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Sweet Sadie — the predator

Article by Patty Lataille

Lifestock – February 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

WHEN MY STEPDAUGHTER comes to visit, she brings along her “designer dog” Sadie, a Japanese Chin. This 8-pound black and white yapping excuse for a real dog appears to be scared of her own shadow, never mind the other dogs and the cat as well.

So I had no real concerns when I let her out with the big dogs to run around by the house and do their business. Until I heard the squawking ruckus in the hen house, that is. The little purse pooch had snuck her way under the fencing and was terrorizing the chickens.

Not truly convinced that Sadie’s little “smashed in” face with its incredible inbred underbite could actually chew on or harm a chicken, I walked over to the chicken yard and was stunned to see a chicken down — huddled protectively against the cold earth with her tail feathers scattered and back torn open. In shock, with her eyes glazed over, this hen was on her way out. Of course it was one of my favorites — a pretty tawny red Leghorn.

“Damn it,” I muttered as I unlatched the gate and chased Sadie out with a poorly-aimed kick. I scooped up the wounded hen and took her bloodied carcass inside our house. Clearly chicken first aid was called for.

Thanks to the PBS special The Natural History of the Chicken, I knew of individuals who had performed CPR on chickens and they (chicken and human) survived. I’ve doctored many of our animals since we’ve moved out here -an hour from my favorite veterinarian -but this was a first.

I had to rinse off the wounds and get an idea of the extent of the injury. So off to the bathtub we went, the chicken lying quiet and passive in my arms. I placed her in the tub and ran hot water into a mug, mixing in equal parts of hydrogen peroxide. Then I poured two cupfuls over the gaping wounds on the hen’s back and tail area. There was some “sizzling” and then the blood and gunk began to run clear. Wow. I saw more of a live chicken then I had ever wanted. (As a former vegetarian who recently began eating fowl and fish, I think chicken will be off the menu again.)

I placed the hen on newspaper in a cardboard box, and put her in the warm sunny greenhouse. I added a small container of water and some fresh lettuce greens, but wasn’t expecting much in the way of recovery. A few hours later, I went in to check on my chicken and she seemed … better. Less in shock and having eaten her greens, this chicken was turning out to be a survivor. This progress warranted another H20 and hydrogen peroxide baptism and a fresh box.

The hen is now recuperating in our small half-bath, calm and content in her box. Her wounds seem to be healing and her appetite remains good. I wonder if her little hen friends are missing her and fearing the worst. Her recovery is truly amazing as I’ve found chickens to be fairly delicate, warm weather creatures.

As for Sadie, unsupervised “recreation” time no longer exists for her when she’s on our land. It was a lesson to be learned; predators come in all shapes, sizes and inbreeding. Making a dog into a little “Miss Priss” of a pooch still can’t conceal the true nature of canines. My dogs and cat were trained to control their instinctive natures at young ages, giving rise to the false sense of animal harmony that prevails here on an everyday basis.

In the Bible it says, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.” But here on the farm, some wolves are hospitable, and some are not — and from now on, we are going to remember that.

Patty LaTaille writes from acreage along the Bonanza Road west of Villa Grove.

Editor’s note: Although the Biblical passage is generally quoted as “And the lion will lie down with the lamb,” Isaiah 11:6 actually says “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.” (New American Standard)