Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We need a bunker

This is a terrible story. 

As longtime readers may recall, we used to let our chickens range freely through our fenced yard. But in October a dog broke in and killed five of our hens. After that, we built a protected chicken run where we enclose the birds when we are not around. 

Like yesterday. Yesterday, my sister and I took care of business related to the upcoming memorial for our mother. For instance, we bought a casket, paid for the chapel, and went to meet the deacon who will be officiating at the funeral.
 
We were discussing biblical readings with this nice, grandfatherly man at his office when my cell phone rang. A neighbor reported that two terriers had broken into our yard and somehow penetrated our locked chicken coop.
 
When I got home shortly thereafter, the police, a representative of the Humane Society, and various appalled neighbors were standing around in our sideshow of a yard. The dogs had been sent home and onlookers had very courteously stuffed the ten -- ten -- dead chickens into bulging Hefty bags. Our favorite chickens all died. Alberta Einstein (see above), whom Owen was going to show at the Marin County Fair in a few months, perished; so did July; so did our two cuckoo Marans. It's a mystery how the terriers got into the coop. The only breach in the perimeter was a strip of chicken wire ripped off an impossibly tiny gap in the elevated main door of the hen house. But then they're tiny dogs. According to onlookers, they showed remarkable teamwork, one of them herding, the other killing. And, of course, the chickens had nowhere to fly, nowhere to hide, stuck as they were in their coop.

We have legal options which I am seriously considering this time. I don't want to be a nasty, vindictive neighbor, but the owners of the dogs broke the law and as a result we lost not just property, but our much loved pets. The dogs didn't dash out and do this while the owner was looking the other direction. According to one neighbor, they'd been running around loose for three hours. They had plenty of time to strategize and storm that coop. 

We have a handful of chickens left. When I picked him up after school, Owen wept furiously and said he wants to get more as soon as possible. I loved our chickens, but I'm deeply discouraged and unsure whether I can stand more heartbreak.
                                                                          

26 comments:

  1. Just what you didn't need. Try Try again. Don't give up Tipsy. There's nothing wrong with waiting a month or so though.

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  2. This is what terriers are bred for.

    I still want to know where are the neighbors who are responsible? Your reaction should be inversely proportional to their engagement. If they still haven't come to you to see how they can make it right, then the dogs must go, if not for a dirt nap, as it is so quaintly called here, then to another home.

    Don't give up on chickens!

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  3. I am so sorry to hear this--heartbreak upon heartbreak, as though your losses weren't already incalculable. And I am a dog person but holy crow--who lets their dogs roam free for hours? Can the Humane Society help you deal with this at all?
    Thinking of you again, so much, and racking my brain for any ways to help.
    Condolences yet again to you and to poor Owen.

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  4. I agree, those owners need to take responsibility. We have a toy fox terrier and she does not run free, but would tirelessly try to eat a chicken, even if they are probably bigger than she is. Actually, she once made a great dane walking with its' owner walk into a tree just by barking furiously at it. I would be heartbroken if she killed someone else's pet like that.

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  5. Meh! Poor Owen, poor you, and poor Alberta Einstein!

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  6. This is terrible. I agree, you don't want to become personally vindictive. But I hope you do take legal action, if only in hopes that it will bring home to the dog owners that they are responsible for what their pets do when they are running loose. Poor Owen! I admire his dedication to the chickens.

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  7. Our neighbors who own the dogs came and the woman tearfully apologized. I wasn't there, but my husband was. Sorry goes a long way. If they were jerks, it would much easier to stay furious. When the dust settles I guess we'll just be refortifying the coop and hoping for the best with the next round.

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  8. Did they give any reason why the dogs were loose for so long? Is this a chronic problem?

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  9. My God. What else? That honestly just sucks.

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  10. Poor Owen and poor chickens.

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  11. At least they showed up in person. That helps a little. But how were the dogs roaming long enough to have this happen? My dog is freakin' Houdini but we don't let her stay out indefinitely.

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  12. Life without heartbreak, just as life without joy, is no life at all. Keep at it--Albert Einstein, Jr. needs a home.

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  13. Jesus, Tipsy! Rotten week. You're being very gracious about those neighbors. Again, heaps of love-- we're thinking of you.

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  14. Go with what Owen wants and get more chickens. I'm sorry that the attack happened. Very sad. We expect to have predator attacks. Try to make your coop and run as secure as you can. There are many sites online to search for making coops predator proof. Good luck!

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  15. I live in a rural area where we have coyotes, loose dogs, raccoons, foxes, hawks, and numerous other animals that like to eat chicken. My answer to the predator problem was to buy a 12'x12'x6' high dog chain link dog pen. I covered the top of the pen with chicken wire (to keep out hawks) and shade cloth (to give the hens respite from the sun). I lined the outside bottom 2' of kennel with closely woven chicken wire to keep predators' arms from reaching in. Then I bought a large insulated dog house and put it in the center of the kennel. This housing, intended to keep dogs in, has succeeded in keeping all predators out for 15 years. It is not the most attractive housing for hens, but it will keep your hens safe and healthy. Please try again. You can't control your neighbors' pets, but you can protect your hens.

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  16. Well it hurts. And it seems really unfair(sometimes it is). And new chickens and the higher road looks like a good way to go.
    My prayers go with you and your family.
    Hurt, healing and change seems to be part of the cycle of life. It does get better. The lessons we learn can be really enlightening and the people we meet along our path are magnificent and often very dear to us.

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  17. hey j - i just tuned in and read the terrible news. i had to write. i am so sorry about your mother. then to have that compounded by the slaughter of your pets – simply awful. my heart goes out to you and your family. praying for relief...

    lisa (crovo) dion
    (lisa.dion@mac.com)

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  18. Boy Tipsy, you've had a rough go of it. Your canceled vacation, your mother, now this, each bad in totally different ways. Thinking of you and wishing better things to come.

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  19. I'm so sorry about this. If it gets amicably resolved with the neighbors, maybe a story in the Chronicle or IJ would help bring the greater problem with dogs to the fore?

    There is just so much leeway given dogs these days; people don't seem to understand any more that it is an owner's responsibility to train a dog (or keep it subdued.)

    Obsessed with animal rights and "humane treatment", people aren't even training and controlling their dogs now for fear of being "mean". (And then there's the incessant barking when they're left alone all day..)

    "Treat a dog like a human and they'll treat you like a dog."

    I love animals, of course. It's just gotten ridiculous.

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  20. Maybe the Terriers dug under the enclosure?

    Tip: Putting hardware cloth (heavy steel mesh) horizontally to the ground, 6" inches deep, and out a distance of a foot from the base of the fence, (with dirt covering the mesh,) will deter most diggers including rats...

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  21. I love all the care and interest of your fans :0)
    I'm sorry for your chicks but happy for your “great network support”!

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  22. I love all the care and interest of your fans :0)
    I'm sorry for your chicks but happy for your “great network support”!

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  23. gourmetbebe4/3/10, 10:58 AM

    My heart breaks for you and Owen, Tipsy. For Alberta too. Hang in there - brighter days are sure to come.

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  24. i've been reading your blog for awhiles, but obviously we don't "know" each other. i just want to say how sorry i am that you're experiencing troubles upon troubles. hang in there.

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  25. so sorry for your loss. my neighbors next door, and friends of ours a couple blocks away lost chickens to coons and stray dogs/cats. because of that we built our chicken fortress. do you have pictures of where you keep your hens? i may be able to give some suggestions if you'd like.

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  26. i should also add, we have had stray/wild animals come into our yard and harass our hens, but none have yet to get in. We've had our chicken coop finished for almost a year, and it is completely safe.

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