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Neighbor’s Dogs Drama

>15 January 2013
 
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If you keep up with me on facebook you’ve probably been following along as this drama has unfolded.  For those who haven’t heard the story yet, it goes something like this…

Last Thursday, I was in the house when I just happened to catch a glimpse of a dog running past my back window. Realizing my chickens were loose, I shrieked, threw my shoes on, and ran out the door shouting at the dog. “Shoo! Get out of here!” It was a large yellow lab. As it ran from me, another dog, a black lab, came running to meet it from around the other side of the house. In the same instant that I noticed the other dog, I also noticed something that caused me to begin screaming at the top of my lungs.

Feathers. Chickens. Dead. All over my yard.

“NOOOOOO!!!”

I snapped out of it when the dogs took off running into the woods, barking, obviously chasing another one of my hens.

I ran back into my house as quickly as I could, and grabbed my gun. Fueled by fury, I flew back out the door and chased those dogs through the woods. Over fallen trees, under branches, through the thick pines. I could hear them barking ahead of me, but I quickly lost sight of them. Panting, out of breath, my throat stinging from the bitter cold air, I slowed to a stop and listened for any clues to their direction. But there was only silence in the woods now. They were gone.

I made my way back to my yard, and began the body count. Following trails of feathers, I was able to find seven of my hens scattered throughout the yard, garden, and in the woods. It seemed like they were everywhere. How long had these dogs been running around, terrorizing and torturing my flock? Over the steady humming of my washing machine, and the constant racket of children playing and dishes clanging, I hadn’t heard a thing.

I was still missing 23 more chickens. 3 roosters, the rest hens. I walked all around the house, and through the trees, calling my girls. “Here chick-chick-chick. HERE CHICK-CHICK-CHICK!” Had they killed every single one? Were they all laying somewhere in the thickets, amongst the fallen leaves? After about 10 min. of calling, miraculously a black hen came walking into the yard from out of the woods. She was scared, visibly traumatized. I was able to coax her to me, and picked her up to return her to the safety of her run. Well, at least ONE survived!

I kept walking through the trees, searching for more chickens, dead or alive. My eyes narrowed as I spotted something colorful underneath a thick entanglement of the branches of a fallen tree. As I worked my way toward it, I recognized it to be our rooster, Rico. “Rico? Are you okay?” Are you dead? He was hunched down as low as he could get, motionless. I could see his eyes were open, but he didn’t flinch. I still questioned whether he was alive, or if he had died in terror with his eyes frozen wide. I ducked under low hanging limbs, pulled free from briars, and squeezed between tight baby pines. As I reached him, I spoke softly, hoping to encourage signs of life. But he was scared stiff. He did shift his weight, ever so slightly, allowing me a sigh of relief. I shouted to my nine year old, Jada, who was in the yard helping me hunt for hens, “I found Rico! He’s alive, but I think he’s hurt.”

I reached through his shelter to see if I could lift him out, but just as my fingertips were about to stroke his soft back, he startled, stood up, and ran away. He wasn’t hurt at all, just terrified. I was so glad he was okay. As I was trying to herd him back toward the coop to safety, another little black hen came walking up to me through the woods. I picked her up, and she nestled into the security of my arms. Making my way back to the front yard, I handed the hen over the fence to Jada so she could put her into the run with the other hen. Rico was too skittish for me to catch him.

By this time, all of the kiddos were outside helping in the hunt. All except for baby Elias, who had been contentedly sleeping through the whole ordeal. We walked all over the property calling our flock. Slowly, over the next few hours, the chickens came out of hiding and made their way back to the coop. With each one spotted we breathed a little easier. Before they went up to roost for the night, we counted how many remained. 20 alive. 7 dead. 3 missing. It was safe to assume the three missing birds laid dead in the woods, yet to be discovered.

I called Animal Control so that I would have a record of the incident on file. I didn’t know who owned those dogs, but they both had collars on and I wanted to have proof of what had happened in the event that I did find out where they came from. I described the dogs very specifically to the deputy there, down to the color of one of their collars. I also took photos of the massacre scene for evidence.

When Jerry came home, I told him what had happened. Furious, he jumped back in his truck and drove around our area, hoping to spot the dogs. But he returned unsuccessful.

