I got Chicken #8 back yesterday, but it took me a few hours. She was hiding in the underbrush and wouldn’t come out, fleeing from me whenever I tried to approach her. The other chickens were all safe in Cluckheim Keep.
Foxes are smart animals. They remember the location of an easy buffet like a pasture full of free-ranging chickens. I didn’t want to lose any more of the flock, but I had to get the straggler back. So I let them all out to free-range again and coaxed them over to the location of Trauma Chicken with some treats. Sure enough, the straggler heard the flock and rejoined them in a hurry. Of course, they didn’t want to go back into the chicken house just yet, so I had to spend two hours out in the rain, standing guard over the flock with the shotgun. At nightfall, they all went inside as usual, and I locked the door and went inside to dry off. The things I do for my poultry.
Later, I was poking around on the Backyard Chickens discussion forum for some ideas on fox-safe runs when I came across a story that made me shake my head in disgust.
When you read the “Predators and Pests” forum at Backyard Chickens, you’ll quickly learn that flock wipes are no rarity. Foxes in particular will stash their kills and work in pairs, and a hungry pair of foxes with kits waiting back at the den can take a flock of twenty chickens in minutes. Foxes are pretty much a constant risk to free-range chickens, and they can get into fairly complex enclosures. What was more irritating to read about, however, was the sheer number of incidents people recounted where free-roaming neighbors’ dogs had killed some or all of their chickens. From the accounts, that’s a pretty common event, and a lot of dog owners just plain refuse to take responsibility for their animals or pay restitution. After all, they’re “just chickens”. (Tell that to the little kid who lost all of her pet chickens to a neighbor dog while she had to watch the whole thing.)
Anyway, one of the posts was a link to this article. To recap: young woman in Durango, CO owns a lab/Great Dane mix. She flies home to Michigan for a family visit, but doesn’t want to pay the extra fees to fly her dog too, so she leaves him in the care of a pet sitter. The pet sitter’s roommate lets the dog out without a leash, and the dog runs off the property, which isn’t fenced in. Dog goes to a neighbor’s farm and proceeds to attack and kill the neighbor’s grandkid’s chickens. Family friend who happens to be at the farm shoots the dog dead after trying to scare him off by yelling doesn’t work.
Dog owner is shocked and amazed to find out that shooting a dog molesting livestock is perfectly legal. Read through the Comments thread on that article for the stereotypical granola soundbites of “needless killing”, “armed rednecks who feel the need to carry a gun around in January”, “shoulda fired a warning shot”, and so on. Now she made a Facebook group trying to get enough signatures to change or amend the law to “give more rights to dogs and their owners.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. We own five of the little stinkers. But I know that we are fiscally and legally responsible for everything they do. If I let them escape out of neglect or inattention, and they run to a neighbor’s property and start killing chickens, I would not fault the neighbor for shooting my dogs. The buck stops with the dog’s owner, and nobody else.
What the hell else is the owner of the chickens supposed to do? You have a large dog (a lab/Great Dane mix is a big animal), engaged in killing your livestock, and not obeying shouted commands to stop. Should you try to physically restrain the animal—which is already in “kill” mode—and risk getting mauled? Should you let him kill all the chickens and then hope you can locate the owner of that dog to ask for restitution? Should you wait for animal control to show up, when a dog can kill an entire flock of 20 or 30 chickens in less time than it takes for you to make the call?
I just can’t fathom the level of self-absorption and blame-shifting that would lead someone to blame the farmer who was forced to deal with the situation.
(I know that dogs are family members to most people, and that losing one hurts a lot. And yes, chickens are cheap. But tell someone who has raised a twenty-chicken flock from the “little yellow fuzzball” stage and watered, fed, and kept them safe every day for months or years only to see them all killed in two minutes for sport by an unleashed dog that they’re only worth the $2.50 a pop you paid for the chicks.)