Now that the puppy has settled in, it's time to make sure he knows that the hens aren't mobile chew toys. He will now sit quietly tethered to the outside tap while they free range on the lawn if I'm mucking out, which is an improvement on the leaping-barking-fruit-looping he was doing a few months ago. So I decided it was time to step it up a gear.
When I thought about introducing the puppy to the birds, I knew that a short sharp shock was the best way to go. Therefore, there was really only one contender. Maeve. Nothing scraes Maeve. She has seen off many other chickens, a couple of cats and at least one of the children's school friends. I have found her eyeballing the hysterical puppy from the back step as he frantically tries to claw through the glass. Her orange, intelligent gaze appraising his floppy ears and lolling tongue and finding him, frankly, pathetic. Last week she quite deliberately took a dump in his food bowl. I suspect she thought this an insult, but the puppy seems to think chicken poo is a delicacy.
So, back to today. I approached the mighty ASBO carefully. She continued preening in the winter sunshine, one keen eye fixed on me. As I drew closer, she ruffled herself and took on her 'come and have a go if you think you're hard enough' stance. I know from experience that any timidity gets you a nasty peck, so I swooped down and grabbed the malevolent ninja with both hands. She looked at me coolly, biding her time. Taking a deep breath, I walked towards the tethered puppy.
As we drew closer, Maeve cocked her head to the side. The puppy stretched his lead out and stood on two legs, eager to get at the funny feathery toy. With great care to keep them at maximu distance, I held Maeve up for him to sniff. He barked at her. She looked at him, looked back at me, and then pecked him square on his tender pink nose.
The puppy recoiled, sneezing. Maeve hissed. Gathering himself, the puppy leapt at her again. This time she was ready, and grabbed the flesh between his nostrils and gave it a tug. He shot back against the wall, licking his tender shnoz and looking confused. He approached again, but cautiously. Gently, he extended his head to sniff her. This time she really went for it, her head coming back like a jackhammer, and left a small dent in the flesh. Deciding that this was enough teaching for one day, I put her down.
The puppy was most perplexed by the whole episode, and when I untethered him he still attempted to bound off after the flock. But I noticed that while the other birds still picked up there a pace and legged it to keep their distance, Maeve merely sauntered, throwing him a 'watch it, mate' glare.
I think she'll train him yet.