Our 10-year-old Australian Terrier, Chiko, has a new mission in life: Watcher of the Chickens.
For the first two weeks of their lives, we kept our six baby Barred Rocks, followed quickly by six Australorps, in the house inside a large Rubbermaid bin in the guest room. We kept them warm with a heat lamp (which we adjusted several times a day, depending on whether they were huddling or evading it), kept them fed and watered and handled them every day.
The dogs and the cats hovered near the guest room doors, intrigued by the chirps and cheeps they heard, but we shooed them all away (especially the cats). Finally the chicks had enough feathers to where they could graduate to the coop outside (with the heat lamp still on at night at first). After a few days inside the coop we opened the little hatch door so they could wander into the enclosed yard, and that’s when Chiko got his first look at “the girls,” as we call them.
It was love at first sight.
Or, maybe, blood lust. I’m still not sure what exactly Chiko would do if he had access to the chickens, but whatever his interest, he has made it clear he’s not sharing. Because shortly after we put the chickens in their coop we had our first fox sighting on the farm.
Actually Neela, the mare, alerted to the fox first. Ever the protective mom, she was in the stall in the barn hovering over Wilhelmina while the filly slept when I suddenly saw Neela pop outside the stall, head high, staring intently in the direction of the hen house. I followed her gaze, and my eyes alighted on the fox at the same time Chiko did.
I’ve never seen that little dog spring into action so fast. He didn’t bark, he didn’t growl, he simply dug into the ground with his short, sturdy legs and made a beeline for that fox, who gave one look of alarm before turning its bushy tail to run.
Chiko chased that fox all the way across the east pasture and then into the nearby woods, with me close behind trying in vain to call him back. No Chiko. On the other side of those woods is a gravel road, and it leads to a busy paved one, so I was getting worried about how this was all going to turn out when finally Chiko emerged from the woods, with what I can only describe as a big grin.
Since then I’ve seen the fox in the distance, but he’s never gotten close to the coop again. Not while Chiko’s on the job.