When the chickens come a-callin’

April 18, 2016

Saturday was a day of unusual relationships. It started with a bridal shower at which I was meeting the bride for the first time, and ended with greeting our daughter’s (newly ex) boyfriend’s family who had flown in from Scotland. But neither of these was the most unusual.

When I arrived home from the shower I was greeted by one leaping dog, who insists on demonstrating her enthusiasm in this way until I get her to settle down. But where was her slightly shyer sister?

I spotted her in the middle of the yard, and she appeared to be munching on something. “Oh NO!” I screamed and went tearing out to the yard at break neck speed. Our seventeen pound peanut of a rescue was pecking at a downed hen. She looked gleeful and I couldn’t spot any chicken parts, but it was clear that the hen was expired, inert, an ex-hen. The break neck speed had evidently been in reference to the hen.

I turned tail and careened inside where my husband was already lacing up his shoes to dispose of the unfortunate clucker. “Nooooooooo,” I wailed, even though I knew it was too late to save this feathered friend. “Nooooo.” Twice before I had caught Livvie with a chicken in her mouth, and had raced outside screaming bloody murder to um, stop the bloody murder. And despite the plethora of flying feathers, both times a hen had waddled away swiftly. Our dogs stay within the bounds of their underground fence, so each time the hen was visiting our (h)enticing, insect ridden yard.

Our sanguine neighbors were unperturbed. “That’s Mother Nature,” and then “That’ll teach her to go in your yard.” I was dubious about the learning curve of the hens and imagined one arriving back at the coop. “Guys, do NOT go over there when the four leggeds are out. Man, they are FAST, and their bite is way worse than their bark. I lost a whole patch of feathers back there. How’s a gal supposed to relax and lay eggs after that?”

I felt terrible that our previously shy and shakingly terrified terrier had hit her stride and was aggressive with the chickens. I know how upset our neighbors have been when hawks, owls or coyotes have picked off their brood. Having just seen Zootopia, I ponder the question of how we overcome our savage tendencies. I am just as struck by how deep this streak can run.

I wondered how much dinner the little carnivore would eat after her live snack, but she ate normally, and our daughter commented that she looked remarkably unbloody. The meaning of this struck home the next day when watching Livvie (aka Chickenhawk) playing with Fred, our fifteen pound kitten. She was jabbing at him with her mouth the same way she does with her sister dog, or us. My husband’s words came back to me, now that I could hear them. “She was pecking at the (unresponsive) hen, trying to get her to engage.” It’s possible that Livvie was playing, but was just too rough, and the faint hearted chicken was literally scared to death.

Our neighbors have talked about clipping the wings of the chickens so that they don’t fly over the fence. I hope this helps. Even with the complete understanding of our egg collecting friends, it does not sit well to have their animal population so impacted by ours. I am grateful for their perspective and will consider whether it’s possible to train the chicken chasing gene out of our feisty young dogs.

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