How a chicken got her name.

I won’t post a picture with this one because it’s a bit too gruesome.  One day back in April, I was sitting quietly in the living room while the chickens roamed around outside of the fenced yard.  This was the middle of the day.

I heard a sudden commotion in the back yard.  A chicken giving an alarm call.  I ran to the back door to check. I could see several chickens spread out around the yard motionless, except for one who was high-tailing it for the fenced yard. Curious as to what caused the commotion, I took one more step out the back door.  A coyote, who was blocked from my view, took off for the woods.  Terrified, I gather up my girls and put them back into the safety of their yard and went  in search of the one that had taken “flight”.

It took me a while, but I finally found her in the far corner cowering in some weeds. It looked at first as if she had gotten away clean, but when she turned around, I realized just how close she had come to being a coyote’s dinner.  Half her tail feathers and a lot of her back and bottom body feathers were missing and she had a bad gash under her pygostyle (pope’s nose).

There was no way to catch her until nightfall, so I waited and arranged to have Sara come by to help with the veterinary care. After dark we nabbed her from her perch in the coop and took her inside to clean her up and start her on antibiotics.  I was all for calling her Lucky, but Sara had seen too many Luckies in her years of veterinary practice who were anything but lucky.  Peter suggested Roadrunner and it stuck.

It took about two weeks for the wound to heal and all the feathers to return, but she’s fully recovered and no worse for the experience. I’m able to tell her apart by the fresh black and white tail feathers. At least I will until she molts.

What still baffles me is why the coyote went for a Barred Rock hen, when far more obvious white Leghorn hens were sticking out like sore thumbs in the yard? Prey of convenience, I guess.


An amazing dog

Poor little Oscar sustained a rather hideous injury on Labor Day.  Excited by the arrival of one of his favorite guests, Oscar decided jumping on the fence was a good way to show his enthusiasm. Unfortunately, his paw slipped through the wiring and caught his caudal pad, partially tearing it from his wrist. Fortunately, the guest he was so excited about was my good friend Sara, a veterinarian, who always travels with a med kit. With some medications I had on hand and her bandages, we got him treated. Considering how much it hurt, he was amazingly cooperative.

The injury requires daily dressing changes. Remove the old bandage, clean, blow dry, and redress. He wasn’t impressed with the blow drier, so I had Peter rewarding him for staying still during the process. It became a nightly ritual. On the fifth day, I went into the bathroom (not the dogs’ favorite place because that’s where they get their baths), and got all my supplies ready. I opened the door and there was Oscar waiting in the hallway. I asked him if he’d like to come in, fully expecting him to slink off down the hall, but to my utter surprise, he walked in and lay down on the towel and propped his injured leg on the other towel.

The next night, he was in the living room when I got everything ready. I walked in and he looked up at me. I said, and these are my exact words, “Oscar, I need you in the bathroom”. He proceeded to get up, walk down the hall and into the bathroom. I stood there with my jaw sagging for a moment, and he popped his head out the door with a “well, aren’t you coming?” look.

Yes, dogs recognize and respond to patterns, and yes, they respond strongly to positive reinforcement, and yes, I’ve been working very hard to develop optimism in my dogs, but this just blew me away. All I can think is, “What an amazing, trusting, confident dog!” and “Thank the Good Dog the injury wasn’t sustained by D’Argo!”

Bunny Brain update

I thought I was so clever figuring out how Oscar was getting out and immediately fixing the problem. Unfortunately, he escaped again. It took me a little while to figure out that he was climbing the brush pile I had created when I cut back the shrubs to install the higher fence. I had stupidly left the brush pile up against the fence and it was just an easy matter for Oscar to just run up the pile and over.

So, out came the chipper. All the branches were chipped including some pear tree, catalpa, and sycamore branches I had trimmed earlier this year, creating a very nice pile of ramial mulch for the fruit trees.

Since then, there have been no escapes. We’ve gone a full two months without having to frantically search for a bunny crazed dog. Of course it does help that the bunnies seem to have disappeared. I wonder if that had anything to do with the coyote I saw one morning running along the fence to the garden yard. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Bunny brain

Oscar has a condition I call bunny brain. It’s a ten on his distraction list.  If a bunny is present there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will pull his attention away for more than a fraction of a second, not even deer flushing right in front of him.  He must watch the bunny, he must chase the bunny, and if given the opportunity, he must kill the bunny (cue the “Ride of the Valkyries”). This condition led Oscar to take up the hobby of escape artist.

Leading up to this weekend Oscar has escaped the fenced yard on a few occasions. The first time was my fault, I forgot to close the gate. Both dogs left the yard chasing heaven knows what, and we got a phone call from our neighbor behind that he had found Oscar (D’Argo had already trotted home). The second time Oscar had escaped through a fence washout. Twice he got out by digging under a gate, once from a portion of loose fencing.  Just when I think I have solved all the problems, Oscar finds another escape route.

I was mowing in the back yard, yesterday evening when a brown streak zips past me yipping, first in one direction, then in another.  It’s Oscar.  And what is he chasing?  A bunny.  He tore off through the most densely vegetated part of our property, full of poison ivy, bull nettles, and Johnson grass taller than my head (also foot catching collapsed gopher tunnels from the heavy rains this past spring). I’m catching glimpses of my bunny brained dog, as he darts to and fro.  He must have lost his prey, because he eventually came back to me when I called.  Having no leash with me, I had to carry this goofy panting dog, about a tenth of a mile, through the sand burs.

I checked the fence line and was baffled.  The only spot I thought he might have escaped from was a section of fence that would lean out a few inches if a dog stood against it.  I wired that section tight again and thought I had solved the problem. I was wrong.

After walking the dogs this morning, I left them in the yard while I watered the chickens and weighed the eggs from the evening before. When I came out to get them, Oscar was gone again.  I found him in the same spot as yesterday.  No doubt he was searching for his bunny.  At that point I thought we were going to have to tie Oscar up in the yard.  After breakfast, I let dogs wander while I observed from the other side of the yard.  In that time, I identified numerous weak points in the fencing, but nothing I could say with certainty  was Oscar’s route.  So while fixing some of these weak points and continued to observe Oscar.  Sure enough, he escaped again, but this time I was right there to grab him, before he suffered from bunny brain.
Between the wall of the house and the gate, on the front porch, there was a short section where the fence was only two feet high because it went through a holly bush and a boxwood shrub.  In the seven years since this fence was erected, D’Argo, another hunter, never tried to jump this fence, even when a bunny got stuck trying to get through it. Oscar however, was not bothered by the fact that he had to jump through a shrub (which in hindsight now explains some mysterious scratches).  That was his escape route.  Luckily, I still had a lot of spare fencing. I had to cut the shrubs back quite a bit, but was able to install a four foot fence section against the two foot fencing.  Oscar was disappointed to say the least, but I feel much better now, and I don’t have to keep Oscar on a long lead. He has no idea how close he came to losing his freedom.