Wednesday, April 15, 2009

R. I. P. Phyllis

Yesterday was a "town" day. Every Tuesday and Thursday my husband and I make the very long commute into town to go to work. We're gone for a solid twelve hours, and at first we were nervous about it, since we're so far away and if anything were to happen here we either wouldn't know or couldn't do anything about it. Over time, however, we relaxed. We've been through many Tuesdays and Thursdays and always come home to find things pretty much as we left them. At least, until yesterday. We have a goat that's not really getting along with our new dog, and a whole mess of new chicks in brooders in the house, so I was anxious all day about being gone from the house for so long. Ironically, when we finally did get home, the problems we faced were not the ones I expected.

We pulled through the gate and saw Caspian in the goat yard as always, and things appeared at first to be normal. As we approached the house, however, that quickly changed. First we discovered piles of chicken feathers everywhere. Next we noticed that our rooster, Elvis, now had ZERO tail feathers left and a big bald spot on his rear. It was only after this that we noticed Sophie, our very short and extremely fat dog standing on the FRONT PORCH with her hackles up, barking like mad. We both said the same thing as we stared at the scene in disbelief: "What on Earth happened here today?"

The evidence: all those gorgeous tail feathers...gone.

Once we were out of the car, it got worse. A dead chicken near the front door. Another around back. A quick headcount revealed that one was still missing. We saw that part of the fence around our dogs' yard had come loose, leaving a gaping hole big enough for any size dog to walk right through. The dead chickens showed all the signs of a dog attack. The missing girl was later located down near the barn, also dead, I know what you're thinking, but I can assure you there is NO way this was Sophie's work. She can't possibly run long enough or fast enough to catch a chicken, much less three chickens, AND take a piece out the rooster. It seems she just took advantage of the opening in the fence and once she was out, couldn't figure out how to get back in, so she did what she always does in that situation and waited on the porch (although I can't explain the barking).

As much as it pains me to say it, all the signs indicate that the culprits were most likely our two boy dogs. It certainly seems like something they would do, but we didn't actually catch them in the act, and some of the details just don't quite add up. For starters, when we arrived, they were both inside the house. The incident appeared to have happened quite recently, and we find it a bit hard to believe that they'd go out, kill a couple of chickens and go back in. It seems far more likely, given their history, that they'd have taken off across the pasture toward the neighbor's house to see what they could see. Also, they're both completely unscathed. Now, they are pretty tough, but I know that rooster would have fought them hard, and neither of them has a single scratch. We also found no trace of feathers, parts or carcasses in their yard or in the house, and they have a tendency to bring their spoils inside, so that seemed unusual also. Don't get me wrong, they're still our number one suspects, and they lack a solid alibi, but we simply don't have enough evidence to solidly pin this on them. In any case, we arrived far too late after it happened to effectively punish them for it, even if we were sure.

We found all three ducks down at the pond. Apparently mama duck had no choice but to abandon her babies and flee. Miraculously all the babies are fine, even though they were alone in the midst of the fray. We checked everyone in the goat barn too, fearing the worst, but they were all fine. Caspian let us know that he did his best, but wasn't able to stop the carnage from behind his fence. We understood. Frankly we were thankful that our dogs didn't cross paths with HIM. The outcome really could have been far worse if that had happened. We cleaned up the wreckage, the remaining hens and one very pathetic rooster all hobbled to bed, and we came inside, forgetting that we had been hungry, and consoled ourselves with some drinks.

We knew this would happen. We did. It was only a question of when. I'm afraid that doesn't make it easier to swallow, though. The fact that it was likely caused by our own dogs makes it an especially bitter pill. A few interesting things did arise from this incident, though. I made a bit of self discovery, for one. When it seemed as though the bodies were fresh, I suggested that perhaps we ought to pluck and dress them. I figured, why waste them? Why toss good meat out into the field for the vultures? We decided against it, though, since we really didn't know how long they'd been there, and it was a bit late to start such an undertaking. We also came to the rather comforting conclusion that if it really WAS our dogs that did this, at least they had the good sense to put themselves back in the house when they were done. Coming home to dead livestock is bad. Coming home to dead livestock and missing pets would have been far, far worse.

So I'm thinking it's a good thing that I have thirty-five new chicks in the pipeline.


  1. Oh boy. What a thing to come home to! In reading I felt like I was there, living this. Each time we leave the house I'm concerned we will come home to a similar scene. While I kennel my dogs during the day, the 'neighborhood' has upwards of ten dogs that roam free. Needless to say, I worry about our chickens. It's good to have more chicks on hand, especially after something like this, yes? We have seventeen we are raising at the moment.

    I am glad to have found your blog. It appears you are doing/living many of the things my partner and I are growing towards.


  2. I am SO sorry this happened! What a crappy end to I'm sure a long day.