Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On dogs and chickens

Lately I've heard about a rash of chicken killin' dogs out there roaming around the countryside. Friends, I'm here to tell you that if you have chickens then sooner or later you are going to have to deal with dogs.

Me and my Bubby! A rare self portrait.

Maybe it's your dog. If that's the case then keeping your chickens from being killed by your own dog is 100% your responsibility. It's ridiculous to think you can take a dog, put it outside with all that prey, and just expect everything to go according to plan. You can read about how to keep your dog from killing your chickens here.

The problem is that sometimes it's not your dog out there terrorizing your flocks...  it's usually the neighbor's dog.

Everyone loves their dog. The hard truth is that not everyone loves YOUR dog.

Unfortunately most folks can't or won't believe that their beloved dog is out there killing your chickens. Or they don't think your chickens are "worth" more than their dog. Or they just don't care. Or they think the law is on their side.

I love my Most Excellent Good Dog. I keep him on our property.

Dealing with bad neighbors is tough. Dealing with the neighbor's bad dog is even worse. And as these things go there is rarely an good solution. Depending on who you are it might work to go over and ask your bad neighbor to keep his dog on his property.  But that most likely is not going to work...for reasons stated above. And you will never convince anyone that they need to be more responsible.

In a lot of places you can shoot a dog if it is out there on your property killing your livestock. But, be very very very careful. If you just wound the dog - or shoot it with a paint gun - you might be on the receiving end of cruelty to animals charge. Don't that just beat all?  Or you might be on the receiving end of a red neck style beat down when the dog's owner shows up wondering why you took a shot at his best friend. It won't end well at all.

Or you could tell that guy that the last time you saw his dog it was chasing your chickens thru the woods and you sure hope he is OK..... but your bad neighbor will figure out that you chose the SSS option. That is... Shoot, shovel, and shut up.

Either way, at best you'll be entrenched in neighbor wars. Even if you are right you still have to live with that guy. And he might retaliate.

So what do you do?

Fencing. Lots and lots of fencing.

Is it fair that you have to spend your hard earned money fencing out someone else's dog? Nope. But life is not fair and it's part of the cost of having livestock.

As you know I felt the same kind of righteous indignation toward people who let their stupid dogs run loose. I do know exactly how much I've spent on the neighbor's dogs. One of the best projects we've done was the dog moat. This glorious 'fence within a fence' is a testament to our patience in the face of stupidity.

Kai, very happy in the dog moat.

The dog moat does a couple things. First, when no one else's dogs are around it's a terrific place to put my Dog Horde while I'm working in the garden. I take them up there and let them create their own poop perimeter warning other dogs that this side of the fence is taken. They can also goof around in the dog moat and not dig up my tomatoes or step all over my sprouts.

The other thing it does is ensure that the stupid old man's yappy little nincompoop doesn't get killed in a "thru the fence dog fight." That's right... if the stupid old man's dog comes over to my fence and gets into it with my crew I'm the one who has to protect that his dog. So when that dog is out in the yard the dog moat serves as a DMZ or a buffer between dogs. Ask me how glad I am that I have to think ahead for irresponsible people.

Additionally, the fence itself may be low enough for deer to jump.... but they can't clear both fences at once. Take that you dumb pear tree eating deer! So the Dog Moat is a great addition to our farm. In truth, I'd love to have the entire perimeter as a fence within a fence.

But for now we mostly have a perimeter fence with a series of internal fenced-in yards and gardens. While you are at it you might want to get a gate for the driveway. We love ours and it has solved a lot of problems for us.

So what do you do if you are standing there with the sad remains of your best laying hen, a half eaten goat, or just feathers everywhere?

Zander is so glad he is not accused of killing anyone's livestock.

Go on down to the Lowes. Around here they have the best price on field fence. Get a bunch of the heavy duty posts - NOT the lightweight  ones - make sure you get real t-posts....and then get to work. Here are a bunch of fence posts to help get your started. 

