For those of you who read Farm Life Lessons, you already know that our large dogs are well-trained to not lay a paw or snap a jaw at our chickens. It has taken a lot of interactive, eye-to-eye training, but Howdy, the Australian Shepherd, is always busy running circles around the chickens, but he would flip over himself before hurting a chicken. Then, the dog we rescued many years ago, Lyla (spelling never right), is a beautiful dog that is probably part boxer, part collie and she is just as sweet as can be with the chickens --- a nurturer. My large dogs are let outside several times per day, without supervision, and they live in complete harmony with our chickens.
But, this weekend, I got a taste of seeing a dog who is prone to attacking chickens.
Out of the blue, the cutest little dog made a visit to our house this weekend, a Yorkshire Terrier. She has clearly been severely neglected, had obviously traveled a long distance to get to our house and she was a total mess. She appeared rather desperate to be rescued. We could tell that she'd been kept outside of the house because her coat was matted, filthy, chopped lopsided with careless concern and she had minimal eyesight because her hair blocked her eyes, but she was still a small package of adorable sweetness.
Taking a closer look, we could see that her entire body was covered in dirt, oil and her hair was so matted that it hurt her to move in certain ways. Her face was blackened with flea eggs and huge fleas surrounded her eyes so they could get an easy drink when they wanted. It was horrible. I've seen fleas on dogs, but this dog obviously lived with fleas for longer than I'd want to imagine. I felt like I was a part of an episode of "Houston Animal Cops."
Deputy Dave and I immediately made a team effort bathing her and giving her a flea dip. She was a good little doggie; enduring long, repeated baths with a stoic personality. We began to hand-pick fleas off of her body as dead fleas began to be washed down the drain.
Clean and more healthy, she slept with us in our bed that night. Well, no one actually slept because she was on doggie-over-drive. She acted like an excited puppy, ALL NIGHT LONG as she would lay on Deputy Dave and be silly, then come over to me and lick my chin, nose, and ears in a desperate attempt to keep the fun going. Needless to say, there was never a "wake up" time that morning because we three never really got to sleep. I believe she was so nervous with her new surroundings that she reverted to her puppy days with nibbling our fingers and wanting to play nonstop.
My youngest daughter, Stefie, was out of town for the weekend and I was at the point where I would beg her to come home so we old parents could get some sleep. It was Stefie's 21st birthday weekend, so she'd gone out of town to celebrate with friends (that's an entirely new post of mommy dread), but she'd ALWAYS wanted a Yorkie. This was fate for the neglected Yorkie and for the daughter.
Over the weekend, the little dog we didn't know what to call did great with the chickens; I'd take her out into the backyard for a potty break and she'd stand among the chickens with slight interest. Throughout the day, we made multiple trips outside and the little cutie would ignore the chickens as she did her business. I don't think she wanted to chance being left outside again. Only if I led the way and stood in the backyard would she follow.
Over the next few days, we could tell that this little doggie had been neglected of receiving personal attention...no one in their right mind would hold a dog so filthy and flea ridden. And Yorkies aren't exactly outdoor rugged types. To her credit, she quickly began to allow us to hold her close and to brush her long tangled hair. She's seems eager to be sweet and happy, if only she has a chance.
We are ready to give her that chance.
Then, we enter the horrifying Farm Life Lesson scene as Deputy Dave and I were outside putting the chickens away the other night. Three of them had flown to the top of the coop (outside of the chicken tractor) in an attempt to roost in the open air, so Deputy Dave was taking them down and putting them inside the coop, one by one. It was dusk. The little babydoll dog was taking her potty break as Howdy watched us handle the chickens. He was ready to run left or right to cut off a chicken's effort to go the opposite direction as we were putting them inside the coop for the night.
Unfortunately, one chicken behaved flighty, for those of you who read regularly, it was the chicken we affectionately refer to as "Miss Stupid." She is entertaining, that is for sure. She can never seem to find her way back into the coop at night without assistance. On this night, her lack of an internal-chicken-GPS would be to her detriment.
Howdy and Deputy Dave worked to cut off Miss Stupid's panicked escape --- for about the 100th time since we've had her and SUDDENLY the little, tiny, innocent doggie flew into action. She chased Miss Stupid all around the yard. I was yelling at the dog with no name, "You! Little Dog! Stop! No!" as I was running and tagging her with my bamboo stick, hoping to stop the little chicken assassin, but she'd only jump OVER the stick or duck under it, as if she were performing doggie Olympics.