The next day, however, on his way home from running an errand, my husband just happened to spot two dogs in a kennel next to a house up the road that matched my description. Two labs, one yellow, one black, red collar. We all drove back up there and I confirmed that those were in fact the dogs I’d seen. I knocked on the door, hoping to catch the homeowners there, but nobody answered. We went back again later that evening, but still no luck.

The next morning, Saturday, we went to the house for a third time. Two cars were in the driveway, but still nobody came to the door. I memorized their house number, and went back home to look up their phone number. Once we knew who they were, and had their phone number, I boldly called and left a message telling them who I was and that their dogs had been on our property and had killed several of our laying hens. I was nice about it, and asked that they return my call so that we could discuss the matter.

Later that evening, I did get a return call from the man of the house. I told him that I hated to meet neighbors this way, and that I wished we could meet in person to discuss what had happened. He told me that he was actually out of state at the moment, so I went ahead and described to him the events of that day. When I was finished with my story, his response was, “Well, it couldn’t have been our dogs. They stay in their kennel all day unless we let them out, and then they aren’t ever let out of our sight.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I had hoped they would be apologetic and offer some sort of restitution, or at least their sympathy. But he was outright denying it was his dogs. “Well,” I continued, “I can’t prove that it was your dogs. But unless there is another pair of labs that look exactly like yours running around here, I don’t know how they couldn’t have been your dogs.” I would have sworn in court that it was his dogs. But a part of me wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He said, “My wife did let our dogs out on Thursday, but they stayed with her the whole time.” So, I said the only thing I could. “I understand. Just so you know, the Animal Control officer who I filed a report with confirmed to me that I was well within my legal rights to protect my property and livestock by any means necessary. If I see those dogs on my property again…I’d hate to do it… but I will shoot them to protect my hens.”

“Ma’am, I’d hate for you to…” and then he paused.

“Are you Joe’s daughter?”

Oh great. He knows my dad.

“Yes I am.” I couldn’t lie.

“You the one who lives up there beside him?”

“Yes, I do.” Great. Now he knows where I live.

“Well, it couldn’t have been my dogs. Not unless they got out, and got back in on their own.” That was his story, and he was sticking to it.

And with that I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I told him, again, that I hated to meet neighbors this way. And that I was sorry we couldn’t shake hands over the whole thing. These are neighbors, after all, and I’d hate to have bad blood between neighbors. But at least now he knows that if his dogs come up here, if I can’t catch them first, I’ll shoot them. If they were his dogs, he’ll be much more careful not to let them wander my way.

(Turns out, the man is a local officer. That’s how he knows my dad, who is also a part time officer. I thought he might have been, when I saw the red and blue lights he had mounted on the swing set in his front yard. At least he knows the law, and my rights to protect my home. I thought it was humorous that as soon as I threatened to shoot his dogs he associated me with my dad, though.)

What stinks is not only did I lose 10 of my laying hens, valued at $10-$12 a piece, I also cannot let my flock out to free-range now for a while, which means it’ll cost me even more to feed them. Most people just don’t realize, nor appreciate all that it takes to raise your own livestock for food. Maybe if they did, they’d be more careful about letting their dogs roam onto other people’s property. I also found out a couple of days ago, that another neighbor up the road found five of her hens killed in their yard. She never saw what killed them, but I’m betting it was the same two dogs.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a pair of labs. Perhaps there is another identical duo running around. Part of me hopes there is, so that I can apologize to my neighbor and hopefully get off to a better start.

I understand that dogs will be dogs. But people, if you let your dogs run loose, and they end up causing damage to somebody else’s property, be a man (or woman) and do the right thing. Replace what was lost, and restore a right relationship between yourselves. You never know when you might need each other’s help.

 One lesson I took away from this incident: Next time I see dogs on my property, I’ll try to catch them first before shooing them away. And if there are no dead chickens, they’ll go freely.

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34 Comments »

  • Kristi @Let This Mind Be in You said:

    I’m so sorry to hear this–what a huge bummer to lose your laying hens that way, the poor dears. I only have two hens and I couldn’t imagine losing them in such a way, they are like friends to me!

    Hope this week is better for you and your feathered friends!

    Kristi @Let This Mind Be in You
    Let This Mind Be in You

  • Jamie at Prepared to Eat said:

    That’s awful. I’m sorry they weren’t very neighborly about the whole mess. Labs and chickens just do not mix. I had the exact same thing happen here, only it was my own lab who massacred 15 pullets and I was left with only one. It’s not fun to walk outside to that mess. :(

  • Julia said:

    This is one of my biggest fears! We are moving this weekend back to the country (yay!) There are numerous dogs that run around the area freely!

