Rethinking Dogs as Flock Tenders

Reader Contribution by Gretchen Anderson

As the door opened on the garage, we gently rolled into the driveway. Once parked, our young daughter, Maggie jumped out of the car and immediately went to the single door in the garage that leads to the backyard. The last few nights, our “garage chickens” who had been free ranging out back, had huddled next to the door as they knew that through that space is where they needed to go to get to their roost. “Mom!” Maggie yelled. “Something’s wrong with Thelma.”I was just getting out of the car and rushed over to see what the fuss was about.

Thelma was covered in blood. Her neck feathers had been plucked. There was a gaping hole on the back of her neck and she was wet from head-to-toe. Thelma was in shock. We scooted the three other chicks into their brooding box and I called our local chicken expert, Mike Stanton. I worked with him on a guide to raising backyard chickens and was grateful to have my own chicken professional within a couple rings of a cell phone.

Mike told me to keep Thelma separated from the other chicks, to clean her and apply Neosporin to the wound. Quietly, I was convinced she wasn’t going to make it through the night. She was the sweetest of all the four young chickens. She was the one who would poke her head up first and look over the brooding box when we would enter the garage. She seemed to connect with us better than the other chickens. I felt awful. I had left the dogs in the backyard to “protect” the girls while we had dinner and ran errands. I had messed up.

I did as Mike instructed. I placed Thelma in an extra dog crate we had and hoped her state of shock wouldn’t claim her during the night. We awoke the next morning and to our astonishment, Thelma was still alive. There was a collective sigh of relief–even from our other daughter, Helen, who doesn’t much care for the chickens. We went about our morning.

As Mr. Man (my husband) and I sat down to eat our breakfast, we witnessed something quite peculiar. Harley, our German Shepherd, was sitting on our hot tub, just outside the window and was looking in on us. Beaujie, our Bichon Frise, was also on the hot tub. She was about a week into her season. I was “resting her” — not wanting to have summer puppies to care for. When all of the sudden, Beaujie (being a little “randy”) had her paws on Harley’s back and she was (how shall I say it?) “doing him”?

All the while, she was pulling out tufts of fur with her teeth. 

Mr. Man and I looked at each other with a sense of stunned realization. That explained it!We knew how Thelma had been plucked and why she was all wet!

All this occurred just before we were to leave for our oldest daughter’s wedding in Florida. Our dear friends, Kevin and Leslie had agreed to take care of all our life forms. That included the dog in heat, the convalescing chicken, (who by the way made a miraculous recovery) and all the rest.

Upon our return, Kevin and Leslie informed us that while we were gone Beaujie took an unnatural and strong liking to their house cat and did unspeakable things. There is a moral to this story. In fact, several — we suspect.