Can you train a dog not to chase chickens?

When we first got chickens, my biggest concern was whether my dog Chase would try to attack them. Chase is a Chihuahua cross Jack Russell and it was the latter that I was most concerned about.

Jack Russells are terriers that tend to have quite high prey drives. Chase has always loved chasing birds. Her eyes would glaze over, and off she’d bolt!

In the beginning it was a little tricky. We would only let the chickens out when we were there to supervise. Quite a few times her eyes did glaze over in the sheer excitement of catching bird, however when this happened we were quick to pick her up and let her know that they were off limits.

My two chickens were quite feisty, and Chimmi (bless her feisty little soul) would be quick to fight if Chase wandered too close. This was my next concern. While Chase had learnt that the chickens were off limits, if they attacked her, then she was quick to defend. I was worried that they would start a fight, and she’d bite and kill them in defence.

It has all worked out well now and the chickens free range in the yard every day. Chase ignores them, but will happily still chase any other bird that flies into the yard.

Unfortunately with her old age now (and her eyesight mostly gone), the chickens tend to pick on her a little. If she wanders too close, she’ll get a big solid peck. She doesn’t fight back though, just tucks her tail and quickly shuffles away.

They now truly rule the yard. Even our cat stays clear, having earnt herself a couple of pecks over the years.

I do think it is possible training a dog with a strong prey drive to accept chickens, however that said we’ve had Chase since she was a puppy, and she was already well trained when the chickens joined our family.

Soft shelled egg

This morning when I collected the eggs from my coop, I noticed something wrong with one of Bertie’s eggs – the shell was soft and malleable.

She isn’t deficient in calcium (she has shell grit frequently), so I thought I’d do some investigating (aka a google search), as this is the first time I’ve found an unusual egg.

Backyard chickens have a great link that mentions a whole range of reasons for problems relating to egg quality.

She has recently finished moulting, so it may be due to that. I will certainly keep an eye on her if anymore appear.

Bertie’s walk

Bertie joined us when she was a pullet (a young chicken that has not yet started laying eggs). Shortly after her arrival, I noticed that she didn’t walk normally. She tends to place one foot right in front of the other.

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She is now almost a year older and it hasn’t gotten any worse. While at the vet clinic earlier this week, I brought it up with the vet.

Apparently for Bertie, it is likely that while she was growing (before she joined our family) she had a deficiency in important nutrients/vitamins which has affected her balance and the way she walks.

Fortunately for Bertie her balance is still quite good and she gets around okay, albeit a little awkwardly. She has never roosted though, and tends to sleep lying on the floor of the coop. The vet believes this may be because she does not have enough balance to comfortably perch all night on the roost.

Growing lavender

I love growing things, but I don’t like growing them in pots. I feel like the plant is missing out. Instead of being able to reach its roots down into the earth and feel what I imagine would be a connection to the planet and everything in its immediate surroundings, it’s bound by the pot that it’s in.

On a more practical side, I also tend to forget to water the plants and so the poor things end up neglected, and thus do not thrive.

That said, I do still grow some things in pots (not trees). The house we live in is a rental, so I have limited options, and if a pot is going to help me get my garden fix, then it’s going to have to do.

I had a lavender plant for many years surviving in a pot. Although I do rent, I decided I’d plant it in the garden (even though it meant that when we leave it will remain here). While somewhat stunted in the pot, it has truly blossomed, and is now huge! Ever since I planted it well over a year ago, it has been in full flower.

After that success, I ended up buying and planting about ten more lavender plants in the gardens here. There are four of five different kinds. One has the most gorgeous dark violet flower – the darkest lavender I have ever seen. It unfortunately got squashed by my cat lying on it, and so is still very small.

Another one (in the photo above) has a pretty flower that is almost fuschia.

I’m always trying to attract bees to my garden, and lavender has proven to be one of the most successful ways of doing this!

Sometime in the future, I will definitely take some cuttings with the intention of growing new plants from them. That way, these ones can stay in the gardens here, and I can take a piece of them with me.

Hen treats – grass you say?

I love giving Doreen and Bertie treats. Out of everything I’ve given them so far, grass is their absolute favourite. But not just any piece of grass – it’s the newest part of the stem when you peel back the blades.

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As soon as I start collecting bits of grass to peel back, they’ll be at my feet, eyes never leaving my handful of greenery. Normally I’ll sit on the lawn as I peel each blade back and feed them the glorious new shoots.

They seriously love it and will practically climb all over me to get to it first.

Plus, it’s free.

 

What to feed a hen that won’t eat layer pellets

I am still working on the answer to this question.

Doreen and Bertie both refuse to eat layer pellets. I’ve tried different brands and different sized pellets, yet they still refuse to eat it. Secretly, I’m happy that they won’t because in all honesty I have no idea where the food has come from and how it has been processed and whether there are any GMOs in it.

My main concern with this is that they won’t be getting the right balance of food for their little bodies. More so for Bertie who lays every day or two. Doreen gave up on that a long time ago.

It also doesn’t help that I have a fussy hen. Who knew? Apparently chickens will eat anything. That saying does not apply to Doreen.

So, until I get further advice from my vet, this is what they get for breakie:
– some delicious rockmelon (Doreen’s absolute favourite)
– seeds: sesame, pepitas, sunflower, flax, chia
– rolled oats
– blueberries (not too many otherwise they’ll get the runs – learnt that the hard way)
– sometimes some cucumber
– shell grit (important for calcium)

I often add extra things to try and find foods they’ll eat. Sometimes I get lucky. Most of the time I do not.

I tried sprouting my own lentils, which apparently some chickens go nuts over. The sprouting was actually really easy, however the chickens didn’t eat any of it. I unfortunately threw a fair few on the lawn, and now have lentil seedlings scattered throughout the grass.

While not specifically for breakfast, they do get sardines and tuna quite frequently. Sardines are great for vitamin A (advice from my vet), and they’re both a good dose of protein.

Oh such fussy hens!