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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Backyard Farming Disaster - Layer Apocalypse



It seems that we have more than our share of backyard farming disasters. But then we have been at it for 11 years and our backyard farm is bigger than urban farms. So maybe our disasters are relatively average.

It has been one year since our old dog Cinder succumbed to cancer. We decided it was time for a new dog. It wasn’t easy finding one. We agreed that everyone in the family had to like whatever dog we chose. After weeks of scouring the animal shelters and want ads, we found Dixie, a beautiful 11-month-old Golden Retriever cross. Her personality was nice and we thought she was perfect.

For several days there was someone home to watch her. We finally thought she was ready to be left alone for a day. We set up a 100 foot zip line and halter for her with her food, water, and shelter within reach. All was well when we left. We returned to an absolute massacre. The halter was not on her tight enough and during the day she got her mouth under the neck strap and chewed it off. She got into our layer pen and killed every one of our 19 layers. Our two boys got home from school as she was finishing off the last one. There were dead chickens and feathers everywhere. It was shocking.

We were anguished not only by our chickens, but that maybe Dixie was spoiled. When I was young, a dog got in to the neighbors sheep and killed a hundred of them. They said it made the dog crazy so they euthanized it. After talking to several people, we concluded that Dixie might be okay. She is just a puppy who thought she was playing. But we will be extra careful in the future. If anyone has advice for us, please comment below.

My wife, LeAnn, knew I was taking the death of the chickens pretty hard. So while I was at work the next day, she went to a neighbor and bought six adult layers for me. So at least I don’t have to eat eggs from the store.

Goodbye, little hens, may you rest in peace… and thank you for all the eggs.

12 comments:

Julie P said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I can only imagine a small amount what that would be like. When we had our first set of chicks, I didn't shut the basement door well enough and our dog at the time found his way down and killed two. Our new dog (2 1/2 years old, with us for 6 weeks) just got into our coop last week. Thankfully (and a miracle, to boot!) he didn't kill one. We're training him right now with the vibrating/shocking collar we had for our old dog. When he got close, we vibrated it one time. The next time he got to that point we vibrated it, he took one step further and we gave him the smallest shock - and so far we haven't seen him go back. I hope you find something that works. I can tell you love those birds like we love ours!

aubryz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aubryz said...

I don't know about retrievers, they have been bred for ages to catch birds. How do you teach that out of them? We have a cattle dog that guards our chickens and she does amazing. They love her and she pushes them out of the kitchens scraps with her nose but still shares with them. When we get a new dog we really want a black lab, but the whole retriever thing makes it hard. I think we will take a friendly hen and physically teach our new dogs about how to be around chickens and how they are not a source of food and not to played with for fun. Good luck, it's so hard to break a habit once it's started.

Jennifer said...

Oh, that is terrible. I'm sorry.

PickingUpStitches said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. I can't imagine...

Perhaps look into what other breeds might be in your retriever mix Dixie. Retrievers are bred to have soft mouths for retrieving birds. It's possible that one or more of the other breeds in her mix either has a higher prey drive or a not-so-soft mouth (or both).

A guardian breed might be more suitable (one with no prey drive, but instead a drive to protect the flock).

Again, so sorry for your loss.

dog trot farm said...

As a chicken owner/lover of ten "girls" I would be absolutely devastated, I can't imagine the horror you and your family faced. You should not blame your puppy or yourselves. i guess maybe you could refer to it as a learning lesson, the hard way. I am sorry for your loss.

Dale Johnson said...

Thank you all for your condolences. Dixie never ate the chickens. She just killed them. Maybe the retriever in her. For now the our new hens are cooped up and she can't get to them. I like the advice about the training collar.

renaekingsley said...

We used a shock collar for our Retreiver/Pyrenees mix, but the most effective thing for us was called 'Alpha-training'. There are books about it. You teach the dog that YOU provide the food, so it doesn't need to 'hunt' or even chase other animals. It works really great for our dog. She helps us round up the chickens when they get out of the coop, but she doesn't eat or harm them. It's made a huge difference. Now the chickens are free-range in our yard and the dog is with them all day without a problem. Good luck! I'm so sorry for your loss! It's devastating to lose a laying flock. How thoughtful and kind of your wife to get new layers!

katiegirl said...

So sorry to hear about your loss! It is devastating, and even more disappointing because your own dog did it. I really think Dixie didn't mean to kill them, she was just playing. Good luck with training her!

Tea Rose said...

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your girls! Living on an urban farm myself, that is always my greatest fear, that a wild neighborhood dog might get at my free roaming birds. I hope that Dixie is able to recover from this! Good luck with the training and thanks for sharing your story. I absolutely love reading about all your farm adventures.

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Lisa D. said...

wow, i have lost chickens to dogs, racoons, possum, fox ...you have had some serious chicken tragedy! sorry to hear about it. the whole dog breed thing seems hard to pinpoint. our chow/shepard ate a couple of birds over our first summer. our herding mutt (she is 4 breeds that herd) loves to herd them, gets too excited sometimes and kills them. she thinks they taste good too. the chow mix stopped killing them after some serious scolding. the herder is better...but not completely trustworthy. i think alot of it is age and training -not completely about breed. i realize this comment is 2 years after the fact...but your blogs are SO interesting!