Perimeter fencing is the best place to start. But if the local dogs or varmints figured out you have the best chicken buffet then you might want to step it up. Run a hotwire low to the ground or at nose level...and you might have to run another strand across the top to keep dogs or varmints from climbing over.

Yes. This is very very frustrating. 

If you have truly bad neighbors start building a hedgerow between your properties. For most of the summer I've had a patch of really tall sunflowers to block out that old man's house. But now that summer is trying to end we will be working on an evergreen solution as well.

If the situation if very very bad you might want to find a local ag experienced attorney to help sort out your neighborly issues. Everyone has looked around for an attorney with agricultural experience, right? You never know when you might need help. Before you go off half cocked, you want to make sure you know all the facts.

Do I recommend that you confront your bad neighbor about their dog? Nope. The wisest course of action is to solve the problem on your side. Yes, this works. No, it is not fair. Yes, it's expensive.

See how happy everyone is safely within our perimeter fence? Lucky loves it.

What do you do if your dog is the offending party? What if someone comes running up on your property telling that your dog killed their chickens? Friend, you had better run out there to meet them half way with your checkbook in hand and start writing. Then get off your lazy carcass and fence your dogs in so they stay on your property. Believe me, this is a solution that will work well for everyone.

Happy Tuesday everyone. My dogs are at my feet and later on today we'll be working on more fencing. How's the dog situation around you?


Anonymous said...

Good fences make good neighbors.

Amanda said...

I was recently in Norway where they have Every Man's Right which means everyone is allowed to camp or hike on anyone's property as long as they are respectful and use common sense. It was kind of cool actually. I camped next to sheep, cows, horses, under trees, in open pasture, and next to a lake. It was great. We didn't leave any garbage or mess with the animals, except for feeding a little piece of bread to a very friendly cow. Looking back I shouldn't have. I wouldn't like if people were feeding my cows stuff without me knowing. Plus then the cow followed us all the way around the pasture until we hopped the fence and went on our way.

I thought it was interesting that people get shot for trespassing here and over there you can't even put up a no trespassing sign. I thought it was kind of nice that people have that sort of faith in each other. We chatted up a couple people and they laughed and said we were allowed to do that if we wanted.

As a backpacker I appreciated the right to camp anywhere for free. As a landowner I don't know if I would be able to handle people walking around my property. I'd want it to be my private oasis, not a public camping ground.

Unknown said...

We have foxes and wild dogs here, so it pays to just have good fences to keep our animals in and other animals out. Even so, we had a fox in our house yard which is all animal mesh, and lucky Taz got Pete out of bed because he forgot to shut the door on the chicken tractor and the fox had already got one chicken. Don't know how it got in.... Also our neighbour's miniature fluff-ball can get under the gate, but he's smaller than a chicken, so that's ok. Taz is very good around the chickens and has been taught "don't touch", she's actually quite protective of them, when Pete's parents took some away she seemed a bit worried about them! I still wouldn't blame her if she caught one, its just natural instinct.

Vera said...

The first thing that Lester did when we arrived here, apart from sorting out builders to clear out the rubble from our ruin of a house, was to start to put fencing up round our fields. He insisted that it was tall ( 5 foot), that it had at four supporting wires running post to post plus graduated fencing wire. It cost a lot of money at a time when we were loaded down with worry about the cost of getting a dry roof over our heads, so we had a lot of arguments about that fencing.

But he was right, because in time I got to see how the sheep can jump a low fence (electric or otherwise). They also barge at the fence, curling themselves into a tight ball of destructive energy. Then the goats arrived, with their 'climbing up the wire activities', then the cows who don't do much except lean on to the posts and wire with their hefty weight.

You are right in saying that fencing is worth the cost. It is expensive but has to be done.

Anonymous said...

Go join the Arbor Day foundation, it's $10.00 for six months but they send you 10 free trees right off the bat. Then when you shop at their online nursery you get special membership pricing. I need to buy some shrubs for blocking my neighbors and these are by far the best prices I've seen in years.

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