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  • Ryanne Harper

Tails from the Tiny House


For the last month or so, I’ve been trying to teach the dogs that the chickens are friends, not food. I’ve taken them all out individually on a leash and harness and let them watch and sniff the birds. I’ve also kenneled them outside while I handle the birds in front of them. Training had been going well, so this week I decided to take off the leash and see what happened. The results were both predictable and shocking.

Cordelia recovering after Jude tried to love her to death.

No Surprises from Baby Jude

In the beginning, Jude was terrified of the birds. She got over that pretty quickly once she saw me carrying them around. To her credit, she completely understands that the birds aren’t food. I wasn’t the least bit worried that she would attack them. I was afraid she’d try to love them to death. And I was right. The moment I unhooked the leash, Jude locked in on Cordelia, the smallest chicken, and showed affection the only way she knows how: by pinning her down and wallering on her. I scooped up the traumatized but otherwise unharmed chicken, reattached Jude’s leash, and revoked her “running loose with the chickens” privileges.

A Rare Disappointment from the Best Good Girl in the World

I truly, honestly believed that Lucy would be great with the chickens. She’s barely shown the slightest interest in them. The day before I took her leash off, she laid at my feet and watched them peck around at the ground without showing the slightest bit of aggression. I expected her to ignore them. And, at first, she did. She glanced their direction, then walked to the front yard. She followed me around while I checked for new life on dormant plants, then we made our way back to the porch. In a split second, her body language shifted completely. She broadened her stance, straightened her tail, and her ears stood all the way up. And I knew we were in trouble.

The only thing unsurprising was the chicken she chose to go after. While Jude singled out the weakest, Lucy went straight for the rooster. I was able to call her back pretty quickly, but not before she showed Dandy who this yard belongs to. She has also lost her running loose with the chickens privileges.

Samson riding to town for his best good boy reward.

Samson Shocked Us All

Samson was the dog I was most concerned about. And he proved this is yet another area where I haven’t given him enough credit. The moment I took off his leash, he bolted and I panicked. But I calmed down, because his intentions became obvious pretty quickly. He wasn’t chasing them to catch them. He was herding them all into one place. Once that was accomplished, he walked a large circle around them a few times, then sat down and watched over them until they cooped themselves for the night. Since then, he’s insisted on going out multiple times a night, every night, to run and mark the perimeter of the chicken house. So, he gets to keep his running loose with the chickens privileges; he also got a special trip to town and a really big bone he didn’t have to share with his sisters. This week, he’s the best good boy in the world.

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