Monday, July 5, 2010

13 Chickens Killed by Dog

I like dogs. Really. I own one. We both grew up with dogs, large and small. But today I am not liking dogs much.

We went out to a BBQ last night, stayed late to do fireworks with the kids, and got home around midnight. This morning I went out to check on our chickens, which have been in the large enclosure for exactly one week. As I approached the gate, I saw three of them lying on the ground, motionless. Dead. I went inside to look for the rest, hoping more were alive.

Two of them, a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Wyandotte hen, were hiding under the tree. As I walked across the enclosure I saw the rest, their dead bodies strewn around in the far corner. I couldn't help bursting into tears. A dog, or dogs, had dug under the fence and had a grand old time chasing and killing our chickens. The poor things must have been terrified. Wild animals don't make the mess that dogs do. They come in, take the bird and go, with not even a feather left behind. We've had that happen too. It's upsetting, but at least it's not wanton pointless waste.

If we'd been home, we most likely would've heard the fuss and chased the dog off. We've done it before, and it will happen again, I'm sure. This dog tried digging under the fence in more than one place before finding a way in, so it was pretty determined. No matter how well-behaved you think your dog is, if it's running loose at night it's perfectly capable of doing something like this. Even a smallish dog can kill a chicken. In my opinion, people who allow their dog to run free are being irresponsible, and potentially causing harm to their neighbors in ways just like this. Allowing a dog to harass livestock is a crime in Idaho.

Those 16 chicks we bought didn't cost a whole lot. But chicks, plus bedding, food, water, and electricity to keep them warm 24 hours a day for a month isn't cheap. Not to mention our time. Aside from the enjoyment, you do it because you're hoping for a good return. In our case, we were going to have 8 roosters in the freezer and a good supply of eggs from the hens for years to come.

Now we have one very expensive rooster for the pot, and one hen. All because someone was too lazy to take their dog for walks on a leash. You can bet we'll be watching for a return to the scene of the crime.

And in the light of that, we've moved our two surviving birds to a chicken tractor closer to the house. I'd like find three more hens this week. Hopefully some at least a few weeks old, so they won't be too far behind the one we have left. I don't even care much what kind they are, as long as they're laying hens. At least one of my Wyandottes made it.

We've also been thinking of what changes we can make in keeping chickens. We're going to build a new chicken tractor, with wheels to help with moving it around. Then we'll be able to see the chickens around the yard too, which is part of the fun in having them. Eventually as they get older, we'll let them out for part of the day if we're home.

Anyway, most of our day was spent re-furbishing the chicken tractor we have, moving it, and getting the two live birds moved. Then we had the sad experience of digging a large hole to bury the 13 dead ones. Not the funnest weekend.

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