Pekins are not very fond of getting their feet wet, so when the weather is inclement they tend to sit on the perches in the run, muttering and fluffed up. One or two daring explorers might leave the shelter of the run for a quick grass scoff, but on the whole they are content to stay within the confines of the Palace. The serama will venture forth in the rain as long as it isn't cold, but their silkie feathers are rubbish at keeping them warm so I have to monitor their excursions. As it is peeing down today, the hens are not bothered in the least by not getting hours of freeranging time. However, when it isn't raining they would much rather be out digging up my borders and pooing on the patio. Naturally.
But now we have the puppy. And the puppy must also have access to the garden. Quick access, unless you want wet feet. So it's a bit of a problem. I had been restricting the pekins free ranging anyway this year in a bid to have some plants, so they had been out for about 4 hours a day. I would often let the serama have longer than that, as the damage they can do to the garden is extremely limited by their tiny stature. This has now been severely cut down.
At present, the birds are getting approximately an hour and a half free range a day. The puppy has a long snooze after the school run, so that's when I let the girls out. However, once he wakes, he needs to pee. So the girls have to be coaxed back in to the run. They are not best pleased. In the end, I hope to desensitise the puppy to the chooks, so that there can be some managed integration. But we are some distance from that. He will sit by the run, intently watching them, and occasionally barking at these exciting, noise making feathery things. Training will be a long and arduous process.
I feel guilty. I feel dreadful. I feel like the worst chicken keeper in the world. I've considered putting up a more permanent fence around the coop so that the puppy can't get near and the hens can still roam. But he has successfully dug under my border netting, and I can't bring myself to suggest electric fencing in our average suburban garden to the ever tolerant husband. I think he'd laugh and then wrestle my debit card away from me. Probably rightly, to be honest.
So that leaves me with few options. I can either start leaving the girls out when I'm walking the puppy and hope that his copious leavings in the garden would protect the girls from any potential predators. Or they have to cope with being more restricted than I'd like, but remain completely safe. It's a dilemma that I haven't had to tackle before. I am even more distressed that the serama are confined to their garage hutch, but at this time of year they need to be sheltered. And realistically I know that the hutch is perfectly big enough for two tiny birds. But still.
I shall think on.