trying to get away from me or not. He hobbled up into the woods. I smiled, feeling privileged to have gotten to see him, and went back to my work.
Just Hanging Around
While it’s not uncommon to see fawns alone, does will leave their fawns for hours at a time. We continued to see the fawn every day. He never strayed far from our camp. Not once in the entire time we were on the homestead did we see any other deer close by. When we spotted him again, Philip decided we would try to catch him. The fact that we could catch him at all is a testament to the severity of his injury. All deer, even fawns are very quick.
The fawn had a severe injury to the right rear hock. The injury was old, as it was healing over. But still had a deep cut, most severely on the inside of the leg. The joint was very soft and full of fluid and infection. The fawn was not putting any more weight on his leg than he had to, holding it up when he stood.
The initial impression of the wound is that it’s old. It’s healing over, but still oozing pus. When the hair is pushed away and the wound is cleaned, you can tell it’s still an old wound but still quite the laceration in such a sensitive part of the joint. Both the inside and outside of the joint are injured, though the inside is much more severe. The hock itself is severely swollen, at least three times the size it should be, it’s squishy, full of fluid.
Quick Solution: Temporary Animal Pen
While I held the fawn, Philip and my son-in-law, Stephen Hardy, Macgyvered a quick enclosure. Using gates, fence panels, and feed barrels, a makeshift pen was born. I was concerned it was too hot in the sun, so we provided as much shade as we could. I used the lawn sweeper to pick up some of the hay from Philip’s mowing to provide bedding and food.
Building the Animal Pen
We decided that close to the barn was the most appropriate place for the pen. It only gets early evening direct sun and would allow us to monitor our guest. Permanent animal pens will eventually be near the garden area, but for short-term use and possibly intensive care situations, the pen needed to be close to the RV.
Philip used the bobcat to raise the ground level and level the work area. I did some minor tree trimming with the loppers.
The pen we assembled is a chain link kit, like a large dog kennel. It is a puzzle figuring out how each pole fits together to build the frame, especially a reused one, the labels and instructions are long gone. My camera cut off during filming, so some of the most intense pole sortings was not filmed. Even as we progressed, we questioned some of the decisions we made concerning pole placement. Slowly the pieces came together.
We use wire to attach the chain-link fencing to the poles using safety wire pliers. This uses a special thin wire that can handle the twisting and makes a tight twist to secure items. Philip became a fan of this tool and wire while working as a mechanic in military aircraft.
We added shade cloth on the top of the animal pen and one piece of metal sheeting was laid across the top to provide a little weather protection. The forecast all week was sunny, so providing better protection from the rain was not a priority. Check out this video of the pen construction and some exclusive footage of the fawn.
Making Our Guest Comfortable
I added bedding, a water bucket and we provided feed for the deer. Our rehab could only be short-term. Young deer begin eating food 45 to 60 days old. An examination of their teeth can give clues to their age. We estimated the deer to be in that age range. We knew we would only be able to provide care for one week and I really wanted to be as hands-off as we could be. The goal was to release the deer.
I’m sure that the deer would have taken a bottle had we tried, but it would require handling the deer extensively. When we left, he would have no one to care for him and he would have to eat the grains and hay at that time. We decided to provide only what he would have access to in the wild. We did give him electrolytes to give him a boost and fed him berries in addition to grain which we could provide in a feeder after we left with hay.
We cleaned and bandaged his wound and gave him an antibiotic injection. The deer continued to decline. I really think that his momma had already made the choice to abandon her fawn. We never saw any sign of a doe in the area. The fawn never seemed to be looking for her to return either. The infection did not improve. Sadly, the fawn passed away from his injuries.
It’s easy to question if we could have done more for him. If we had caught him sooner, if we’d fed him differently, if we’d lanced the wound. If we would have had access to a wildlife rehab center. Neither life nor death is in our hands, we just reached out to try to help, and unfortunately, it was not enough. Rest in peace little fawn, I’m sorry we couldn’t have done more.
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.
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Quick Links to the July Workcation Series
Trip Overview: July Workcation: A Summer Tradition
Off-Grid Water Pressure System