Dogs and Chickens Can Get Along Fine
Posted at 01:02PM - Comments: (6)
When I first saw the adolescent canine who was to become my darling dog Otto, in my local shelter in June 2008, his cage card warned “Kills chicken” – an endearing typo that evidently meant he had either killed a chicken, or makes a habit of killing chickens. There is no way to know what was meant by that now, but the fact is, I brought home three adult laying hens in late 2010, and after a single warning to Otto (No! Off!), he’s been completely trustworthy with the birds, even when they are loose and walking around the backyard, something I allow them to do mostly in the winter, after our summer vegetable garden is done.
He made a predatory move toward a chicken one time in the eight years I’ve shared with him. Our next door neighbors have six or so hens, one of whom got in the habit of flying over the fence into our backyard (tiring of having to rescue her frequently, they eventually rehomed her). She miscalculated and flew into our chicken pen once, and my hens attacked her, causing a loud ruckus that brought my husband out of his home office (I wasn’t home) and forced him to wade into the melee to save her. His inexperience with fowl (I don’t think he’s touched a chicken before or since!) caused a lot of flapping and squawking, and, as he described it to me later, caused Otto to just sort of forget himself for a moment. He jumped up onto my husband, mesmerized by the wildly flapping chicken that my husband was attempting to carry to and fling back over the neighbor’s fence. When my husband, shocked, exclaimed, “OTTO! NO!” Otto looked embarrassed and immediately slunk away. He’s not made an error in avian judgment since.
I was worried that it was going to take a bit more to keep the chickens safe from my new puppy, Woody – until one of the now-mature hens took puppy-training into her own hands . . . er, beak.
Woody likes to walk around their pen and stare at the hens, an activity I call him away from whenever I catch him at it. I’ve given him the “No! Off!” speech at least a dozen times; he’s much more persistent than Otto ever was in the face of this message, and I’ve worried that I may never be able to allow the chickens to walk around loose with impunity again. But we’ll see; there has been a potentially game-changing event.
This morning, I was washing dishes and saw Woody standing, staring, just outside the chicken yard, his nose pressed against the chicken-wire. I was just about to rap on the kitchen window and call to him when I saw one of the hens TROT toward the fascinated puppy and PECK him right on the end of his nose through the fence! He yelped in surprise and pain, and ran from the pen with his tail tucked between his legs. A perfectly timed correction, delivered at just the right time in his as-yet-inexperienced life – and one that had nothing to do with me, that he won’t/can’t associate with me.
I can’t wait for tomorrow, to see if he will avoid the chicken pen, or go back to investigate some more. Life with a puppy is never dull!