  • Jessica said:

    I absolutely agree! I have noticed so often that people just do not want to take responsibility for their actions. Drives me bonkers! This is one trait I am definitely attempting to instill in my children! Matter of fact, the other day my son broke something expensive. When we were discussing how we were going to replace it, he said to me, “Mom, I am not going to sugarcoat it, I broke it and there is nothing I can do to change it. I can only offer you whatever money I get to repay it”. Now he is 14 and does not make any money but the fact that he was willing to do what was right made me so proud. I wish others would do the same!

  • Q said:

    Thank you so much for posting this here. (You’re in my blog reader so I can browse the Barn Hop each Monday.) Anyway, I’m so thankful to have read this. We are moving to our property in the summer of next year and you can bet that I’ll be stopping by to meet all the neighbors upon arrival so that when something like this happens we already have some sort of amiable relationship. I’m just sorry to have learned to do this at the expense of your hens! :(

  • JES said:

    Oh, I know your pain! We had the same situation! My husband walked out to a massacre one morning. There were 3 dead, bloody sheep, 8 dead chickens, 1 dead pygmy goat and 1 battered ram who barely lived to tell the story. My husband ended up trapping the pit bull leader of the group in the chicken coop but he managed to escape with a few war wounds. We too searched the neighborhood but weren’t able to find the owners. We think that when they saw the blood and feather look on their faces, they kept them away from public eye. What a disturbing sight to see though! All those carcasses… Irresponsible dog ownership is not something we take lightly… I hope your mystery gets solved. Ours never was. Glad to hear it wasn’t total devastation!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh gosh, Jes!!! That’s TERRIBLE. We had pitbulls kill one of our goats a couple of years ago. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. It was much greater than mine for sure. So sad.

  • Noel @ the Shepherd's farm said:

    I hope this doesn’t sound heartless, but if you catch dogs on your property and let them go, chances are they’ll come back again and they may be less that amiable then. Dog’s are pack animals, creatures of habit, and will always return to have ‘fun’. After having a sheep killed last year by dogs, let’s just say, any dog that is in my yard is a dead one.

  • Jaci said:

    This makes me think someone needs to invent a reverse invisible fence…instead of the dog with the collar getting shocked a bit if he gets to close maybe it should be any dog not wearing a collar gets shocked by being too close…but I have no idea how you could do it…bet if you could it would be done….makes me very glad we have a tall privacy fence around our yard where we will be keeping our chickens soon.

  • Amanda said:

    We had the same thing happen to my Father’s chickens (I think about 50 were killed) by a neighbor’s lab. They never took responsiblity for it when we confronted them, even though they told someone they found their dog with blood and feathers all over it, and later, word got back to us through the grapevine of small town/country living.

    It is always such a disappointment to go through the hard work to raise and maintain a flock, only to have something like this happen. Hopefully, this was an isolated incident.

  • Crystal B said:

    I am sorry you lost your hens. I know how you feel. We’ve had a couple incidences where we have lost chickens ourselves, one from an unknown intruder, and one from our own dog that we had rescued. In the first incident something got in our chicken yard and killed all but two of our seven chicks that we hatch, and also killed one of our main roosters who was a beautiful black, white, and yellow bird. The second incident with our own dog occured months after we had rescued her and she hadn’t done anything like it before. She killed our prize Banny rooster, whome we named King, and she killed two more hens. Needless to say we could not keep a dog that would kill our chickens. Our other three dogs, even my own wolf-dog, know better than to try to harm a chicken, and they roam free in the dog yard with them. We are fixing to buy some property out in the country and I feel the same way everyone else does….if someone’s dog is on my property and tries to kill my livestock…..it’s dead.

  • Paroadie said:

    Sad story. Hopefully the neighbor got the message. He should of rebated the money for your loss if in fact it was his dogs. I got to say though if someone shot my dog it would be a range war for sure. Understood that I should be more responsible for my animal but to dust the family pet would be unacceptable for me. My uncle shot a dog on his property once…. he regretted the action when the neighbors children showed up on the property and the ensuing lifetime feud.

