Animal challenges

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.

8 thoughts on “Animal challenges

  1. Could Bonnie just be bored? If she’s used to lots of playtime and attention outside maybe she missed the attention and tried to find a new playmate. Really hope harmony can be restored for you all…

    • We think you are right, she is bored and not used to the lack of company. We have already tried various measures to combat this and hopefully have it sorted.

  2. Their instinct is to herd. Maybe they didn’t go where she wanted them to ? I agree with the above poster that she probably bored. They need a huge amount of stimulation – more than most dogs and it’s winter and nasty out and she probably needed to amuse herself. I think if she intended to kill them she would have with no problem at all and she didn’t.

    • Agreed, she didn’t kill and could have done so it was probably not her intention. We have taken measures to ease boredom and the birds are now safe and Bonnie hopefully stimulated 🙂

  3. ‘Poor Bonnie has been recovering from her op, she was happy to take things easy and just pleased to be home and back with us for the first few days, then she had a grumpy few days and then she remembered that she is the most energetic puppy around, used to running for hours every day, chasing deer, rounding up the ducks and geese and generally having a ball and started to go mad at just having four or five lead walks per day.’

    Allowing her to chase deer unchecked may not have helped as it gives her the OK to chase anything whether it be livestock, wildlife or whatever. Also at this time of year the deer are in their poorest condition struggling to survive the last month or so of winter. Later on hinds will be heavily pregnant or may have small calves at foot which would also be susceptible if they were actually caught by the dog.

    • You are right, I think allowing the chase to happen probably allows the theoretical kill too. I don’t worry about the deer as the ones she chases are the odd few who stray onto the croft and I’d rather have chased off anyway (gits eating our trees!) and although we are coming into the mortality season now Bonnie would not catch them on this small section of land and if she did we’d be around. Hinds with calves tend not to be on the croft land – we’ve not seen any all through the year, I think our presence keeps them at bay.

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