Three More Animals Gone…


feather

Thursday morning I woke up to a horrific scene.

The night before, instead of going into their coop for the night, Dirty Wilson (the rooster) and his hens decided that they wanted to roost in the trees for the night. They were too high up for me to be able to reach them, so I had no choice but to let them stay out for the night. We’ve been rotating letting the puppy out when the chickens are up for the night, and putting her in her pen while the chickens are loose for the day. But I felt bad making Missy the dog stay in her lot all night too, so I let her out. I figured I normally wake up before the sun rises, and I could go out and put the puppy back in her lot before the chickens came down out of the trees.

Bad mistake.

When I woke up the next morning the sun was already coming up. I immediately realized that I hadn’t heard the rooster, and a sudden panic overcame me. I quickly slipped my shoes on and hurried out the back door hoping my feeling was wrong. But as soon as I got outside I saw what I had dreaded, two of my hens laid lifeless on the ground. Feathers were scattered all over the yard.

I let out a horrifed, “Nooooo!” My hand covered my mouth as I walked closer to examine the damage. The poor hens! They were plucked practically bald, bleeding from the torture. Now, we’ve lost a lot of hens. I can handle them dying, and I’ve never been too upset about losing one (just upset about losing another daily egg!), but this was different. These chickens didn’t die quickly. They were slowly, savagely, painfully mangled.

Just as I was making my way to examine the second hen, the puppy came trotting up to me, a wild look in her eyes. I immediately grabbed her by the collar, and pushed her snout down onto one of the hens as I shouted, “No, no!” Hoping she would understand what she’d done wrong.

But the moment the dog’s snout touched the lifeless body, the hen’s eyes suddenly shot open, her head weakly raised at an odd angle, and she let out the most gut wrenching cry I’ve ever heard! I half gasped, half screamed in surprised horror, my hands flying to cover my mouth once more!! Oh my goodness! She’s still alive!!

You guys have to understand. She looked so bad, her body so torn up, it didn’t even cross my mind that the thing could possibly still be alive. But she was. And she was suffering terribly!

At that, tears filled my eyes, and I cried for the hen. Not that I loved her. She was just a hen. But seeing a living creature in such agony, dying in such a horrible way, oh, my heart just broke for her.

I picked the dog up and rushed her into her lot, to lock her up where she couldn’t do more damage. And then it occurred to me… I can’t find Dirty Wilson! Oh no! Where is he?

I walked around the yard calling him, looking for his body. After a few minutes of searching, relief suddenly rushed in as I heard his crow from inside the coop. I went to see if he was okay, and found that a ton of his tail feathers had been pulled out, and he had a bald spot on his back where a good chunk of feathers had been plucked. He looked rough, but he was okay. Thank goodness!

I went back to where the hens laid in the yard, and walked over to check on the other hen. To my shock, she too opened her eyes to look at me, alive! What was I to do? I picked her up and held her in my arms. She didn’t look quite as bad as the other one did, but still in terrible shape. I went inside and got a towel to wrap her in.

As I held her shivering body in my arms, tears streaking my face, I went to my bedroom and woke my sleeping husband to tell him what had happened. I told him that the other hen was out there suffering, and I asked if he’d finish her off. The ants were beginning to swarm her body, biting her wounds as she clung to each shallow breath.

As he went outside to end her misery, I set up a box inside with wood shavings and a heat lamp. I put the hen I held into it, and covered her with the towel again. She was in shock, shivering uncontrollably. I hoped she might live. But several minutes later, she died also.

I was so mad. That dog had to go. She has done nothing but cause mischief around here. (I didn’t mention that all of my clothes had been pulled off the line and were drug all over the place that same morning.) I announced to the family that I was listing Missy on Craigslist that day; that we could not keep her any longer. And nobody protested.