    Nothing worse in this world than hate between neighbors.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Paroadie,

    I completely agree with you. That’s the main reason why I said I’d only shoot them if I couldn’t catch them first. I’d much rather catch the dogs, and call Animal Control than kill them. At least then the owners would have to pay to get their dogs back, and maybe they’d be more careful next time. Plus… they really were pretty dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I’d shoot if I had to. But it won’t be my first plan on action unless they are in the process of killing chickens when I spot them.

  • Paroadie said:

    I have labs and they are loving pets although a little dumb when they are young. They do like to roam the countryside especially when traveling together. I suspect the contact with the neighbors solved the problem. You might want to go back and make friends with them and the dogs. Maybe armed with the wandering canine critter’s names you could call the bandits off should they come again. A pellet gun might do the trick to instead of the 9mm or the 12 gauge.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Paroadie,

    Knowing the dogs’ names is a good idea. Somebody recommended shooting the dogs with a paintball gun. That way the owners couldn’t deny it was their dogs, lol. That would be ideal… if we had a paintball gun.

  • Laurie said:

    Oh Kendra, that’s terrible! A friend of mine just went through the same thing, saw the whole thing, and didn’t have a gun so could only try and shoo the dog away, which wasn’t very effective. She was so upset.

    You probably know about this more than I do, but I’ve heard that once dogs get a taste of fresh chicken, they’ll keep coming back for more, so beware, my friend.

  • Megan @ restoring the roost said:

    OMG! I am so so sorry for you loss- that is terrible. I would be so incredibly upset if that had happened to me and yes, I would shoot those dogs too if the owner cannot control them getting out! Can’t believe the neighbor would not own up to it.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks, Laurie. You’re right, that’s what I’ve always heard. I expect they’ll be back. :(

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Megan,

    I know! I was hoping they’d at least offer a sincere apology. Maybe he’s telling the truth. I’d like to think so, anyways.

  • Sophie said:

    Can’t you call animal control and give them this person’s name? Obviously they are not always keeping an eye on those dogs. And by the way keeping labs outside is close to animal cruelty. Labs get bored when they’re left alone and do bad stuff. And they are certainly not attack dogs or protection dogs.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Sophie,

    I could. But I do want to give them the benefit of the doubt this time around, especially since I can’t prove anything. Again, it is important to me that I maintain a friendly relationship with my neighbors, and calling Animal Control will only fuel the fire.

  • Janis said:

    Sorry to hear about that. I think you handled it the correct way. I would have said the same thing… you cannot have this happen again… he is lucky you did not ask for money from this. I would not shoot the dogs if I could help it. I would catch them like you said and then call Animal Control or take them to court. At least they know their dogs could be killed and they will probably take action to see that it never happens again. At least I hope so.
    I have had my fair share of bad neighbors They could make your life a living hell. Hopefully this man will lock up his dogs in his yard and stop letting them loose in any way. These dogs have no business living in the country if they are killers. The least he can do is make sure this never happens again.
    If you dont have a fence, I would get one quick

  • Janis said:

    I got an idea just this minute. Just a thought. Maybe you can spray them with paint from a paintgun and then call your neighbor and go over there and confront him and ask him if he dog has red (or whatever color)paint on him and then you will have a leg to stand on in the situation. He would be caught redhanded. I would then ask him for financial compensation at the very least.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Janis,

    If I can catch the dogs, I’ll hand them over to Animal Control. The owners would have to pay to get them back.

  • Chrys said:

    I read this story yesterday and felt so bad for you and could not help but think about our plans to get chickens this spring and what steps we need to take about the dogs that roam around our property. We live in the country and our neighbors allow their dogs to roam and have actually become upset when we have called to ask them to retrieve their dogs from our property. We have a dog and because of their dogs roaming back and forth MY dog thinks he needs to find out where these dogs are going which I will not tolerate. I cannot let him out without supervision as a result. Well, today we trapped one of the dogs incidentally in my kids’ raccoon trap. My husband thought I should shoot it. It growled at me when I approached the trap. I called the Sherriff and there is no animal control here to pick up the animal. I was informed by the Sherriff that I am well within my legal rights to shoot the dog without trying to find the owner. I do not currently have chickens at risk but I do have children and this dog does growl at anyone. However, I did not want to cause bad feelings so I called the neighbor again even though we have been previously told that this is not their dog. He came over and let the dog out of the trap. He told me it was a stray that he was feeding! A stray that you feed is a dog that is yours. So now I am questioning if I did the right thing. I want to have neighbors that we are friendly with but there are 5 or 6 dogs that they have that come around. Most of them we have stopped from coming over because we shoot them with pellet guns. It has not stopped the problem though.