I was stunned. The chicken screamed "BAAWWWKKK, BAWWWWK, BAAAWWWK" while running freakin fast while also partially taking flight a few feet off the ground, but there is no where to go in our yard except in circles. So, they ran in circles as we humans struggled to keep up. I'm sad to announce that the animals were MUCH FASTER than Deputy Dave or myself. We needed strategy to stop the madness.
During the craziness, I literally had a emotional crack...I couldn't help it...the scene playing out in front of me was hysterical; for a brief second I kind of felt a bubble of inappropriate laughter threatening to spill out. I will let you know that this is one of my weaknesses; I am known for having very inappropriate laughter. I might be attending a wedding or sitting in Sunday church service and I am struck with a horrible need to laugh as if I am watching a live comedy. It's wrong, really wrong. My daughters have inherited this terrible trait. Poor things.
Anyway, Miss Stupid is on her second go around the yard with the nameless dog chasing close behind and they are all headed straight for Deputy Dave. He is determined to either grab a dog or a chicken, I don't think he was quite as ready to laugh as I had been, but I will dare to say he was slightly amused that this little dog could have taken us off guard so quickly. I mean, we're city people for Heaven's sake. The dog duped us.
That short-legged little dog ran extremely fast and that chicken kept flying a few feet at a time...it was surreal. Deputy Dave and I didn't particularly enjoy running around like lunatics trying to catch the little dog; she was a blur. Poor Howdy was not sure about who he should tackle; he initially went after the little dog to put a big paw on her back to hold her down, but I screamed at Howdy, "No Howdy! Don't Touch Her!" because I didn't want him to hurt the small-framed dog. Howdy froze, literally, from a full run into a screeching sitting position. He's incredible; he listened to me. I love that dog.
Because I stopped Howdy from stopping little dog, within the next five seconds as little dog and Miss Stupid were rounding the corner heading for Deputy Dave, he took the opportunity and with a quick-draw hand, he reached for the chicken and snatched her up. Unfortunately, at that very moment, little dog had sunk her jaws into the chicken's butt. Miraculously, Deputy Dave managed to free the chicken from the dog's jaws, but the chicken thrashed about and kicked free. She took off for the back of the house, behind the garage.
I could imagine the trail of blood following behind the chicken.
I stood wide-eyed, with my stupid bamboo stick in my hand that I'd been using to TRY to cut off little dog from her mad dashing about the yard, and I was speechless as the sweet bundle of Yorkie loveliness spit out a mouthful of feathers. A LOT of feathers.
Finally, I was able to scoop her up because the mouthful of feathers had distracted her long enough to do a bit of gagging. I scolded the dog; I held her firmly while telling her, "Not Nice! Naughty Dog!"
Since that moment, Deputy Dave has taken her in the backyard a few times, under heavy, watchful supervision and she's not paid any attention to the chickens nearby. However, we don't trust her. If a chicken starts running, I think that sets off her instinct and she is in automatic motion on the hunt.
Of course she would be on the hunt, a Yorkie is a Terrier breed and is a hunter by nature. I know training can do wonders, but the breed of a dog must be considered for the environment. Since she seems to be learning very quickly that we DO NOT ATTACK CHICKENS, we are not giving up.
Years ago, one of the best dogs we ever had was an awesome, little Rat Terrier. She would chase squirrels around with a sporting, determined attitude that would never quit. Oh worry.
So, this has been part of our weekend fun. I got a first-hand lesson in how horrible it is to see a dog go after one of your chickens. It's certainly a new experience for this city/suburbia gal. I can tell you that when I am ready to have roasted chicken, I'll handle it myself; I don't want a dog to start "processing" our chickens before we are prepared.
I know one little dog can wipe out an entire flock of chickens in one frenzied attack, so we'll be hawk-eyed with little doggie and hope our chickens remain as durable as Miss Stupid, who only lost a few feathers and probably had an IQ increase after this experience. I think Miss Stupid's bird-brain kicked into higher gear as she was forced to do some fast thinking on her feet and with her wings flapping furiously. Yep, I think she graduated from Miss Stupid status to Miss You-Got-To-Be-Friggin-Kidding-Me status.