To my relief, I got a call within about ten minutes of placing the ad. It was from a very sweet lady who had been looking for a German Shepherd puppy. She lives on ten acres of land, and has two other older dogs for Missy to roam and play with. She was extremely excited about finding the puppy, and couldn’t wait to love on her. She came the next day and took Missy home with her. I know she is already loved and well taken care of in her new home, so I am at peace with having her gone.

Ugh. What a day. We really wanted to have a good dog around here, and we still plan on finding one. But a German Shepherd… at least that one… is not a good farm dog. Their prey drive is just too strong. And once they’ve tasted blood, you can never trust them with livestock again. I’m glad that we took her in and rescued her from being abandoned, but it worked out well to raise her long enough to pass her on to a proper home.

Now the chickens can free range without worry of the dog. Now the kids can play outside without being tackled, or bitten. And I can once again hang my clothes on the clothes line without anything yanking them down!

Slowly, we are restoring the peace on this crazy acre of land. Now, if we could just be done with that pig…


Kendra
About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

26 Comments

  1. so sorry, but your bad not the dogs, you didn’t train it to have a job, protect the hens. You want free range animals, you train them all including the dog. Which you will need to protect them. Do some research on herding a protective dogs, and learn to train them to do the job they are bread for. Feel sorry for the poor dog. One more lesson for you to learn

  2. I’m sorry for all losses. But the hens were not “just hens” though. I have chickens and I would never refer to them as though they are dispensable. They are living beings, same as you and me. Also, shame on you for not training your puppy in the first place. It wasn’t his fault. As the saying goes:
    “If you don’t train ’em then you can’t blame ’em.”

  3. Loving your blog…I’ve been reading it ALL DAY…but felt compelled to comment to this story!

    At the end of last fall, I became a “chicken momma” to 10 wonderful ISA’s and one little black banty rooster. I LOVE my chickens, and worried about how my dog would do with them since I wanted to free range also!

    I’ve only ever had ONE dog breed, and that’s a SHELTIE!!! I’ve tried other breeds, and would only have this one!!! My Sheltie was already 2 years old by the time we got our chickens, but they are such FAST learners and SOOOO smart!

    Shelties are natural “herders” but not as “over-energetic” as border collies! The first couple days I had the chickens out, I kept him on a leash as I introduced him to the flock. The chickens would peck him if he got too close. But I had him on the leash just in case! Very quickly him and the flock got to be good buddies! He’s SOOOOO protective of the flock, and can usually be found wherever they are!

    One day, I was completely AMAZED at what I saw out my window as I watch the flock and my Sheltie in the adjoining cut corn field. I had one little lady that was moving pretty slow, and was worried about her….as all the chickens and my dog were coming back to the house I noticed one hen still out by herself. Rockey (my dog) noticed too! He went out to her…got behind her and nudged her in the butt till she started moving towards the house! She stopped at one point and sat down. Rockey noticed too and went back a second time to her and nudged her in the butt once again! She got up and finally caught up with the rest of the flock! AMAZING! I was so proud of Rockey for looking after my flock! The next day, I found a HUGE egg…possibly the biggest egg I’ve ever seen! No wonder the poor thing was moving so slow! 🙂

    I would STRONGLY suggest looking into the Sheltie breed! Rockey’s our second one, and we are so fortunate to have such a wonderful “guard dog” and “chicken keeper”. AND…they’re GREAT with kids!

  4. I had a german shepherd that didn’t care much about the free range chickens, but i have a Rott that eats them right up, that is why i use tractors now. He would pace, bark whine and howl at the chickens as they free ranged and he was locked up in his kennel. He was actually losing weight. It didn’t matter how much i yelled he wouldn’t stop, i don’t have as nice a family as yours, i am stuck with this stupid dog. He’ll bark and chase my pigs if given the chance, they are only about 400lbs…………told you he is stupid.

  5. Sorry to hear about losing the chickens. We also live on a farm and recently got an English Shepherd puppy. They are an all around farm dog. They herd cattle, chickens and watch over children. The thing we liked best was that they are known to have an off switch unlike some other breeds that just want to herd all day long. They are hard to find but well worth it.

