Penning the Peeps

June 26, 2009 at 3:01 pm 3 comments

It’s hot here.  According to husband who grew up there – it’s “Florida in the summer hot”.  Much too hot to leave the peeps closed up in Fort Peepage.

Since they’re still small enough to be cat bait they need to be penned for their own safety and I’ve been transferring them from coop to pen by hand.  Three of them (Clover and friends) are so tame they just hop on my arm for the ride over, peeping in cheerful anticipation of the bugs and forage to come.  Most of the rest are gentle and easy to catch. I scoop up a couple at at time, tuck them under one arm and carry them over.  The last two are convinced I’m going to kill them – and, if they continue to be as flighty and annoying as they’ve been this week – they may just be right.

I slept late today so it was already hot by the time I got around to moving them out to the pen.  I was tired and crabby, and after a few failed attempts to catch those who will be eaten first, I decided a new plan of attack was required.  And as I stood there, pondering the fate of my fractious fowl, the coop door fell open.  The peeps perked up and moved toward it.

I stepped back and they moved closer to the door.  I decided that if I was going to risk losing any of my pullets – these were the obvious choice. So I stepped out and held the coop door wide open.  The peeps scrambled out the door and made a beeline for the pen.

Because I had, of course (slaps forehead and rolls eyes), set the pen up so that it faced away from the coop door, they ran straight into the wire.  And stayed there, peeping in pointless panic.  Seeing that any efforts to grab the little bastards birds would just result in a wild peep chase and having had some small experience in herding sheep, I decided that Audie and I were going to have to try our luck at penning.

When penning sheep at a trial, the handler’s job is to hold the gate rope until the dog works the sheep into the pen.  Since my experience in penning consists entirely of either watching other people do it or in moving tame, dog-broke sheep with Zip the Kelpie I decided that gracefully flanking Audie around the pen while I stood back and held the gate was completely out of our league out of the question.  However; being an experienced outside the box thinker and having a biddable, well-trained dog, I had an idea.

Audie and I switched roles.  I flanked quietly around the pen while Audie stood at the gate.  I put enough pressure on the peeps to move them around the pen, but not so much that they were tempted to flee away into the yard.  Audie stood by the gate, yielding enough space back and away from it to encourage the pullets to hop in as they circled around.  Lacking opposable thumbs, Audie then stepped in to block the opening until I could close the gate.


Guarding the Gate

It worked like a charm.  With the peeps safely ensconced in their pen Audie and I can relax and enjoy a break in the shade.  Hand feeding the birds while we listen to the creek.



Entry filed under: dog training, dogs. Tags: , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jan  |  June 26, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Since my only experience with this species is as an entree, I was surprised to learn that they displayed individualism.

    Glad that you and Audi triumphed.

  • 2. H. Houlahan  |  June 27, 2009 at 2:03 am

    The peeps will get much more difficult to “herd” as they mature into more confidence as hens. Fortunately, they also become cat-resistant, and learn to put themselves to bed and duck under a bush when the chickenhawk threatens. (Also crows, balloons, and low-flying ultralights).

    One thing I’ve found useful for shooing them out of the barn, or into the pop door when they want to stay up late and play, is the Broom Of Instruction. Anything that moves down at their level is more effective than a person crouched over, and it’s easier to titrate the pressure. That’s probably why dogs are good at it.

    Oh, and a cheap fisherman’s landing net is invaluable for cutting the bullshit with flighty youngsters.

  • 3. Dog training fan  |  July 4, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Great website with cool pictures and information. I’m very impressed with the level of training that you undertaken, and also the excellent training ideas.

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