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.

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.

Treats-01

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!

My chicken has spurs

Bertie has grown some wicked spurs on the back of her legs. I will admit that when they first started to show, I was concerned. Mostly that she might have actually been a he.

I have no problem with roosters, and would happily have one, however the laws here don’t allow it (in suburban backyards). My concern was that if she was a rooster and started crowing, the neighbours would complain and I’d be forced to give her up.

Bertie is definitely female, so that will not be a problem – she just also happens to have some pretty awesome spurs on the back of her legs. I’ve since learnt this is quite common with some breeds of chicken.

I am considering having them removed though, or at least filed back. She walks a little awkwardly, with one foot directly in front of the other (she’s done this since she joined our little flock). Now that the spurs are almost an inch long, it’s affecting the way she walks.

She tends to lift one leg right up, before moving forward and I think it’s because the spur is in the way. I’m concerned that in the long run it may cause problems with her feet or legs.

I’ll be taking both her and Doreen to the vet soon, so I’ll see what they say and go from there.

Shiny feathers

Apparently shiny feathers are a sign of a healthy hen. That’s great news! Both my hens have gorgeous shiny feathers, and I just love watching them glisten in the sunlight.

Bertie, my black australorp has a beautiful dark green sheen to her feathers. Unfortunately she’s too quick, and I haven’t managed to photograph that particular shade just yet (I’m never at the right angle to capture the green colour). All in good time.

Watermelon for the chickies

My hens looooove watermelon. I can leave a huge wedge outside and by the end of the day, it’ll be eaten right down to the green rind. Between the two of them, they devour it pretty quickly.

I feed it to them throughout the year, but it’s especially good in summer. Given chickens don’t handle the heat well, it’s a great way to help keep them hydrated.

They’re a little wind swept this morning – it’s crazy windy outside right now.