Fowl drama

Last night was rough. Around 4:00 PM yesterday, one, maybe two, dogs got into our pasture and attacked the emus and one of the emus (Sidney) jumped the fence and ran away. Then the dog chewed his way through the wire fence of our neighbor’s chicken coop and killed 10 of their 14 birds.

We searched all evening for the emu – at times with the help of several sheriff’s deputies. And then we stayed up until late dressing our neighbor’s dead birds, so they would not go to waste. The next morning we did find the emu in a neighborhood off of Umstead Road, quite a bit closer to home.

Many people saw the emu and even posted photos on Facebook, and today even the local news picked up the emu story and came out to take some pictures:

Read on for the whole story

The whole drama started right after I had just come home from picking up Julia from school, when I saw a dog wandering down our driveway. I got a bit worried an went to check and saw that one of our emus was gone. I sent a SMS to our neighbor to keep an eye out for her and he texted me back that most of his birds are dead and that the dog that killed them was captured in the coop. He had called Durham County Animal Services to come and get the dog.

Animal Services told me later that that was about the time when they started getting calls about our emu. I drove through the neighborhood and down to Winkler Road to see if I could spot her. On my way back I saw a truck from Animal Services at a gas station, so I stopped and spoke with the officer. She told me that there had been several calls about the emu from a neighborhood along Latta Road – about 3-4 miles from our place.

It was getting dark and it started snowing when I got there. I drove around for a while and then I saw her on Hunter Dr. walking along the street. When she stopped, I got out of the car and tried to get closer to her, but she went up a driveway where a  man was grilling food (!) on the deck. I asked him for the address and called Laura. But the bird then disappeared into a wooded area and I lost track of her, as it was dark now and I had no flashlight.

After little while, Laura and Jacob joined me and brought flashlights. The Sheriff’s Dept. got several calls from that area about the emu and they called me every time to let me know. We even had a couple of deputies help us with searchlights. But whenever we got there, the emu was already gone. After an hour or so, the snow had gotten pretty intense and the calls stopped. So we thought that the emu had settled down for the night, and we went home.

But then at 7:48 PM, I got another call about an emu sighting from the Sheriff’s Dept. – this time much closer, on Guess road again – just over a mile from our place. So I headed out again, driving slowly up and down Guess road, until I saw a guy standing on the side of the road, watching me. I stopped and asked if he had seen an emu – and sure enough, he was the one who called the Sheriff’s Dept. He had seen her a couple of times and last saw her heading into the woods across the street. I walked into the woods for a little while, hoping to see her huddled somewhere for the night. No luck, though. After about an hour, I went back home.

At home, we still had another task at hand. Our neighbor had 10 dead birds on his hands and he does not eat meat (he kept them for eggs). So he asked us if we want them. As much as we love fresh chicken meat, TEN is a lot of birds to process – especially when you don’t have a lot of practice. Laura had done it a couple of times and knew how it works. I had no clue. But we could not bear have those birds go to waste, and so we agreed, and I went and hauled the dead birds to our place. We sharpened some knifes and put a big pot of water on the stove and started the process. Three hours later, the kitchen was a mess, the sink looked like a crime scene from the TV show “Bones” and there were feathers everywhere. And in a bin we had nine birds, plucked, trimmed and gutted, neatly tucked into Ziploc bags. One we did not end up processing because it was just too mauled. But the others were fine. It took a while to clean up and purge the smell of chicken guts from the house. So it was almost 2:00 AM when I finished my last beer and went to bed.

The next morning, I got up at 6:30 and made some strong coffee. At around 7:00, I got dressed and hiked into the woods from across our neighbor’s property. It was a chilly, but pretty winter morning – around 20°F (-7°C),  about an inch of snow on the ground and the sun was coming up. For about 15-20 Minutes I headed into the woods in the general direction where the emu was last spotted. But no luck. So I headed back, fed the horses and the other emu, and then got ready to take Jacob to school at 9:00 (school was on a 2hr delayed start).

Right after I dropped Jacob off at school, Animal Services called and told me about an emu sighting nearby. I headed over there and she was just sitting on the side of the road in a neighborhood off of Umstead Rd. She was clearly tired, covered in leaves and little tree branches, but otherwise OK. One of the residents came out and I explained that this is my bird and that I have to go back to try and figure out a way to transport the emu home. She agreed to keep an eye on the bird and I drove home.

At home, Laura had gotten supplies ready: emu feed, gloves and rope. The plan was to tie her legs together, to prevent her from running away. When we got back, she had moved away, but not far. She let me get close to her and I covered her head with my hand, then I carefully grabbed her and picked her up. She probably weighs about 80 pounds (40 Kg) and at that point her strong legs were flailing furiously. After a short while she calmed down and eventually went totally limp – as they do when you hold them.

Now was the opportunity to tie her legs, and so Laura come over with the rope and tied her up. The poor bird was tired and stayed limp, with her neck draped over my head, while Laura tied her up. Then we quickly decided that the best option was to just stuff her into the trunk of my car and take her home. Getting the truck and the trailer down there would have taken well over an hour, and Animal Services would not have been much quicker. So we stuffed her in the trunk of the Mercedes and I drove her home. The transport actually went surprisingly well, and 10 minutes later I lifted her out of the trunk and carried her into the pasture.

She was pretty calm, and so before I let  her go, I checked her out for injuries and only found what looked like a bite mark on her little wing tip and some scrapes on her legs. So I untied her to let her go. But she just stayed there laying on her side. I gently pushed her right side up and she tucked her feet under and just sat there for a long time, in the sun, warming up and resting. She was not interested in food or water at that point. Eventually, she got up and started walking around and then she got some water. It wasn’t until after feeding time when she had a bite to eat. She seems fine now. I hope next time a dog attacks her she kicks the crap out of the dog.

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