    Sorry to go on and on but this is really a difficult issue. I did tell my neighbor that if the dog comes back we will shoot and kill it. This particular dog is responsible for scaring all deer off our property. As a result we have not gotten the meat in the freezer that we would like to have. We will have chickens to think about soon as well. I know for a fact the dog will come back. I know I am within my rights to shoot it. He knows it is his responsibility to keep it at home. My dog (a boxer) is our pet and my kids love him but I would not for a minute question my neighbor’s right to protect his property from my dog if he needed to. It is my job as an owner to ensure he never has that need.

    Also, I cannot help but say that just because the dogs that attacked your chickens are labs does not make them any less likely to do it again. Labs became very popular (like dalmatians) and the breeding became a free for all. Labs are my favorite dog but having worked in the veterinary field for many years I have seen the breed deteriorate along with others. Also any dog once they team up with another dog is capable of behavior you would not expect from a “pet”.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. : ) I sincerely hope your chickens are safe from now on and you don’t have to deal with this again.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Chrys,

    I hate to hear you are dealing with a similar issue. You can be sure those dogs will be back, and they will kill your chickens. My advice would be to humanely shoot the dog the next time it comes onto your property. You don’t have to tell your neighbor what you did. The dog will just ‘disappear’, and hopefully there won’t be any confrontations between you and the neighbor as a result. Best of luck to you.

  • Janis said:

    The Paintball gun would reveal the true killer without killing the dogs and causing a lifetime feud with a neighbor. As a former ACO I always had the most problems with law enforcement dog owners and others who wore uniforms. They seem “entitled” to allow their dogs loose, no matter what damage they caused. I hope this is not the case with your situation. I would also suggest getting some electric poultry netting to protect your flock. They can still graze and you can move it when needed. A game camera is always helpful too. More than likely the next time those dogs are loose, they are heading right for where they had the most fun. Be prepared. Try to catch the dogs if possble.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Janis,

    Thank you for your suggestions. They are all very good ideas. If we had the money, we’d get everything you mentioned :)

  • akaGaGa said:

    Be glad you live where the law is on your side. I read recently that in Colorado it’s up to the owner to protect their livestock with fences to keep other critters out. How backward is that?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s just crazy, akaGaGa!

  • Bruce said:

    Unfortunately, dogs are predatory feeders when packed, even if it is with only one other dog. Reading that you do have a gun, and really will only shoot as a last resort, my suggestion for your safety as well as your stock and family, is to get someone to load you rock salt shells for a shot gun. This usually will not be a fatal shot, but can be taken proactively to protect what is yours. The burn from the salt will make the dogs go home in pain and the owners will have to address it. Hopefully this will help you in future situations. BTW, you have a really nice website and find it informative and enjoyable to read. Used your recipe for canning pears last year and we are still enjoying them. Thank you

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thank you for that suggestion, Bruce. I’ve never heard of rock salt shells before. Gonna google it now ;) Thanks!

  • Pam B said:

    I am SO sorry to hear about this!!! How awful for you. Quite a few years ago we had a neighborhood dog that got loose, came into our yard, and killed 2 of our cats – IN our own fenced yard. I came home from work and he was in our yard with 1 of my cats in his mouth swinging it around like a ragdoll – horrible thing to come home to. I hate to admit it but if I’d had the time to get my gun, I would have shot that dog then & there, even in the middle of the city. I called Animal Control multiple times and had to go down & file a report, and they did talk to the pet owner and it got sorted out – she had to put in new fencing and stuff to keep her dog in, and if anything happened again, the dog would have been taken from her and (probably) euthanized. I felt horrible about it, because I love animals, but I was so upset that I would have shot him myself. Sometimes you just have to protect your own. I am so sorry you are having to deal with this, and aside from not having any real advice, I hope it doesn’t happen again.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh, how terrible Pam! I’m sorry you lost two cats like that. Poor babies :( I figure something like this will probably happen again eventually. I just hope I’m able to catch and/or shoot the next dogs before they get away. I’m like you, I hate to even say that I’d shoot a dog. I love dogs. Until they’re terrorizing my own animals, that is. Plus, I always have in the back of my mind… what if it was my kids they were attacking! If they’d attack an animal, they might attack a child. It’s best to take care of it then and there.

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