Molly, our dog, is a herding dog. Australian Shepherd, maybe with some Blue Heeler (also called Australian Cattle Dogs). Very intelligent breeds, very strong herding instinct. Molly, not so much instinct, but she's getting there. She is very protective of me, in particular, and is excellent at herding everything away from me. This is not necessarily the direction I am hoping for of course.
We have begun letting the chickens out to range around. They are old enough and sturdy enough now, and hopefully big enough that the chicken hawks will ignore them (wishful thinking). Their presence in the yard has been a source of endless temptation for Molly. In addition to the now easy access to warm bodies that she can chase, there is the lure of the chicken feed, which apparently is delicious... the dog, cat, horses and donkey, as well as the chickens, find it quite delectable.
So Hank the horse dumped the feeder when it was on the ground out of the chicken house. And Molly dumped it when it was in. Stephen rigged up a tiny door, big enough for chickens to come and go, and small enough for Molly to be prevented from going in. This works for keeping Molly out, but oddly, the chickens seem less interested in coming out (at least today).
About 20 of them were out this afternoon, however. We were getting ready to go into Austin for our monthly food coop pick-up and trip to Whole Foods and Costco. We had let "the fat boys" (the Cornish-Rock broilers) out in the front, so rounded them all back up by hand as their "house" does not have a door (it's a trailer).
We checked on the other birds back in the shed, filled water and feeder, and saw there were a few birds out, so I left the door open figuring they would go in when it got dark. We loaded up our coolers to go, but as I got in the truck to drive off, Farmer Boy shouted "Mama! Molly has a black bird!"
Sure enough, across the yard was Molly with a dark bird in her mouth. I shouted her name and started running toward her and she dropped it, then dropped on her back with that guilty look on her face. The poor bird (a RI Red it turns out) looked like someone had decided to get some boneless breast without killing her. I burst out crying.
What to do? I was just going to make my first appointment if I'd left when I was getting in the truck. The bird was alive, but should it be? Should I put it out of its misery? I really had no idea what to do, but I had to do something.
After conveying my displeasure to Molly (if anyone knows how to train a farm dog... HELP!) I ran into the house, crying, found a box, filled it with pine shavings, cried some more, got some gloves, said a bad word, cried and ran back to the bird. Farmer Boy had come out of the truck and was standing over the bird keeping Molly away from her.
I put her in the box and carried it into our bathroom, putting her in our chicken hospital (our non-functioning tub). I gave her a little food and water, and hoped for the best. Yes, I did say a prayer for her. She is one of God's creatures after all.
Then I cried some more.
But there was no time for being emotional, so I cried as I ran to the back yard to figure out what on earth to do with the other chickens. We gathered up the ones we saw and put them in the shed, and just as we were about to leave discovered a big lump of them all settled down for a nap in a toasty patch of sunshine, on the other side of the fence. There were too many of them to catch, so again, praying for the best, we left.
And when we returned 6 hours later, the injured bird was still alive, and there were only 5 birds still outside. No sign of carnage, so I am assuming the others did as I'd hoped and hopped up the ramp back into the shed at dusk. We popped the remaining birds in and closed them up for the night.
Now I am off to research healing this bird...