You’ll remember about my dear brown hen who died recently? I spent most of the day holding her in my arms to comfort her as she faded away. I had to do the same thing again the other day.
Ben got out – it was a pure accident, I’d left the back door open so that he could come in and out to the fenced garden and Weeza, not knowing that, left the side door for a moment when someone called. She also didn’t know that I’d let the chickens out for the day.
As soon as I heard, I hurried out and several chooks were scratching around peacefully, so clearly Ben the Chicken Catcher wasn’t about. I went back to the hen run and the dear things went with me and trotted straight in – of the 29, more than 20 went home. Unfortunately, I was too late. I saw Ben at the further end of the drive with one in his mouth.
I belted down the drive, ignoring my surgeon’s instructions not to run further than 40 metres, I called him and he came to me, which was a surprise and a pleasure. The chicken, still alive, rolled her eyes wildly. “Drop!” I said and Ben firmed his jaws. I remembered the word he obeys. I took his muzzle so we locked eyes. “Give!” He gave. I cuddled the bantam and cried a bit. My friend Dave, who’s living in the annexe with his family, put Ben on a lead.
I went back to the sitting room – I’d got a lot of paperwork to do and phone calls to make and did that while holding her. She was quite floppy, panting in shock for a while then calm and, I thought, resigned. But after a couple of hours, I had to get up and do things. Weeza fetched a box and some hay, I stood up – and the bantam perked up and wouldn’t stay in the box.
I put her back in the hen run – with the rest of the chickens who followed me back – and the next day, the only way I could tell her from the others was because she’d lost her tail feathers. A couple of days later, I let them all out again but she didn’t want to leave the safety of the hen run, though she ventured just outside later.
I’m so encouraged that Ben came when he was called (I called cheerfully, good dog Ben, come along) and gave her to me without protest. I think I’ll bring him round to my way of thinking yet. Several people have remarked recently that he’s grown up and calmed down, and they see the sweet-natured dog that we already knew.