We returned Sophie to her seller today. This was a very difficult decision for us to make. She is a super sweet lover of a dog, and with good training, she'll make a family (without chickens) very happy. So, why did we give her away? Am I not knowledgeable in animal behavior and training? Yes, I am. Am I not committed once I get a pet? YES, I am. So, why did we give up Sophie? Well, let me explain.
When Sophie killed our first chicken, we weren't entirely sure that she had done it. I checked everything I could with her, and found NO evidence that she had killed it. We wanted to believe that a hawk (we see them all the time) had done it. Or something else. Not our dog. After all, Sophie was a livestock guardian dog. She was bred to protect them. Not EAT them...
But when the second bird was attacked, we knew it was her. We decided then, that we would try to use the shock collar with her. Yes, we've heard the awful story of wrapping the dead chicken around the neck of your dog for a week, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that with my chicken. I guess I'm not a true-blood farmgirl, yet...
But, the third attack is what did it for me.
It happened while we were in town to get batteries for the shock collar (which we forgot about while we were running other errands, but that's besides the point). We locked the dogs up rather than the chickens because it takes so long to round up the chickens, and it was already late in the day. We were lazy, I know. But, at least they were separated. But, as we were finishing up with our last errand, we were commenting on the sun setting when Josh says, "Oh, shoot! I wonder if the chickens will start trying to roost in their trees for the night!" You see, our chickens sleep in the trees in the South orchard...which is where we locked Sophie and Reuben up while we were gone. "Surely, they wouldn't try jumping over the fence to get in there, would they?" Josh asked. "Of course, they would! It's their survival instinct!"(where my common sense was before this, I will never know).
We pulled into the driveway, and were already blazing towards the orchard - we spotted Mr. Big, the Americauna, and the Buff sitting on top of the chick's coop. Good. Running over to the orchard, we saw a sex-link in the tree. Another one good. One more. We looked around. Couldn't find her. We let the dogs out. Josh goes to get water. I grab a flashlight and start walking around in the orchard. And I saw her. Laying awkwardly in the middle of the path. Still breathing. I yelled out to Josh. To the kids. To anyone who could hear me. We picked her up and brought her inside. We soothed her. Josh pulled her wings out, and we found a wound. But, it's not too bad, I thought. She actually looks pretty good. But, she was in shock. We cleaned the wound, and wrapped her in a towel. Xander sang to her for awhile. I set on some music as I had read somewhere that chickens liked classical music. She seemed to be getting better. She relaxed in my arms; she drank some water. This is good! I settled her down in a blanket by our bed, and started getting the kids ready for bed. I checked on her every 5 minutes. She looked like she was peacefully resting for now.
Now, I feel this couple of months of farm life has taught me a lot. I've learned incredible things about chickens. I LOVE them. They are responsive, playful, and humorous. They seek attention, and love. They are incredibly close to nature, their instincts are not entirely lost because of purposeful breeding.
I love to watch them.
I love learning from them. I love what they've done for our family.
They look to me as their protector. That's all they ask of me. Can't I do that?
Running around the house, doing some last minute chores, I realized the music had turned off. I went into the bedroom to check on her, and she had stopped breathing. She was gone. I couldn't help it; I cried. Now, I know you are probably thinking, that's silly, she was a bird destined for the pot anyway. Yes, I know. But, I promised myself that these birds would have a great life before their time. I felt this bird was cheated. And the other birds, too. Why was I letting Sophie do this? It wasn't like we were training her to stop chewing our shoes. If she had attacked Reuben, we would have gotten rid of her. If she had bitten one of the children, we would have gotten rid of her. Why was it not the same for the chickens? She was taking lives. This was beyond destructive behavior. It wasn't fair to the chickens. It wasn't fair to Sophie. Not fair to anyone.
So, we sat down as a family and discussed what we should do. Everyone voted to give her a nice home without chickens. So, we took her back today. We gave her hugs, we said our goodbyes. That was hard, too. She trusted us. We were her family.
But, when I got home, I let out all the chickens and turkeys. I let them roam. I went inside and fixed dinner. I put the kids to bed. Then I walked outside, and took a big breath of air in as I realized this HUGE burden had been lifted from me. Because when I went outside, I knew all the birds would be there. I wasn't afraid to turn a corner and see a dead bird on the ground. Order had been restored. I felt peaceful. Even joy.