Saturday, August 2, 2008

CSI: Chicken Farm

Well, the chicken head count came up short.

I know, I know - that's why farmers don't take vacations. As of right now I'm not sure how many chickens we DO have, but I'll find that out when they go to bed tonight. (I laugh when I say that - and wonder if you picture me out there tucking them all in at night under a pretty quilt and reading them a bedtime story and telling them that Colonel Sanders is make-believe and bringing them one last drink of water).

I woke up extra early this morning, which is strange by itself, considering I was literally falling over tired last night and "early" was only 6 hours or so later. I'm one of those "nine hours will do ya" kind of folk, so six hours seems insane. I got up, went back to bed, and got up again. I couldn't settle back down though, so I figured what the heck? I'll just stay up. Plus, something was eating at me and I couldn't put a finger on it. I got dressed and in my usual fashion, I went to the window to peer outside and see how the morning was looking. I got there just in time to see a black dog running away from our property. Aw heck. I wonder who lost their dog? How sad to lose your dog. He looked like a nice dog.

A few seconds passed. A few seconds of: I'm an idiot feelings sorry for someone who lost their dog instead of...

OH MAN! Why was that strange dog running through our place??? MY CHICKENS ARE OUT THERE!

I slipped on my new CABELA'S mocs in a delightful shade of light pink, and dashed out the door.

Momma Hen and her babies. Check
Two rabbits IN their pens. Check
Goats. Check
Rooster wandering around. Check
Bunch of hens in the field where they are SUPPOSED to be. Check


HEY, where's the dog?

Oh Greeeeat! The dog is gone and some other dog is gone too. *sigh* I HATE chasing down our dog because I swear he has about 29 pounds of Beagle in his 30 pound Yellow Lab LOOKING body. We had a beagle when I was growing up, and if he got off his chain for even 1/2 of one second, he was gone. His nose was in control and no amount of hollering or yelling or beckoning or begging or pleading or... yeah, you get my drift. Well I refused to ever have a dog like that, but somehow, whatever dog jumped the fence to breed with that beautiful yellow lab momma (because I don't like that other word) was 185% beagle. He had to have been. My dog is insanely controlled by his nose. ALMOST as bad as that dog we had when I was little. Almost. Thankfully, our dog is very thrilled by praise. Food no, praise yes. Go figure.

His chain was sitting on the ground. Not broken, no collar attached, just sitting there. Eh? I hate chaining our dog up, but as you can see, we don't really have any other choice. We tried the kennel, and he just jumped and barked the ENTIRE time we were home or gone. Our dog has a 20 or 30 foot run attached to the ground at both ends (depending on which one is most recently purchased because the last piece of junk has broken) and his chain is another 20 feet allowing him LOTS of room to run. We're all pretty much happy with that arrangement. He mows the grass and keeps away predators, we feed him. haha

Back to the story. The dog was missing. So I called. I called again. I beckoned, I ... ok, so he wasn't anywhere in sight. There was, however, 2 lumps on the ground over by the fence. Noooooo....

That sinking feeling you get when you're pretty sure something you're seeing is what you think it is but you hope it isn't. Well, it was. *sigh* Two of my pretties had gone on to chicken heaven.

Now... I have this tendency to use my brains in an urgent situation (see post about the missing six pack abs boy while on vacation) and to me, this was an urgent situation. So what do I do? Do I call for help? No. Do I sit and cry? No. Do I yell and scream and go get the gun? No.

I do what any other medical examiner would do. I examine the bodies to determine what, exactly, may have caused the injuries that resulted in death. Then I got a bit mad. It was not bird of prey, I'd seen that before quite a few times. It was not raccoon, or there would have not been two little chickens laying neatly side by side - intact. It was not cougar, or there would have been just feathers. It was not snake because, I don't know but I'm pretty sure it wasn't snake. It was DOG. I've studied this in great detail, as you can see.

