Hens in peril

I was outside this afternoon, brushing my collie (colley?) Principessa with a currycomb, as she’s been looking winter-ratty. I’m planning a makeover for her in the spring, complete with a bath, trim and furstyling. It should be a Great Event: she’s 8 years old and has never experienced anything of the sort. She seems to enjoy the currycombing, as long as I don’t pull on the tangles.

In general she’s a very, very good dog. Nowhere near a Lassie standard of intelligence, but maybe that’s a lack of training on my part. She’s a responsive and trustworthy dog with no aggressive tendencies toward other dogs – and yet she won’t be intimidated. Her approach to humans is 100% friendliness.
princi-20091

Cats: not so much. Even the cats who have befriended her still have to watch their backs, and are advised to walk away slowly, never, ever run.

But you can see where I’m going with this: it’s the chickens that bring out the worst in her, and that’s only relatively recently. It was only last spring that she decided to sample chicken, and she started small: one banty hen. At the time, I figured she mistook it for a pigeon, and forgave her. But then she reduced a young rooster to a pile of fluffy white feathers, and there is of course the unexplained sudden disappearance of the gentle Polish rooster. Then there were the systematic attacks on hens who we saved just before she finished them off. I had to make the difficult choice last summer: it was either the chickens or Principessa. Who would run free, that is. I tried a few days of alternating between the two: one day of freedom for Principessa, the next she remained tethered and the hens roamed free. (Technically, both freedoms are discouraged in municipal law or federal poultry guidelines, but I’ve disregarded both as unnecessary and harmful to animal welfare.) Finally, I came to a different compromise, siding heavily with the hens: they would be free from sunrise till sunset, and then Principessa could be off her tether without supervision. Once the snows came, the hens stayed inside everyday, and Principessa was once again free as a…bird.

So as I was combing her today, I noticed a small pile of brown feathers in the snow. Upon closer inspection, it was in fact the head of one of my six (now five) hens, who must’ve slipped out while I was feeding them. Principessa must have taken note of that and returned when I went into the house.

The warm season dilemma of dog versus hens is going to come again in a few months, and I’d love to find a way to stop the poultricide. If anyone has any suggestions, please tell.

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9 Comments on “Hens in peril”

  1. JJ Says:

    Oh-oh, a chicken killer, and a sneaky one at that! You know more about animals than I do, but my own personal experience tells me that once dogs have tasted chicken blood it’s awfully hard to break them of the habit.

    I’d probably try to have them running loose in shifts — never at the same time.

    BTW, I’d love to see pictures of Principessa’s makeover. She’ll probably love it — one of my dogs had his first makeover at 8, and he was ecstatic! He was marching around for days showing himself off, you could almost see him thinking “Look at me! Am I not beautiful??” Hahaha, dogs.

  2. skdadl Says:

    Love that last photo, brebis noire, that intelligently questioning look. I’d know you anywhere. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Och, sometimes they hurt us just by being themselves, yes? Principessa is gorgeous — I really envy you such a companion.

    I don’t know that there is a perfect solution to your dilemma, and you know that I write as a city person. But it seems to me easier to keep even large dogs not only tethered but indoors except for their regular walkies under supervision — I know a lot of people who do that because in the city they have to, and the dogs don’t seem to me to be suffering.

    Whereas … there ain’t a lot that you can teach the hens, is there?

    Blessings on all your wee animals, brebis noire. You keep reminding me of the things that count, sometimes in hard ways.


  3. No answers–just sympathy.

  4. Toe Says:

    Do you have to have chickens brebis? Is it the eggs? You know what my choice would be. Meantime put up a fence of chickenwire until you figure it out. Good luck and indeed let’s have a pic of P when she’s all high falutin’ looking.

  5. hemmingforddogblog Says:

    Fencing is the only solution! We fenced in our back yard last year to keep the choc lab from going into the creek that borders the back of the property. Good decision — in the past two weeks we seem to be on some sort of deer migratory path. Every day there are dozens of deer in the fields nibbling on corn leftovers. Fence in the chickens!

  6. brebis noire Says:

    hemmingford, are you looking to prevent leptospirosis that way? Or just to keep him relatively clean and dry? The deer are out and about these days – Principessa chased a herd of them back into the woods yesterday, they were eyeing what’s left of the cedars).
    Fencing in the chickens might be a good option, but I’ve grown to enjoy watching them roam around free. They appear genuinely happy, and they run after the kids begging for grain. They also do a good job on the compost heap.
    I admit, I was hoping for some miracle dog-training technique…;-)

  7. brebis noire Says:

    Toe, I have to have chickens because I cannot buy grocery store eggs anymore. I’d have to stop eating eggs altogether.
    If I could send Principessa to live with you, I would. You guys would get along famously.
    I’ll look into some kind of portable fencing unit, that might be a solution.

  8. brebis noire Says:

    Thanks for your sympathy Lilian, that’s what I was mostly aiming for. ๐Ÿ™‚

    skdadl, that chicken is pondering the comparative nutritional value of worms versus beetles, I’m sure of it.`
    I wouldn’t want to keep Principess indoors (though she comes into the furnace room at night in winter). That would piss off the cats, and I couldn’t cope with the extra cleaning and smell. She smells like a dog who hasn’t taken a bath in 8 years. But at least her teeth are remarkably clean and she’s at a very healthy weight. Never been sick a day in her life, so far.

    JJ – I was kind of worried about that, but your comment has relieved me. One of the techs at the clinic where I work is an expert groomer, and I could watch her for hours. Sometimes, I don’t even recognise a dog when she’s finished – I swear she switched dogs on me when I wasn’t looking. And it’s rare that she has use a muzzle; almost never uses sedative (except in cats). I’d swear that most of the dogs enjoy the experience, or at least the result. Many of them are obviously happy to see her.

    Anyways, I’m really disappointed that after 7 years of good behaviour toward chickens that Princi has become a killer.

  9. mouthyorange Says:

    I will check out something for you, and if it amounts to anything I will get back to you. Meanwhile, I can offer you something else. If you should be interested. Depends upon how far you want to go to see if you can get more harmony going between the needs of Principessa and the chickens.

    Silvia Jay is the dog behaviour expert most in touch with what dogs are about and most respectful of them that I’ve ever heard of. I’ve had some personal contact with her and think she’s wonderful. She’ll do consulting over the phone with people who are outside of Truro or Halifax. I couldn’t recommend anyone more. Her website is amazing too.

    http://www.voice4dogs.com/index.html


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