Those of you who keep tabs on the Heedley Hens Facebook Page will know that we experienced a frightening predator attack first thing Sunday morning, by the number one killer of chickens: dogs.
I was just getting out of bed when I caught a fleeting glimpse of big, black dog in the corner of my eye. It took about half a second before I realised Billie was with me in the bedroom, and there were two dogs tearing up our driveway to get at the flock, which The Man had already released from the run.
It’s interesting to note how one reacts in moments of emergency; I ran downstairs yelling “Get outside. GET OUTSIDE!!” The Man, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, and couldn’t even hear me until I’d made it to the kitchen.
“Two dogs outside!!” We both tore out the back door and up the driveway. There were white feathers scattered all along the driveway, and I feared the worst. This pic doesn’t do it justice:
The Man, about 100 feet ahead of me, yelled at the two leashless, unattended dogs, as they were cornering some of the hens in the run. From my vantage point, I saw him chase them off our property, westward, but there was something white in the lead dog’s mouth.
This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo; I knew what came next…counting. One normally follows the trail of feathers to find lost/injured birds, but what if your flock has been molting?!
I called to the flock, and most of 2.0 came from Fox Woods. I found the last of them nesting in the barn. I ran around to the run to find a few 1.0s, and more inside the coop, with 2.1. A quick tally told me I was missing two: Hermione and Alexia.
By this time, The Stepdaughters had emerged from the house, worried, but they had welcome news: they’d seen Hermione head for the pine tree by the furnace. She wasn’t there anymore, but we found her hiding by the house. She was difficult to capture, but I needed to check her over; there had been a flurry of red feathers outside the run.
She was terrified, but physically fine, That is, until I turned her over and saw her feet. Bumblefoot surgery required. OY!
This left only Alexia. I was sure she had been taken, but The Man swore the dog had only a few feathers in its mouth. It wasn’t until three hours later that she returned, calling loudly for her flock. I was so relieved to see her; truly, I had given her up for lost.
She buried herself in Fox Woods. It would take serious temptation to get her out of there so I could look her over. I pulled out the big guns; I made the flock scrambled eggs. Wouldn’t you?! Poor things!! Nom noms all around!!
She did, indeed, come out for eggs, and, once she was done, I scooped her up gently and brought her into the house, to look her over. There was a smear of blood on her chest, but I could find no wounds. What I did find was a little blood on her feet; it seemed she had injured some blood feathers in the scuffle. This is an additional vulnerability of feather-footed breeds, I have found.
I soaked her feet in warm water mixed with a Betadyne cleanser, just in case the dogs had had their mouths on them. She endured the treatment graciously, while I sorted through her feathers, looking for further injury. She returned to the flock and even laid for me yesterday. I call that rather above and beyond.
We haven’t identified the dogs’ owners yet, but we’ve been somewhat occupied with Sandy, who left us mercifully unscathed. Many of our good friends have not been so fortunate, and we wish dry streets to HeedleyWendy in NYC and power to misterproperty.
Stay safe, people.