Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The "Fox" In The Hen House

Mango in the Coop                                 Copyright Nancy Shobe

I love taking photographs of my eleven "little ones." Like an overzealous grandmother, I constantly have my camera on hand, ready to take a snap. (Now, all I need is a Chicken Brag Book.)

Lately, I've missed out on my chickens time outdoors because by work's end, the girls have roosted.

No more of this, I decided. I want to capture "hens gone wild."

So, tonight, I finished my work a tad early and snuck outside with my Canon.

The girls looked surprised when I showed up. "Hey, it's not the witching hour," they seemed to say. Thinking the early birds might catch the worms, they strode up to me in hopes of getting their evening treat of chicken scratch and peanuts.

I squatted down to get level with their pleading eyes and tilted my camera toward their faces. My own blossoming tail feathers couldn't keep their center and I tipped right over, falling onto a rusty pipe.

Oh, #$4!#!!

My foot bled profusely; I calculated in my head the date of my last tetanus shot.

Then, I stood up, wiped off the dust, and gingerly mosied down the hill to wash and bandage my wound. On my way into the house, I shut the gate that separates the backyard from the hill behind me.  Mango, my English Doodle, followed me through the yard and waited for me outside the back door. At least, that's what I thought.

After tending the wound, I walked back outside.

"Mango," I called. "Mango, where are you?" No word. No bark. Not even a rustling sound.

"Mango," I yelled again, my voice pitching higher with worry.

I walked around the back of the house still calling her name and saw the gate's door ajar with just enough squeeze-through room for a four-month old puppy.

Oh, #$4!#!!

Mango was headed up to the coop. I just knew it.

Mango takes morning walks with me, leashed. We always end near the coop where I tie her  to the arm of a bench and then conduct my chicken chores. Mango has met the chickens face-to-face many times but only while tethered.

I ran up the hill as fast as I could. (And, boy, did it hurt)  Mango was in the coop, just inside the door, quietly scratching the floor. The hens were aflutter. Some were flying, others squawking. All of them looking appropriately displeased.

Mango looked amused, her presence was creating a ruckus.

"Hey, what's up?" her eyes seemed to say when I walked in.

And, then she looked over at the chickens like "And, can you give me a clue what's up with them?"

To my relief, everyone of the 11 was still there, in one piece.

Will Mango's behavior change as she ages? I hope not. But, I don't totally trust her, that's for sure.

Intermixing dogs with chickens can be a grand success or a grand failure. Some dogs are natural predators to chickens. Others could care a less.

Check out this photo on Backyard Chickens that depicts a successful integration. Maybe one day Mango will pose with a hen of mine.

Here are a few of my own tips on canine/fowl integration. I'm not saying this will always work because Mango may just be the type that doesn't want to debut her predatorial side:

#1  When the chicks were new, I introduced Mango to them. In one hand, I held her on the leash. In the other, I held a chick. I let Mango sniff at them, eye them, and acclimate however she wanted. If I felt she was getting too excited, I gave her leash a gentle tug. I introduced each chick one at a time.

#2  I never feed Mango chicken treats. As silly as this seems (and my friend at the feed store got a good chuckle over this), I figure that if you don't feed the dog chicken then it might not kill one. I'm sure there is absolutely NO scientific facts to prove this but it makes me feel better.

#3  I take Mango up to the coop every morning and make her stand with me as I open up the  door for the chickens. If she thinks helping with the chickens is one of her jobs, than maybe she won't eat one. That's my thought. Again, no scientific facts to prove it.

For more information on how to train your dog so it won't kill chickens, here's a dated National Geographic video. I'm not 100% sold on this video nor his training techniques, but the video does give some ideas on how to integrate canines with chickens.


  1. Wow, great information! Good to know.

  2. I have a golden doodle who got 4 of my chickens when they were around 6 weeks. Now the the remaining chickens and replacement chickens are about 4 months and the golden doodle leaves them alone. Still can't trust her, but she just looks at them now. Best of luck!