  6. Hi Kendra,

    My grandfather had an American Bulldog that was great at keeping the little ones from falling down the stairs, running into furniture corners, and all dangerous situations for kids.
    Then one day it killed a chicken. “No big deal,” throught my grandfather. Kept the dog.
    One morning he headed out to the bull’s pen. There lay the prize bull with it’s neck ripped open. Dead as a doornail. Dog, covered in blood.
    My grandfather immediately shot the dog. Not because of the bull. But because my grandfather had 5 small children (ages 1-8) and he had no intention of possibly losing one of them!

    That dog is lucky. I probably would have had it put down to protect others. (And I have ALWAYS had dogs, not in a rural situation either, but as in-house pets!)

  7. Sorry about your chickens! Glad Dirty Wilson is okay! You do good not getting as attached as I do to them! It was a good idea to get rid of the dog, you’re right they can’t be trusted after they’ve tasted blood!

  8. Im glad you found a good home for the dog. when my kids were small, I got 2 german shepherd puppies that quickly got too rough for my kids to even play outside with, I had to give them away, then someone gave us a lab that was about a year old, he was sweet, but had never had any training and he was too rough too. sooo… we gave him away too. we finally got a small dog from the humane society and she was just right for kids. shes 20 years old now! after my kids were pretty much grown up is when I got larger dogs (lots of them) and cats (too many of them) my dogs and cats get along fine, but I have no experience with livestock. anyway, I know what a hassle it is when your kids have a dog run all over them, better luck next time!

  9. A very similar scene occurred on my land last week. But our dog is a herding dog who is 2 years old, and I thought, should know better. We’ve been training her with our baby chicks who are about 3 months old now. We thought she was doing well, bringing a “lost” chick back to the coop, unhurt. She must be helping us take care of them, so it seemed. But then I saw her nipping at them as they were flying around. We shouldn’t have trusted her, but we did, and so our pretty rooster paid the price. He actually LOST A WHOLE WING. I was just sure that was the end of him with so many bite marks and missing feathers. It was a horrible site, and he was suffering. So we covered him with peroxide, put triple antibiotic, added colloidal silver to his water and wounds. It has been a week, and I can’t believe he is HAS learned to walk around with just one wing, and all bandaged up. However, his skin around his lost wing is turning green. Gangrene??? And that dog!!! We survived her puppy-hood, so I hate to call her a loss. We have her running free on our acreage since she also protects all of my children too. But I really wanted my chickens to be free range. Then there’s the story of repeated 5-6 foot snake visitors eating all of my duck eggs!!! Oh, the life out in the country!! It’s amazing how much energy and emotion we spend on our critters!!

    • Oh no, Tina! I hope it’s not Gangrene!! Poor rooster. I hope he lives. Sorry to hear about your situation as well. It is tough trying to raise so many different kinds of animals together. Thanks for sharing your story with me though. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has these kinds of problems.

  10. We had a lab/setter mix who loved to torment the chickens. We tied a dead chicken around her neck till it rotted. Awful smell, but she didn’t chase chickens ever again. Don’t know it this would work in all situations, but it did for her.

    We now have a little rat terrier/boston terrier mix. She helps to herd the chickens and ducks in. Once in a while she’ll chase a chicken, but I have never, ever seen her with her mouth around any. We even gathers eggs that the chickens will lay in the yard without breaking them.

    We got her to hunt rats, but since her accident with a truck last winter, her mouth is too soft (broke her lower jaw). She doesn’t have a tight enough grip, though the rats still don’t like her much, she doesn’t kill them like she used to.

    I would recommend a rat terrier, though they are hard to find, they are great, loyal, little dogs, lots of energy and good protectors.

    Our little Spot even has chased bear on 4 occasions. She doesn’t take any guff. The only issue we have with her is that she HATES the vet. She has tried to take the vets hand off on several occasions. Now we have to sedate her to get her calm enough to give her shots, etc.

