And then there were very nearly sixteen.

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.


11 thoughts on “And then there were very nearly sixteen.

  1. OMG, you scared me, I thought I was going to read another chicken horror story. I read about predator attacks often and I’m horrified. I haven’t experienced a predator attack here at the ranch, close calls, and that is scary enough. It totally shook us up. Seems they are smarter now though, I notice they run and hide from overhead birds, or anything out of the ordinary.

    • Scared me, too! And I’m still scared, because I’m afraid they’ll be back. I have to say, for chickens who are frequently truly stupid, mine were very smart throughout the ordeal. They have good self-preservation skills.

  2. Phewww! You know how to bring on the suspense!

    So glad everyone is okay. Damn dogs.

    If you let Billie out, would she not be protective? I’ve had my little corgi tackle a dog after our geese.

    • Billie is such a gentle, passive girl, it’s really hard to say. I’d be afraid she’d be attacked by the other dogs, a scenario in which she’s played the role of victim before, unfortunately… I’m amazed the chickens aren’t afraid of her now, as the other dogs were not dissimilar to her in appearance. They seem to know the difference,

      • It is all dependant on her temperament, and it does seem by your description of her, that it wouldn’t do anything but put her in harm’s way. I needed Koda to round that beagle up. He had a scent, so it was hard to break his focus. I threatened the neighbour. I wanted them to know how seriously serious I was about it. Dog has not come near again.

      • Also just checked out your FB page. Sometimes angry threats will be enough to scare them into keeping their dogs secured. I would never shoot a dog.. I don’t think I’d have it in me.. But at that moment, I felt so angry that I needed to say I would shoot said dog in the head.

        Did I mention I’ve never even seen a gun in person? Maybe a dart gun would be useful here…

      • I’m not going to be angry. I’m going to very calmly say that we are prepared to defend our flock to the limits of the law. The rest is up to them.

      • My neighbours actually saw their dog get loose and did not go after it. This + the fact they didn’t apologize had me in rage mode. I saw red.

        I have some very seriously endangered breeds. Some that have been imported even. Not to mention they are my children. I was lucky.. None were hurt at all. That dog had been on our property 3 times.

        Hope you find those neighbours! Maybe they had a dog sitter that did it. It may have been accidental. Have you ever seen them before?

  3. That was a fortunate outcome. I’m glad your hens are okay. We lost two female ducks yesterday due to racoons. They attacked shortly after we let them out for the day. It was light. We’ve never had to worry about racoons after sunrise before. Everyone is staying in now until at least an hour after sunrise. They won’t like it, but they wouldn’t like being dead more.

    • I am so very sorry for your loss. How heartbreaking! For all my bitching, I am pleased our raccoon is merely a nuisance, and has never been able to get into the coop. I hope he keeps to HIS nighttime schedule…

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