Can I just say how much I have been enjoying the kitten snuggles? Hanzo seems almost bipolar between playing and sleeping, and he ping-pongs back and forth between the two. Lucio is a quiet snuggler. He purrs but he isn't always as playful (toward humans) as the other kittens. Mercy has such a loud purr and she's a good snuggler too. If people realized how awesome these kittens were, they'd find homes in no time.
All that was left were white wings. We only have two white chickens, so we looked around and found Betty White (Polish cross) and Katy Perry (Californian). I went back and inspected the wings. They were larger than chicken wings. We went down to the lake to check the waterfowl. Sure enough all the white birds were together in a flock... Ryan, Maeve, and Mavis, the embden geese, Morgana the Chinese/embden goose, and two of the three big Pekin ducks. Arya caught and killed one of the female Pekin ducks.
I went out to finish the barn chores and while I was around behind the barn, #3 pointed out some feathers. We followed the feather trail and sure enough, found the remains of one of our big roosters. I can only guess he was chased down and killed when the kids let the dogs run free after school.
So, I'm in a big of a conundrum. I love letting my birds free-range. Aside from loosing several ducks to snapping turtles, and a handful of chickens to a mystery predator (which may, in retrospect, be the dogs after all), I've been fairly confident in allowing them free roam of the entire property. They keep the grass mowed around the house and yard, they keep the bugs down, and honestly they're just fun to watch as they wander around looking for bugs and weeds to nibble.
On the other hand, I don't believe in putting a dog on a chain all the time or forcing a dog to live at the end of a leash. We have 70 acres, the dogs should be able to run and play, chase balls and retrieve frisbees, explore the woods with the kids, and yes, bark at anyone who decides to come up the driveway.
I don't have the money now, but when I eventually do, I will have to choose which project to invest in. Do I give up the free range of the birds and put a fence around the barn to keep them contained? This would leave them very open to aerial predators, and we do have hawks and a breeding pair of bald eagles in the area. The chickens often hide in the brush and tall grass areas if they spot a predator and thus far we have not had major losses. The ducks and geese love heading down to the lake right away in the morning and use it to cool off in hot weather, and to nest in the spring. A fence would only keep our dogs out and possibly ground predators too. We would have to drastically decrease the population of our flock to make sure they weren't too crowded if we had to force them to live in a fenced area. I'm afraid they'd be miserable and would destroy the ground in the area pretty quickly when they aren't able to spread out and forage anymore. We'd also have to dedicate time and energy to mowing the lawn then, which means less flowers for our pollinator friends. On the plus side, it would mean I could have more garden space without worrying the birds would destroy it all.
Or do I fence the dogs in? We have a nice bit of yard that the dogs frequent anyway, but fencing it in would mean the dogs won't get the full area to run and play. No more throwing the frisbee as far as I can, or using the Chuck-it tennis ball launcher to give the dogs a good running work out without exhausting myself. It would mean that all of their poop would be contained in a designated area just outside one of the doors, which would require us to pick it up. Often they go off into the woods to poop now, so we don't have to mess with it at all. It would mean a more expensive fencing material than fencing the birds in, but would save us the added time/expense of mowing the area outside that fenced area. It would mean at least three different gates and having to maintain walkways in the snow over winter to allow accessibility to each gate for kids to come and go. It would also mean making it next to impossible to back a vehicle up to the door when we need to haul heavy things (like furniture) in and out of the house - not that that happens very often, but it's still a consideration. The only plus side I see here is that I won't have to worry about them wandering off the property, the kids forgetting to watch them, and they wouldn't be able to run in front of cars coming up or turning around in the driveway.
I'll have to discuss this with Tony, and in the meantime I will continue to work with them on training. I'm just feeling incredibly discouraged because tonight I watched Arya stalk yet another critter, then turn to see if we were watching before calling off the hunt. She won't chase the birds if she knows she's being watched. She only does it when she's unattended or when she thinks I'm not paying attention enough to catch her in the act. Toby, on the other hand, he may have the wrong type of genetics to allow me to train him completely out of it. I don't know that I will ever completely trust either of them unsupervised around the birds.
I'm usually really good with training dogs, but these two have me stumped. Moose doesn't bother the birds at all and I trust him completely. Does anyone have any training tips on how to keep the younger dogs from killing the livestock? Was it my own fatal mistake to deal with two puppies at once? Is there any hope they'll grow out of it if we keep working on training in the meantime?
Also - I found someone willing to barter with me and I am so excited! I'm trading some black walnuts and some of my handmade crocheted dish clothes for a dresser and a privacy screen. We're supposed to go swap tomorrow. We had to re-schedule because originally we'd planned to do it last Thursday, but #5 was sick so we couldn't. I do love to barter, because it means both parties feel like they've made a good deal. I'm excited for two things I couldn't afford to buy new, and hopefully the other person can appreciate the dish cloths and find a good use for the bucket of raw black walnuts.
If anyone else wants to barter with me, I do have a barter page full of stuff we'd love to receive... I currently have plenty of rabbits I'd be happy to barter with, and more black walnuts are coming off the trees every day. I've got all kinds of handmade goodies, and I still need to go through boxes, but we have some estate sale finds that will be available as soon as I have spare time to go through boxes and post stuff for sale again. We also have clothing that the kids have outgrown. No baby sizes, but plenty of middle-school to adult range of sizes. I really need to take the time to go through stuff and get it posted in our Bonanza shop. Perhaps once the snow flies and all of the summer and fall projects are done or on hiatus. Alas, if you have something we're looking for, please feel free to reach out and see if we have something perhaps you'd like in exchange!