Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chickenus Interruptus


Alas- this is not a post about our friend Madame Crunchus Chickenus, and her various frisk-risky activities, but about a real chicken.

It's still very much winter here, and it's cold out in the makeshift chicken tent we resorted to to get the chickens and guineas (we still have 15, RC!  pictures coming!  someday!) through the winter.

After our ex-dog got through murdering most of the chickens, we were left with 5.  Now down to 4- one of the Buff Orpington roosters vanished last week- at the same time we had a pair of bald eagles hanging around.  The point to the chickens was supposed to be mostly to provide good foster parenting for the guineas, which we have hopes of turning into a well integrated part of the farm- bug control, watchdog duty, with eggs and some meat.  If all goes well.  

4 surviving foster parents is just really thin, of course; particularly when what we have left is 2 big Buff Orp roosters; 1 bantam Brahman (they weren't supposed to be bantys.) - and one - Dominique, of still indeterminate sex.  We think it may be a transvestite chicken- at 9 months of age, all sex indicators are smack in-between male and female.  The bird doesn't crow- but neither, so far, do the roosters attempt to mate with it- and they nail the little banty constantly (and sometimes the guineas, too...)

And the Dominique is in the hospital (the house).  Exactly how it happened is not clear, but yesterday, responding to weird alarm cries from the woods, I found the chicken being tumbled about by - the dog.  Far away from the chicken coop.

Oh, not a happy camper here.  We've been working pretty hard on training this dog to not hassle the birds- and it really seemed to be working.  Putting the muzzle on, any time any agressive move appeared.  Delilah really seemed to be getting it.

The problem is- it's not clear what happened.  Even though 100 yards away from normal range- the bird appears essentially unharmed, though it was pretty shocky when I picked it up.

But- no dog tooth punctures, anywhere; not even any visible bruising.  And after spending the night inside the house, in a covered box, the bird is calm, looks well groomed, and seems- fine.

Ok.  Now what?

It's not that I'm really at a loss for what to do.  We have lots of options- the problem is, they all take lots of time and attention, and it bloody ain't convenient.

It's really irritating, sometimes, how inconvenient life can be.  I mean, really.

Now we have to work.  With the dog.  With the chicken.  With the family.

Sigh.

:-)

ah, well.  beats spending time reading headlines, I suppose.


13 comments:

Nancy M. said...

Sorry about your chickens and your dog. A few weeks ago a couple dogs came on our land and killed 7 of our chickens and hurt a bunch more. I am still mad about it. I wish I had been home when it happened and those dogs would be dead!

Good luck with yours!

belinda said...

I agree damn inconvenient.

On the plus side if the dog wanted the chicken dead it would be.

Since we are talking about a reasonably young puppy my guess would be is that she was playing, roughousing,with an inappropriate animal. If it is play drive rather than prey drive retraining stands a really good chance.

If she was mine one of my aims in life would suddenly become "tired dog" .. Lots of hard mental work, training where she is really thinking right through the day. As you are well aware playing with chickens is a really bad habit for her to decide to cultivate.

Kind Regards
Belinda

Hank Roberts said...

Dang. Someone needs to invent a shock collar for dogs that's tuned to one of those little flat radio frequency passive echo stickers, the kind that's in everything you buy nowadays. Put them on the birds so when the dog gets within three feet "beep" and after five beeps "zap" ...

There's an inverse version of this somewhere that starts beeping when your kid gets more than ten feet away from you or something like that, for keeping track of them in crowds....

Greenpa said...

Nancy- sorry about YOUR birds! That really hurts.

Belinda- you're right, all around. I suspect you're a skilled dog- and people trainer. We ARE working on keeping the dog more tired. Among other things!

Hank- that's a HELLUVA good idea. Somebody could start a business! :-) and- I want some for cows/hazels. I've wanted to try that for a long time- just TRAIN grazers to avoid hazel bushes when they're young. Put them in a training paddock, where the incorrect stuff has RTF tags on it, and put the calves/lambs in until they just totally won't touch the bushes. It should work.

