Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Chicken Conundrum

I’ve heard of many cases where dogs are shot, ordered put down, poisoned, or otherwise harmed for killing a chicken (or chickens). Cats have fallen victim to this, as well. Dogs have also been known to attack cats…but let’s focus on chickens for now.

I’m an animal lover. Big and small, I have a little heart for all of them. Even the spiders. Maybe. I grew up with chickens and have always enjoyed having them…but here’s the thing. I’ve never bonded with a chicken. I’ve never known anyone who has bonded with a chicken. I’ve never seen or heard of chickens being surrendered to a humane society, or chickens being put up for adoption. I’ve never heard of getting your chicken microchipped in case he/she got lost. I’ve also never seen (or heard of) chicken collars, chicken clothes, chicken blankets, etc.

Chickens serve a few purposes in our lives – food (meat/eggs/animal feed) and hobby (show/just looking at them/etc). We had chickens for eggs and just to watch them scratch around in the yard. We provided quality food to them, made sure we had the appropriate hen/rooster ratio, provided them with a safe shelter from the weather and predators with adequate space, and let them out during the day to find bugs and other goodies in the yard. Although we took all of the proper precautions, we still lost quite a few chickens to owls, hawks, bobcats, weasels, snakes, foxes, stray dogs, and so on. We would chase the neighbor’s dogs away from the chicken coop quite often, but we would never have hurt the dogs if they had gotten a chicken. Why? That’s a given when you have chickens. They can (and will) die, often at the hands (or feet/claws/what have you) of predators. Yes, it’s sad, and you may cry. We always said a few words over ours and buried them with flowers. That’s the circle of life.

So why are people still reacting so violently when they catch a neighboring dog (or cat) in their chicken coop? I’m not really sure. Yes, the neighbor should have control of their pet. If there isn’t a leash law, there is probably a nuisance law. The first step is to speak to the pet owner. Let them know your concerns. They may not be aware that their pet is sizing up your prize hens or pilfering your eggs. If the neighbor is no help, call your local animal control the next time you catch the thief in your henhouse.

When a pet kills a chicken, the appropriate reaction is to contact the pet owner first. A responsible pet owner would probably be a) unaware that their dog had sneaked over into your yard and b) be very apologetic that their dog harmed your chicken(s) and would likely c) offer to cover the costs of the chicken(s). Regardless of the pet owner’s reaction, don’t take it out on the animal (ie don’t harm it). Call local animal control authorities and let them know what is going on. They should take your statement and approach the pet owner.

A dog (or cat) that kills a chicken (or chickens) is not a murderer. Instead, they are acting out a very natural instinct –prey drive. This is one of the things that causes a) dogs to chase and/or harm cats and b) cats to be wary of dogs. A clucking, flopping bird that can’t really fly is a huge tease to a dog or a cat. Would you blame a child for sticking their hand in the cookie jar? You would correct their behavior, but you couldn’t be mad at them for being tempted and/or giving in to the temptation. Same way with cats, dogs, and very edible, enticing critters like chickens. The same could be said for all things found edible by cats and/or dogs.

So remember, the next time you catch a four-legged thief trying to make off with a chicken, go to the owner first. It’s not the animal’s fault!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I officially stand corrected. Not two days after posting this blog, I saw a picture on FB of a chicken wearing a knit sweater and cap. There was also a turkey wearing a golf hat. I still stand by my belief that you shouldn't kill a dog for harming fowl!