The routine for letting the dogs - or rather Scout - out in the backyard has become more complicated now that he is full grown and no longer an eight pound puppy who can be bossed around by the chickens. Before we can let Scout out we have to do a head count of the chickens and establish that they are, indeed, all out of the dog run. This is best accomplished by tossing a scoop full of squirrel food off the deck over by the blueberry bushes. The chickens are, by this point, used to the sound of the squirrel food bin opening and know to come running from whatever part of the yard they are in if they want an easy meal. Which they always do. If all five chickens start pecking the ground for bits of sunflower seeds and corn we know that we are in the clear and Scout is free to go out. If one or two chickens have flown into the dog run we have to entice them out with additional scoopfuls of squirrel food before we can let Scout roam freely.
It happens, though, that on occasion one of us (cough "dad") fails to do a proper head count and just opens the back door and hopes for the best. Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, Scout's exit is quickly followed by a barrage of squawking and a great deal of flapping about as whichever chicken attempts to flee from a rather exuberant Scout intent on playing with them. We quickly intercede on behalf of our frazzled chicken and wrangle Scout, hopefully before any damage can be done.
Axel and Molly do not require such maneuverings before being let out because Axel was raised on a farm with chickens and has learned to ignore them and Molly is about the same size as the chickens and is too fearful to try and take on any of them by herself. This does not mean that she will not join in with Scout if he is chasing a chicken: she will. Safety in numbers, I guess.
99% of the time when the dogs are in the dog run, the chickens know enough to stay out of it until the dogs return to the house. But there is that one percent. This happened a few days ago when Lucy decided to fly into the dog run while Scout and Molly were still in it. The chase was on. Molly and Scout started chasing, Lucy started running and squawking and then in came Gretchen. Bravely coming to the aid of his wife, he flew over the dog run fence and began chasing Molly. Molly, for her part, was completely taken aback by this startling turn of events and did what any sensible ten pound dog would do when being chased by a full sized rooster: she ran up onto the deck and hid between Axel's legs. While this was going on, Lucy seized the opportunity to fly back over the dog run fence and into the safety of the rest of the yard. Gretchen celebrated his victory by strutting back and forth a few times, crowing, and then flying back into the yard with Lucy. Who would have guessed that under all those fancy feathers lurked the heart of a warrior, ready to leap into action to defend his hens whenever the need should arise? I must admit that I have rather a little more respect for our little rooster-cum-warrior.