So then, I do what any crime scene investigator would do. I left the birds right where they lay, after positively identifying them by their wing clippings (oh brother) and went in search of witnesses. I questioned the turkeys, and they pretty much acted stupid. Like usual. I knew they'd seen something, but they weren't giving up any information. Then, the chickens... they had been standing there watching the post-mortem exam, and so they were pretty useless to me by then. I had to go deeper. So, deeper I went. Way out into the back field to question the goats. Everytime someone shows up missing, the goats always give useful information. Except that time I got a stick stabbed into my foot and they acted like they didn't see a thing. Whatever.

The goats were very useful. They came running from the far side of the pasture to help with the investigation. They endured some questioning, and some head rubs, and eventually one of them looked over their shoulder at the brush on the riverbank. That's when I noticed the lone branch wiggling. Thank you goat.

I hollered for the dog. Still more shuffling around in the bushes.
Then I acted all excited like I was going to go for a walk (as I nervously checked for spying neighbors who would most definitely laugh at my scene). It worked. The dog came bounding up over the edge and seemed excited to see me until he realized three things.
1. He was not at his appointed post.
2. I was not smiling
3. A walk looked out of the question

He followed me first, to the "evidence" where I questioned him, and his behavior didn't really give off many clues. The way he was talking, he acted interested and concerned, but not guilty. I was confused. Either he did it, and he didn't realize it was a no-no (which is unlikely because every time he comes CLOSE to one of my chickens he knows he's in trouble) or he didn't do it and he was interested and concerned.

Was it a coincidence that 2 chickens show up lifeless the same morning he's running off down by the river? Also highly unlikely. But then there was that other dog. The one who didn't belong. It was hard to be really REALLY mad at my dog when there was clearly another suspect who had fled the scene. Either way, I was upset. I was upset that I'd lost trust in my dog, even though I had very little to begin with, but still. It bothered me.

Once, a few weeks ago, Mr. Nice Guy was so ticked off at one of the hens who kept eluding his attempts to put her back in the field at night (for her OWN safety) that he let the dog loose on her. The dog caught up to her quick, put her down on the ground with his paw and his "Lab-like" jaws, and just sat there. It was like a duck hunting move. Swift, smooth and not a hint of danger.

I had hope for awhile. Hope that all he ever wanted to do was put the hens away for us, and maybe that's exactly what happened. They were, after all, barely injured. Maybe he got loose somehow. Which, I might add is another mystery all by itself, as it appears someONE let the dog off the chain sometime before everyone awoke. The latch was not bent or malfunctioning, and his collar was in the same condition as before. Weird.

So since I don't know anything about the other stupid dog suspect, I have to assume the story went something like this:
My dog got off his chain with his own little paws, noticed some chickens were not "put away" and he tried to take care of business for us. He pinned one down, she gave a fight, he kept at it, and accidentally hurt her. Then she died. He did the same to another one, but she didn't lose many feathers because she died of a heart attack. She was always the freakiest one of the bunch. Then he left them by the fence, laying next to each other. Then he thought he'd done such a good job that he went down by the river to round up all those hooligan chickens that don't believe in fences (or nestboxes). They party it up all day by the riverbed and even lay their eggs there. He went down to gather them up and bring them home too. His people were going to be SO proud of him for doing a good job! So when his person found him, he knew he was going to be in trouble for not heeling the first time he was told, but he was still interested in the praise he was sure to get for doing a good JOB. But, that part didn't happen.

This case is going to remain open, until after I count all my chickens tonight and contact the neighbors about who owns the black dog. I'll keep you posted, I'm sure, but for now - I'm off duty.

Yeah right. Like any farmer is ever OFF duty,
It's like taking a break from motherhood. Not. Gonna. Happen. Ever.


Agent K said...

Agent K on the scene. Dog crimes are my gig.


You poor girl! Sorry about you chicks.

Misty said...

Being a dog loyalist here, I am completely thinking the other suspect is the entire culprit. Maybe he was going after the chickens and your dog tried to protect them. and then when he saw the other dog going for the river folk, he went to protect them too...

Do you get that i really love dogs?

Miriam said...

Ooh. This is a tough one. It is a retriever's instinct (or bred characteristic or both) to harm them very little and lay them side by side for their master.

Anonymous said...

mom, you need to mention
the other chickens, remember?