Belladonna called me while I was on a run. She put the dogs into the kennel this morning. She said there were chickens in the dog run when she put the dogs in it but the chickens flew out when the dogs ran in.
Later, she went to get Herc to take him for a walk and saw four dead chickens and feathers everywhere. That accounts for a third of our flock.
She called me to tell me what happened an to step up and accept responsibility. She said, "I saw the first two chickens fly out and I thought the others would do the same. I guess I was half asleep when I put the dogs out."
I cleaned up the corpses when I came back. There were feathers everywhere.
One of dead hens had been eaten from the back end which is not typical of dogs. They peel off feathers. They gnaw on the heads and wings. But they do not bore in from the anus and eat choice internal organs.
Why the dog kennel?
The chickens were in the dog kennel (about 16' by 32') because many years ago I planted a mulberry tree on the west side of the kennel. I wanted a tree that would grow fast to produce quick shade and I wanted a tree capable of absorbing huge amounts of fertility. Mulberry trees grow as fast as kelp under prime conditions. I planted an Illinois Everbearing Mulberry because I like trees that produce human-quality food. You never know.
I also thought that squirrels and birds gamboling about the branches would entertain my dogs during those long days when the family was at work and school. It did not occur to me that those mulberries would be an irresistible draw for the free-range chickens. And an irresistible draw for raccoons and possum.
I surmise the hens were going into the dog run after we brought the dogs in for the evening. They ate their fill of mulberries and then roosted on the top rail of the chainlink fence. One of them was whacked by a raccoon. The dogs got the other three.
I cleaned up the corpses and tossed them in the trash. If my kids were hungry I would have picked them and gutted them. They would have made several, fine meals. As it is, my kids are excessively fussy about their food. For some reason, they think supermarket food that has been handled and sneezed over by countless people is somehow cleaner than homegrown food. Kubota has even gotten to where he will not eat eggs because he figured out that they came out of a chicken's butt. I am too tired to fight that battle.
I picked up most of the feathers but did not get them all.
Last night, Herc had the heaves as if he had something stuck in his throat. He was able to breath and did not seem in distress....just a little run-down. The heaves did not go away after an hour so Mrs ERJ ran him into the vet. The clinic was completely absorbed working on a dog that had been injured in a house fire. Herc had a miracle cure in the hour they waited.
The vet did a cursory check on Herc and determined that Herc's retching/heaving had cleared whatever object was causing him distress. My guess is that he had a chicken feather wedged in his throat.
So today's agenda includes getting ALL of the chicken feathers out of the kennel and trying to trap a raccoon. I may be in the market for some chickens if I cannot get this straightened out quickly enough.