Bonnie the dog is in disgrace today 🙁 Last week we found one of our ducks rather mauled. Having lived alongside the livestock her whole life and not done anything wrong before we gave Bonnie the benefit of the doubt as there are other potential predators here even if not the usual foxes, stoats, weasels etc. Sadly we then found Bonnie with a second duck and then a third this week, neither as badly injured but certainly not loving the attention of a collie with very sharp teeth either. All three seem to have made full recoveries including the very injured first duck who lost all her back feathers and a lot of the skin on her back.
Today though after having been severely told off for the duck misdemeanors Bonnie was caught with a chicken in a very bad way. Ady berated her and we examined the chicken. She has lost all the feathers on her neck and has some nasty wounds. We put her in a warm, dark place for a while to recover from the ordeal thinking she would either die of shock fairly quickly or pull through. Having checked on here every ten minutes or so to ensure she was not unduly suffering we had a family conference about the best next course of action.
As meat eaters a big part of our animal keeping is for our own food. Our plan with regard to chickens is to keep any egg layers for that and to eat any that are older and off lay or any cockerels bred from our stock. As such we debated whether we are better to try and return this chicken to health or to kill her and eat her. It’s a tough issue and one which we will face over again with our animals. We have previously reared, killed and eaten chickens, while WWOOFing we killed and processed chickens and turkeys and we took pigs and sheep to a slaughterhouse and watched them being dispatched.
Our conclusion today after listening to everyone’s opinions and taking a vote was to see if the chicken lasts the night and if so how she is doing. We know enough about meat processing to be able to look at the body in the morning if she dies and decide whether it is fit to eat and aslong as she is not in undue pain and suffering and lasts the night we will nurse her back to health as a good young laying chicken. So we’re still at wait and see for now. The chicken is currently in a box in the lounge as she will be picked on if we return her to the coop by both the other chickens and probably rats and crows – her injuries leave her too vulnerable to just put outside.
The next question is how to ensure this doesn’t happen again. As rookie dog owners I realise at times like this how much we still have to learn. We stayed on so many farms where birds and dogs lived happily side by side so I know it can happen but I also know we have a responsibility towards both the dog and the birds to ensure this can’t be repeated. For now we will restrict Bonnie’s freedom to only being outside supervised with us and we have ordered a very long lead and ground spike to give her some restricted freedom to be outside when we are not. In the summer we were outside all the time so she was simply with us and therefore always supervised, played with lots and had lots of interactive exercise. Over winter there have been more times when she is outside alone which coupled with natural instincts seem to have resulted in this sad state of affairs. Things could have been worse, lessons have been learnt and hopefully all birds will recover and this won’t happen again.