    I hope you find just the right little dog. It really is a help to have a dog to ward off the vermin. Even skunks will prey on young chickens and ducks.

    I’m sorry you had to get rid of your puppy, but glad she has a new happy home.

    Mrs. D

  11. I am sorry to hear what happened. It is always horrible to loose any pet this way. I’ve had it happen and it is horrible. The reality is this is not the dog’s fault. Almost any dog with any level of prey drive will do this. You have to actively train dogs to leave livestock alone. You can’t just hope it will happen.

    You can start training puppy using clicker training very early. And if you want a good mannered, well behaved dog you must actively train and socialize it. I recommend several books on dog behavior and training.
    The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson (and other books by her)
    Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs by Karen Pryor

  12. Did you know that if you punish a dog after it’s done something “bad” that it doesn’t make a difference? Dogs do not have the capabilities to understand that what they did even just 1 minute ago is right or wrong, even if you “rub their nose in it”; they work on immediate praise or catching them in the act. I would strongly advise that you learn A LOT MORE about dogs in general before trying to get another one.

    I am very sorry for your loss of the chickens. Any animal can become a beloved pet. (We have a pet rat at work. I never thought I would find a rat adorable and sweet!)

    • Treva,

      My husband and I used to raise and train Rottweilers before we had children, so I am not completely naive to raising dogs. I’ve just never had to train them not to kill other smaller animals! I realize that some dogs have more of a prey drive than others. I just need to find the right fit for my family 🙂

  13. I too have woken to such a horrific sight. I also learned very early that certain breeds are better at being a guardian for my family and livestock. Read about great pyrenees. You can’t ask for a more gentle giant that is willing to give his life to defend his family.

  14. If you decide to get another dog, try a border collie. We have a ST. Bernard/Border Collie mix & he likes to herd the chooks. He doesn’t bark, growl or even open his mouth, but he headbutts them to round them into their run. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through this.

  15. I am terribly sorry for your loss. We had a neighbor dog that they refused to put up that killed 7 of my hand raised pullets one was very dear to me. The dog cost me 80 dollars in vet bills for my cat. We put him down for them. I cried because I felt aweful for having to do it but it also knocked down a baby ont the property next to us. It was a nutty dog. We have a lab cocker spaniel mix that is very good with our chickens. He goes in their coop sometimes during storms and I have one chicken who used to lay eggs in his dog house. I found them because he carefully went in and laid down not to bust the eggs. It was pretty funny. I wish you the best of luck and hope you will be able to find a good farm dog who will be at peace with your animals.Nancy

  16. That is just heart wrenching. I’m sorry you had to go through that. But Kendra, puppies are not born knowing how to live within the limitations of our expectations. It falls upon us to teach them. A dog – ANY dog and ANY breed – should never be trusted alone in the yard with chickens, other pets, or livestock until you’ve worked with them enough to trust them. It takes a lot of time and patience. Playing rough with children is also something puppies do – unless trained otherwise. Puppies are really no different than children in many respects – they require time, patience, and guidance. There are breeds that have less tendencies to chase/kill chickens. Even so, it wouldn’t be wise to expect no training is required. Pups require time and training. I don’t advise anyone without both of those to get a pup.

    I’m sorry you lost those chickens. And I’m happy you found a good home for the puppy. It was certainly a hard lesson to learn and my heart goes out to you.

    • Penny,

      I know. And a lot of it is my fault. I have not spent the time necessary to train her. Nor did I really know how to go about doing so! I know it wasn’t her fault. She’s a puppy. She is playful and rambunctious, and delighted greatly in the chase and victory of overcoming the hens. I don’t blame her. She’s gotten a hold of the hens on countless occasions, and I’ve done my best to show her that that was wrong to do, but she just didn’t get it. I didn’t know what else to do to teach her not to go after the chickens. I’ll definitely spend a lot more time training whenever we decide to give dogs another try.

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