K and Liza the LGD left on Thursday for a well earned week off and it didn’t take long for the neighbourhood raptors to figure out that the livestock guardian dog was gone.
We have chicks of all sizes running around the barnyard – it’s that time of year – and lots of predators skulking around the edges too, because who doesn’t love a tasty chicken dinner when they can get it?
With Liza and Chance on the job, we’ve enjoyed zero losses for the past couple years. But of course Liza is away, and poor Chance the emo-dog has a bad case of barnyard PTSD due, we think, to a recent wasp encounter. He hasn’t figured out quite HOW the barnyard bit him, but he isn’t looking for a repeat, so he’s avoiding the area as much as possible. When I coax him out there, as I do once a day at least (exposure therapy works for dogs too), he sits and trembles until we let him go back to the house. The poor little guy has absolutely no appetite for guarding chickens. As far as he is concerned, they can fend for themselves.
So as far as I’m concerned, they can just stay locked up, unless I can be out there with them. But I do feel bad. Chickens love to free range. The daily happy drama as they burst from their coop, beating their wings and shouting with joy at their freedom, makes it obvious. And at dusk, long after the staid old hens have taken to their roosts, settling down to digest their crops full of green grass and bugs, the teenagers hang around outside, chasing bugs and each other through the gloaming, bumping chests in mock battle, relishing every minute and ignoring their momma’s summons until forced in by the inexorable darkness.
The raptor populations in our area are thriving too. Lots of bunnies, rodents and chickens to eat around here. At least five of the ten families on our road keep chickens, and we see bunnies everywhere. A group of four turkey vultures has been hanging around our valley for weeks, and one recent morning K was awakened very early when a large young female eagle perched right on top of the coops. The eagle didn’t wake her, but the chickens screaming bloody murder at the monster on their roof did.
Today a pair of gorgeous bald eagles 🦅dropped by to check things out at the same time as the vultures were visiting and I was cleaning coops. I guess they’d heard about Liza’s holiday. One stayed on patrol, circling so high up it was the size of a swallow, while the other perched regally in one of the tall Douglas firs overlooking the barnyard, ignoring the vultures and reviewing his options.
The four vultures, who divide their time at our place between a stump behind the manure pile, the poplars south of the barn and the Doug firs, weren’t too happy with their white-headed compatriots, so after about half an hour of uneasy co-existence they ran the eagles off the place. I was surprised the eagles went.
Liza will be home in a few more days, and Chance will slowly get over his barnyard aversion, and the chickens will again run free. But I’m afraid it is going to be a long few days for everyone except Liza.
K is talking about getting a pup soon, so Liza, who is nine now, has a few active years left to whip him into shape and teach him her wisdom. Maybe I will get one too, and we can send them both to Liza school. If she can teach Chance to guard chickens, she can teach anyone.
And Chance would be beside himself with joy if I got him a puppy. He loves them almost as much as he loves babies.