Tales of Terror From a First-Time Chicken Keeper

| 5/8/2014 10:05:00 AM

Traci N SmithWhen I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of the country. I hated living so far away from my friends, the movies and the mall. Everything I wanted to do on the weekends was always in town. Before I turned 16, I always had to ask for rides; after I turned 16, I always had to ask for gas money. I would go into town on a Friday and find someone’s couch to crash on until I had to go home Sunday just to save on gas. I couldn’t wait until I was 18 and could move into town.

I technically moved into town when I was 17. I’m 25 now. And I have spent the last eight years trying to get BACK to the country. Crazy, isn’t it? My family loves to remind me that when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to move into town. They thought when I first started talking about moving back to the country that it was just some phase I was going through and that I was kidding. It is now to the point that they fully believe me. When you are living in town and have a garden, rabbits, chickens, and are looking at getting piglets.… Something tells people that you truly belong in the country and not in city limits.

My little girl and I bought six chicks last spring. We had four New Hampshire Red pullets and two Black Sex Links from the local Rural King. Brought them home and set them up in a big black plastic toolbox thing. (Like the ones you put in the bed of your truck.) Used crushed corncob bedding, had chick feed, feeders, waterers, a heat lamp, everything they needed. Raised my babies inside until they had most of their feathers and moved them to the outside coop. Now this is where we got creative.

My backyard homestead
My backyard homestead setup with the garden, rabbits and chickens.

We didn’t have the money to buy a coop or the materials to build one, so we used what we had. Which happened to be a metal dog crate. One of those black metal ones with the removable bottoms. I took 1-inch wooden slats that we had laying in the yard and made roosts from them. Stuck the whole cage under the rabbit coop and threw the removable bottom on top of the cage to keep the girls clean and dry (plus, it also caught all the rabbit manure so I could use it on my garden!). Stuck boards in around and housed them into half the cage with the other half open on the sides to aid in ventilation. Hung their water inside the pen with them and hung the feeder outside so they constantly had water, but only ate during the day when they were out. They had full run of our yard during the day and would put themselves up at dark, waiting patiently inside for me to come out and shut the gate. Until the night that I got home late.…

At the time, I had my male pit and I had a female pit-lab mix named Polly. Now I know how some people feel about pit bulls. So I’m just going to say this: I have a 4-year-old male that I have had since he was 5 weeks old. Cane will lay in our yard and let my kids, chickens, whatever have ya, crawl all over him and he’ll never move. He plays with my son and is extremely protective of him. He tries to herd him away from areas where he will get hurt and will let me know when my assistance is needed. Same way with my 4-year-old, although I think Cane is partial to my son. But I digress. I just want it said that being a pit bull had nothing to do with the rest of the story.

2/1/2015 1:08:29 PM

Hi all. An old remedy for dogs that kill chickens is to tie the dead chicken around the dog's neck with wire and leave it there for 3 days. I've never done this, but looking back, wish I would have at least tried when the situation happened with my dogs. I've given up on owning dogs and chickens together. My mom said my dad did this to our wonderful dog when it first happened, and she was the BEST dog around our flock. Mom said it was just heartbreaking through the 3 days, but it worked.

1/31/2015 4:27:22 PM

Linda Dicks, You are correct in assuming that it was the younger of the two dogs. My ex-husband took her after this incident. His grandmother lived next door to him at the time and she had chickens as well. Multiple people told me that the dog attempted to attack her flock on multiple occasions. He finally found her a new home. My older dog has became a GREAT guardian dog for them and as soon as I am able to allow them to semi-free range, he will be loose with them to deter other predators. Unfortunately, where we are currently located I can not allow them to free range in any manner and my mother's German Shepard even found a way into the coop when we first moved here. I lost another 3 hens to a dog. :( I am almost against owning any more dogs once my pit has passed just based on my experience with dogs and chickens.

Linda Dicks
5/11/2014 4:59:02 PM

We all want to hope that our dogs never bother the chickens, ducks, or such but one never knows what pushes that prey button for them. My old hens quickly told our newest pup who was boss and he has not figured out a way to challenge them YET. From reading your post I am assuming it was not the older dog that did in your ladies.

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