Susan Och said...

Don't be too hasty to blame the dog. The Mediterranean breeds of chickens look different and act different than Buff Orpingtons and the like. They are skinnier, more panic-prone, and more vocal. The hens are fancy enough to be mistaken for roosters and the hens also can get spur nubs. The heavier breeds pick on the Mediterranean breeds, so perhaps that's how your chicken got so far afield.

Was the dog perhaps saving the chicken from an aerial attack?

During our last thaw I saw two immature eagles hovering over the neighbor's 4-H beef project. I wonder how that turned out?

jewishfarmer said...

Susan, Dominiques are Med breeds, just FYI. But generally I agree - my guess is that the dog was moving the chicken, either because of a predator or because she though the chicken didn't belong there. She clearly wasn't trying to hurt it.

Our farmcollies will do this if they catch an animal out of bounds (or out after nightfall) - they pick the chicken up and bring it to us. The chickens do not like this - particularly since Rufus used to drool on them a lot while doing it, and they don't like being covered with dog spit (go figure!) but no real harm was done.

That would be my best guess, anyhow.

Sharon

Anonymous said...

Any chance the dog was trying to return the chicken to the fold (as it were, I know sheep live in folds, or at least are shealted in them)?

MEA

Greenpa said...

Sharon- the way I read Susan's comment, I thought she was saying Dominques were Meds. Language is so tricky! :-)

ANYWAY - all you guys give me hope; and we're a LONG way from giving up on this dog.

We took the chicken into the house for 48 hours. First we had to get it dry, warm, fed, and calm- best done in a towel based closed box. It ran free downstairs during the daytime, and went back in the closed box for 2 nights. At that point, we couldn't see ANYTHING wrong with the chicken; so it's now back out- and doing fine.

We've pulled the dog in a bit closer- and she's taking it very well. When I take her out to tend the birds- she sticks very close- and does nothing threatening; and comes right home with me when I go.

Thanks, you guys; you've cheered me up!

jewishfarmer said...

Of course, what I meant to say is that Doms are *not* Med breeds - language is especially tricky when you are typing fast and being an idiot ;-).

BTW, our Doms were very late layers - they didn't start until they were much older than the others. It sounds like you might need a higher hen to roo ratio, since the poor girls get sick of the boys pretty fast ;-).

Sharon

Susan Och said...

I got waylaid trying to find the chicken book and look up Dominiques. I've never had any myself, but I've been fooled by a Brown Leghorn hen, who I mistook as a rooster because of her fancy neck feathers, spur buds, and upright tail.

Today I'm out cleaning litter out of the barn and I see that my two year old Buttercup hen has actual spurs. She is still flighty as anything, afraid to go outside and scratch. She follows me around constantly, but if I try to touch her she screams bloody murder.

The breeds have such different personalities and behavioral traits. You think you know something about chickens and then you try a new breed and find out how little you know. Ain't it great?

ifthisbeterror -- a Revolution of One said...

When something like this happened to laying ducks in our household, we tried to find a new home for the dog, and then, failing that, I shot the dog.

Perhaps that was a bit ruthless on my part, for some, but there is this: The mass killing of poultry was the second instance and not the first, and my neighbor had over a thousand dollars and a lot of personal interest (and emotion) invested in her exotic poultry coop.

From the Farm said...

Hank, you're a genius :) Your words made me remember a device I saw some time ago - it's used to prevent inside dogs from entering certain room, etc. but it'd totally work with a coop or creep as well. I think Invisible Fence makes it but I'm not sure - need to do some research. Anyway, now I know how to keep my 2 non-working dogs from playing with lambs and chickens :))

Now, if only there was a neat way to keep other people's dogs out of something ...

RC said...

I haven't been able to stop by here lately, but see you at the TAE joint.
I am happy to hear about the guineas doing well. If you read this {Greenpa}, I can discuss the terra preta situation by email, get mine from El G. He has it. He does not have yours, Mr. Mystery.