Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Incident

I knew something was amiss this morning when I stepped out back and saw Mika casually lounging - IN THE GROW OUT PEN.

It seems "somebody" had gotten in overnight, and helped themselves to a very generous rabbit dinner.

I discovered two remaining rabbits, hiding in a box. Even though her belly was bulging, I knew there was no way she could have eaten five rabbits.

I soon found three more scattered across the yard, with only their heads chewed.


We "reminded" all three dogs whose rabbits they were, just in case, but I really don't think the others participated. I know for a fact that the shepherd and the terrier would have consumed any and everything that they killed (just from past experience).

While it was a future plan to incorporate rabbits into our dogs' diets, this isn't exactly what I had in mind.

I thought I would at least try and see if the meat could be salvaged, although I had my serious doubts. All three were very badly chewed, and the intestines had already begun to break down inside. That became apparent when I pulled the skins down and the entire belly came open with it. Think "The Walking Dead," if you're into that show, only with smell-o-vision. It was................unpleasant.

Up until this point I was assuming Mika had eaten two whole rabbits. However, in the middle of processing I happened to look over at the back corner of the fence and see a very frightened little bunny sitting there, perfectly motionless. We managed to catch him and return him to the pen.

That, in my mind, confirmed Tala and Dioji's innocence, because I cannot imagine that rabbit escaping their attention as it ran across the entire yard.

At the end of the day, the meat wasn't any good for us, so the chewed up rabbits went to the rest of the dogs.

The question of whether or not to use the young doe for replacement stock has been decided for me, as she was among the unfortunate victims.

I was kicking myself this morning, because I just knew I had closed and latched the gate, yesterday evening. But then I discovered that the latched gate can be pulled open fairly easily, since it doesn't line up properly. So the gate got an extra latch, and I got a little skinning practice.

It's hard not to get too emotional when this sort of thing happens, but we have to consider that we ask a lot of our canine companions.

We cannot be shocked and disgusted when a predator with such a deeply ingrained instinct to kill and eat prey, decides to act on that instinct. It's quite natural, actually.

What is unnatural is to require them to suppress those instincts. That isn't to say we shouldn't, however.

Something else that is ingrained in a canine's psyche is pack mentality. As pack leader, you decide when and what to eat and who gets to eat it. You are in charge of the pack; and if you decide that a rabbit or a chicken or a lizard are to become a part of that pack, then nobody can touch it.

We'll keep working with her, but it's possible she may not fit well into a farm environment. She is such a sweet girl, and an all around great dog, so I would hate to give her up. But if it came to that, we shouldn't have any trouble finding her a good home.

The guilty party

The three remaining rabbits are pretty traumatized, but appear uninjured.

Next week it'll be their turn, and a few weeks later the next batch of bunnies will be ready for the pen.

And so continues the cycle of life...


  1. First, I am terribly sorry for the loss of your grow-out stock. You did a fantastic job with them and it's unfortunate that this happened. That said, THANK YOU SO MUCH for talking about this rationally and objectively, as disappointing and upsetting as I know it must have been. This is one contentious issue that I have had with other homesteaders- a lot of people on RT and HT that have problems with dogs tend to have 1 solution- take them out back and shoot them. I just can't abide that mentality at all. Dogs are natural predators, but above that, they are also our companions, our protectors, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to play catch with. We mold them into what we want them to be within reason, but even a dog that just can't wrap their mind around farm life is still just being a dog (and maybe from a breed that is farther removed from farming than others) and would make someone a good companion. So thank you for your wonderful attitude towards what is an unfortunate situation. I wish more dog owners were like you!

    Also, those babies are looking great!

  2. I've tried to comment twice to no avail, so here goes again! LOL! This stinks, but you are right, dogs have such a high prey drive. Our dogs are good with all of our livestock, but when we moved the quail to an outside pen, Ginger (our Boxer) was obsessed with them. In order to keep her out of trouble and the quail safe, we just ran hot wire around the base of the quail pen. Our dogs are very broke to the hot wire and respect it very well. After running it around the quail pen, she didn't even get shocked, just that was enough to deter her interest. I always like to do what I can to keep them from getting themselves in trouble! Hot wire is cheap and very easy to run. Just a thought.

    1. Thanks, Goodwife. I have seriously considered hot wire. She would also be a good candidate for an E-collar, but hot wire would be cheaper. We may go that route, just to make sure.

    2. I like the hot wire because they know what "got" them. All of our dogs very quickly associate those yellow insulators, or even just the wire with a bite and will stay away. They know what's off limits and what isn't. I'm not sure they get that as clearly otherwise. Good luck! :)

    3. Goodwife, what type of system do you use? We are looking at chargers and trying to make a choice.