Thursday, March 6, 2008

Losses

The last 2 days have been a little hard here on the homestead. Two dead hens in 2 days. And 1 culprit. Of the 4-legged, untrained, canine variety. Bad dog!

Bonnie is kept in the dog run unless we are outside or the chickens are put away for the night. She just hasn't proven herself trustworthy with them (obviously, huh?) so she isn't left alone with them. She runs free all night, though. Which usually means that she sleeps in the part of the dog run that goes into the coop. Hey, it's much warmer in there. And she sleeps soundly too. Don & I went out one night to check out a sound and she slept through the whole thing, including our talking and me shining a flashlight in her face. Some guard dog, eh?

Anyway, on Tuesday, somehow a hen got into the dog run in the morning. She probably was up in the trees or on top of the coop and jumped down into it. Anyway, Meagan came running in from collecting eggs and told me about it. The hen was still alive, but barely. I was holding her and she kept closing her eyes and letting her head hang off to the side. I hated to see her suffer, so we grabbed all the supplies and quickly dispatched her.

Since Don wasn't home, I had to do the whole thing by myself. Not fun. I will say that it is hard to look your food in the eye as you are killing them, knowing that they will later be on your dinner plate. But you know what? I wouldn't trade it for a poor supermarket chicken who I know has spent it's life in a stinky dusty cage with no time in the fresh air and no ability to exercise it's chicken-ness (like scratching the dirt, hunting for bugs, eating grass). Even those "free range" chickens you buy...more often than not, they spend their whole life inside. The requirements for the label leave a LOT to be desired. Know the farmer who knows your food and you can know those animals have been treated well! Ok. Soapbox put away now. Ahem.

So, I had to do it all by myself. But it was ccccoooollllddd! The water in the hose was frozen, so there was no running the chicken plucker. Instead, once she was dead, we took her inside and plucked her in the bathtub. And then eviscerated (fancy word for gutted) her in the kitchen. Not exactly how I planned to christen my newly remodeled kitchen! In the process, we discussed the organs that came out, including all the eggs. She was one of our green egg-layers, which was really unfortunate to lose.

Wednesday morning, I was sitting in the office feeding Abby when I heard a chicken ruckus. Knowing that the chickens hadn't been let out yet, I knew there was trouble. I ran to the window to see chickens all over the yard, the coop door flapping in the wind (it hadn't gotten latched properly the night before!), and Bonnie sitting about 4 feet from a dead chicken. When I got outside, I realized the poor hen was headless. I just about started to cry. Not a pleasant way to go. I believe that what happened was that Bonnie was working on her kill when other chickens came to investigate the carnage and she tried to catch them too. That would explain the sounds I heard. I got Bonnie, locked her up, and made sure there were no more lost chickens. The one she got was a Barred Rock hen. Man, I love those Barred Rocks. They are so friendly. They will jump right in the car with you! And they will let you pet them and pick them up without running away. So sweet.

Not knowing the time frame, I decided that I wouldn't finish processing this one for our use. She wasn't warm, so I don't know how long she was out there. Instead, I, again, plucked her in the bathtub and then cut up the raw meat to use for treats for training Bonnie. Because obviously, there is much more training to be done. I can't blame Bonnie. She's just using her instincts. It's our job to train her to know what she's allowed to hunt and what she isn't. We've been reading lots about dog training and now it is time to start in earnest. I don't want to lose any more of my chickens. And I'd like to eventually give her daytime freedom too. Lots of work to do!

1 comment:

jeff said...

Let us know how the dog training goes - it looks like we may be needing to do the same here soon!

Jeff