Sunday, April 01, 2007
Chicken and dog problem - advice please
Right from the beginning I have had a clear vision of what our garden will become - what looks like sticks in a field to everyone else are, to me, stately hornbeam hedges flanking paths, what is a bit of a dip in a swampy copse is, to me, an amphitheatre seating area surrounded by coloured dogwoods. And so on . . .come back in ten years.
An important part of this vision is free ranging chickens. On a visit to Sarah Raven's garden at Perch Hill Farm in East Sussex I saw a clutch of bantam eggs amongst the cabbages - and that is what I want.
But we have made a grave mistake in the plan.
We used to have free ranging chickens. Our first flock lived in houses at the top of the field. They had the run of the place and were blissfully happy, following me round and rooting for worms. Blissfully happy, that is until all but one were eaten by a rampaging pack of young foxes which struck just before dusk.
So, fearful for the safety of the one remaining and intent on getting more chickens, we built a chicken run near to the house and this is where they have been living. They are happy enough I suppose but it isn't the same life at all and though the run is large - about 4m x 6m - they quickly turn it into mud.
During the year that the chickens have been in the run we bought a dog. Jasmine, scruffy unclipped miniature schnauzer, is wonderful, affectionate, an indispensable part of the family. And a chicken chaser. She doesn't bite them - if they stop running she'd not quite sure why the game has stopped - but they don't know that she won't snap their heads off and I don't know that they won't have heart attacks.
As the chickens are in the run it is only when they fly over the netting that they meet Jasmine. But ideally I would like to give them back their freedom, let them pootle about the garden on their own.
Does anyone have any suggestions - do you think it is too late to try and train our mutt?
Today we are Scotland on Sunday newspaper's "Healthy Planet Tip of the Week".