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a predator only a mother could love January 25, 2011

Posted by therealtinlizzy in chickens.

One thing that has to happen at some point is acclimatizing Dax to the chickens. “Acclimatizing” sounds so innocuous. Implies maybe some simple sniffing of and getting used to the feathereds, maybe some initial supervision to minimize any minor startling or upset of the chickens with canine antics like running laps around the coop or howling at them.

And as I’ve mentioned – Shiloh has been a kitten insofar as meeting and getting used to the existence of the chickens. She’s even had the pleasure of her nose buried in a feathery chicken butt for a moment when Roslin flapped up on top of the dog/chicken barricade to investigate the fluffy white four-legged on the other side. The chickens aren’t startled by her, and Shiloh has a temperament that seems to preclude her going all predator on them. In part I suppose because she’s blind, in another part – she’s a shepherd, not a hunting/sight-hound breed. She would probably try to blindly, but not ungently, herd the chickens if given half the chance.

Then there’s Dax. Dax is part greyhound, part husky – which means she’s part sight-hound, part clever/calculated/evil. She’s proven to be a most capable predator, see also the 7-10 squirrels she dispatches in the backyard each summer. I remember when my former partner and I first started seeing her flip squirrels around in the yard, and we initially assumed the squirrels were just falling out of the trees, maybe dying from some unknown plague before plummeting to the earth (and waiting Dax below). Then one day I watched her chase and catch one: “Oh. Wow.” I’ve always been pretty proud of her for it – I mean she’s doing what she’s particularly talented at, getting a little dietary supplement, and lord knows the neighborhood never lacks for squirrels no matter how many she dispatches:

Dax and squirrel

Which brings us to the dilemma: Dax does not get to hunt, chase, catch or eat the Galactica Six, or any individual members thereof. And not only is eating them off limits, she must tow the line in not causing the chickens undue hardship, trauma or otherwise get up in their chickenly business. Now preparing for the former (the no eating) has been a reasonably accomplish-able goal: the coop has all of the anti-predator trappings (short of electric fencing, and don’t think I’m not pondering it) I’ve been able to build into it, including and particularly using hardware cloth for the fencing (too small for chicken heads/limbs to poke out or any predator paws/noses/teeth/nails to reach in) and having that hardware cloth fencing dug into/under the ground some feet out from the run so that no digging beneath the fencing can happen – ostensibly even by the most clever, evil, industrious of Daxes.

Granted I won’t be hanging the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the goal of having made the coop/run truly predator/Dax proof until some as-yet-to-be-determined amount of time has passed after the chickens have migrated outside full-time and we all bear witness to a still-intact contingent of the original Galactica Six. However – I feel reasonably confident that I’ll be able to physically fortify the coop/run to be as Fort-Knoxly as needed to keep burgling four-leggeds out.

My main concern is over that latter and more tricksy requirement of Dax: that she will not harass and traumatize the chickens, particularly that she won’t just go batshit crazytown over their mere existence within the protective walls of their Battlestar Galacticoop (yes – the coop might actually be christened the Battlestar Galacticoop. What.) within the bounds of her yard. “Batshit crazytown” behaviors could include, but are not limited to, days and weeks of incessant howling/yowling/screeching at them, racing circles frantically around the BSG, chasing and darting at them from the outside causing them to scatter in abject terror despite being perfectly safe within the walls of the BSG.

Pondering this for some time now,  I decided the best thing to do would be to tackle the issue head on now rather than to just cross my fingers and hope for the best once it’s time for the chickens to emigrate to the outdoors, as I know Dax far too well to trust to that. Being the disciple of Cesar Milan that I am, and recalling an episode where Cesar achieved actual peace between a pitbull mix (iirc) and bunnies (BUNNIES!), I decided it has to be possible to broker some sort of peace deal between Dax and the chickens. I’m not talking about a goal of cross-species snorgling (I’m not completely freaking crazy, nor am I Cesar), but just some sort of mutual co-existence, live-and-let-live that doesn’t entail the chickens suffering individual or collective heart attacks due to a fixated canine’s I-will-get-in-there-if-it’s-the-last-thing-I-do-in-this-life.

This morning I decided it was time to intro Dax to the chickens Cesar-style, by allowing her to do nothing more than look at them  from the stairway landing, while having to sit quietly and not being allowed to totally lose her canine shit. And we would sit there until she got tired of howling, struggling, and would just give up and relax. That’s all I was looking for, for her to get it out of her system and to eventually just wear herself out. And having watched a LOT of the Dog Whisperer doing this same sort of thing, I was prepared for it to be a not-entirely-speedy (or successful on the first day) process of getting Dax into a calm and chill state of mind given the initial freakout I was expecting.

I leashed Dax up and brought her down to the landing, where upon sighting the chickens she immediately started shaking and trembling. Oh and yowling. I mean Dax yowls all the time – she’s part husky, so any given day she howls and yowls almost as much as she breathes.  But this was pointed and hysterical yowling that not-so-between the lines communicated  “there are foreign living creatures RIGHT THERE and I need to dispatch them with all the expediency and efficiency that my greyhound prey drive and instincts are demanding of me. NOW. PLEEEEEEEASE!”

So there I was wrestling the 50lb trembling, shaking, raggedly and incessantly howling and yowling husky/greyhound on the landing: “Dax sit. Stay. Shht (Cesar’s patented correctional noise). No. Stay. No. Down. Shht. Stay. Quiet. No…etc..etc” while the chickens looked on in vague (but not completely uninterested) unease and Dax kept trying to weasel out of my grasp. It felt like we played this game for 10 mins, but it was probably more like 3 or 4. Dax didn’t give up the ghost, nor did I. However – eventually I decided that unending yowling and threatening predator scrambling wasn’t exactly good for overall chicken peace of mind. So we called it a day and came back upstairs. Not a failure – like I said I’m prepared for it to be a straight up contest of wills. And apparently repetition.

Perhaps it would be more logical to just initiate a cold war between the two factions, where I equip the chickens with nukes to match against Dax’s inability to play well with other nations critters, instigating an uneasy but effective quasi-truce under an atmosphere of mutually-assured-destruction. Hey, it worked for the U.S. and the Soviet Union.


1. Para Selenic - January 25, 2011

introduction is a good idea, however, I don’t know how much of it will translate from basement to outside–esp. because I doubt that the dax kingdom pays too much attention to the basement, but revels in the ownership of the backyard…

don’t have a solution, but just thinking that it may be a square one do-over once the chix are outside….

also, the chix honestly might not care– if they are safe in the BSG, whatever Dax yowls, growls, lunges, etc. may seem like a big yawn (or even a game) to them– after the initial OMG WTF is that! which will happen at helicopters, loud cars in the alley… but whether or not chx care doesn’t solve the eternal yowling for you and the house folk…

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