Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Dogs, dogs and more dogs... and goats!

If there were a Chickenholics Anonymous, our dog would stand up and say:

"My name is Molly, and I have a problem. I like to chase chickens and kill them. My owners abhor this. I know they do, and I hate to make them upset, but I just can't seem to help myself."

She has now killed three.

Stephen has killed two.

I have saved one.

We need the odds stacked better.

Oddly enough, it seems like we are stacking them against ourselves shortly, by accepting delivery of two more dogs who have never lived with chickens.

Elderly Fred, my parents' dog, is coming at Christmas to live out his golden years on the farm. He is a tremendously sweet, thoroughly daft, black lab and something, maybe chow. A mutt stray who showed up at their house 10 years ago and fell in love with my dog Lucy. The two of them lived together (they were miserable when apart), going back and forth between our house and my parents' until last December, when Lucy died at almost 14. Lucy is buried up in the big pines. It took Fred quite a while to get over her death. He wouldn't eat for days. He really never has gotten back to his old self, actually.

Luke will be coming after New Years. He is a beautiful Australian Shepherd whose family had to move to an apartment. He is miserable there and loves his visits here. He has a very strong natural herding instinct with the cattle, and is very responsive to commands. He has received extensive obedience training.

You may be thinking, "She says FRED is daft? They have a problem with the dog and chickens and they are getting MORE dogs?"

Well, it might not be the perfect timing, but I don't exactly control the universe. These two dogs need homes now, and we think this would be a good place for them. In addition, we ARE going to fence the dogs out of the chickens. Which really means fencing the chickens in, but we are working on ideas for doing that portably so that the chickens can continue to range in fresh grass daily.

Stephen and I are going to spend the week after Christmas fencing (hooray!), and renovating the area of the barn that will be for the goats.

Goats!! Yes, goats! The long awaited goats are hopefully coming to their new home in January. I've made arrangements to purchase two purebred LaMancha does. One cycled this month so their current owner brought them to breed at another farm with a LaMancha buck. Rosie did breed, but tragically, died suddenly the next day from unrelated problems. Her sister, Snowy, is staying there until she cycles in the hopes that she'll breed this year. If she gets pregnant, she will kid in May. So we will have milk in June!

Since Snowy will no longer have the companionship of her sister, I have decided to purchase the wether ("fixed" male) that Snowy and Rosie grew up with. Sylvester will obviously not give milk, but he will serve an important purpose... keeping Snowy happy. Goats are very social and are miserable when alone.

I actually think this is a big part of the problem for Molly. Imagine... you grow up on a farm with your best buddy. He gets you pregnant. You have a nice litter of puppies. They get big enough and one by one they get taken away from you. Then your owners move, taking your best buddy, and leave you with people you don't know and just one of your pups. Two weeks later your pup is hit by a car and dies.

I think Molly is lonely, and I think she is bored. She is still pretty young and very playful. I suspect she is herding the chickens when we are away, a natural instinct she has whenever she sees anything run. She nips at them, just as she would at a cow's leg to herd it, and actually breaks skin. Then she either eats it because it is too tasty to resist, or plays with it until it is dead. Two of the chickens she killed have been dismembered. The one I found today was whole, and had been dead for quite a while, so perhaps she did her best to restrain herself once the deed was done? I don't know. It really is an awful sight, these poor birds.

But I don't cry about it any more. My feelings like that have turned to people. I have been thinking so much about the huge number of people so much less fortunate than we are, in such dire circumstances. Well, that is food for another post, but it has been weighing heavily on my mind.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I know this is an older post, but I'm a new blogger and exploring all these great entries.
I just picked up my first two dairy goats TODAY! I chose Nigerian Dwarves, just because they are little and easily managed, but I've thought of adding a LaMancha in the future because I've heard all good things about the breed!
I can't wait to read a few updates from you on how your do!
Best of luck with the dogs--we have a new dog who is learning to leave our hens alone. I wish we still had a big crabby rooster--LOL--nothing like Big Earl to teach a snappy pup a lesson!

Susan