This week we experienced our worst farming disaster so far. Monday morning, I was working in my office and suddenly heard frantic chicken squawking. I looked out the window to see a big black dog tearing a rooster apart. I hollered at the girls and we ran out and chased the dog away. It was too late for that chicken.
I was pretty sure the dog belonged to our neighors across the highway, so I went over and learned that, yes, it was their dog. The owner was very apologetic, paid for the chicken, and assured me she would keep her dog tied.
Early the next morning, Cadence woke us up urgently--the dog was back and was killing poultry. We jumped in our boots and coats, chased the dog off. We found feathers everywhere and five dead chickens scattered around the property. A few minutes later the owner drove in, searching for her dog, and saw the destruction herself. She was somber and sorry and promised to come back and settle up.
Cadence was very upset and especially worried about her beloved turkeys. The dog must have chased the turkeys--some were missing parts of their impressive tail spread. However, despite seeming vulnerable and ungainly, they are surprisingly strong (as I discovered the other night; when I picked up a female to remove her from the garden she whopped me in the face with a wing--I saw stars.) We were relieved that the turkeys were able to fend for themselves.
Last night the dog owner stopped back and paid for the dead chickens. Cadence accepted the payment, then offered the woman a chicken. She hesitated (perhaps thinking Cadence meant one of the chickens her dog had killed) but said yes, and Cadence gave her a processed bird from our freezer. This was not really the way we wanted to meet our neighbors! We hope they realize we won't harbor a grudge.
Our family is conflicted about whether we should have even accepted payment for the chickens. After all, it was an accident that the dog got out. On the other hand, now the neighbors know that we are trying to raise chickens for a profit and there is a financial incentive for them to be more vigilant about their dog. Granted, we have also lost many chickens to an owl, but at least the owl snatches one chicken in the night and does not terrorize the entire flock, killing birds just for fun. If our dogs killed a neighbor's livestock, I would insist on paying for it--although if our dogs just even chased our dairy farmer neighbor's cattle, I think he would have no qualms about shooting our dogs, even though he is our friend.
One of the moral dilemmas of being a farmer.