Melissa Schell-Geisler lets her chickens, ducks and geese roam free on the 28 acres she calls Doodlebug Lazy Acres, and she expects to lose some to hawks, raccoon and coyotes.
But, when pet dogs attack her fowl, she cries foul.
“It’s one thing if it happens to wild, native animals,” the Brookfield woman said. “If it happens because of pets or strays, that’s uncalled for.”
Schell-Geisler was trying to tally the loss from an attack April 18. Two dogs killed several birds, but many more were missing and others were injured, and she hadn’t taken stock of how many would have to be euthanized. She planned to ride all over her property to look for animals that died, and those that ran scared.
Speaking of one of her missing roosters, she said, “I think it’s his feathers that were all over the back there.”
Police said they were called at about 10:30 a.m. to the 1100 block of Route 7 SE after a neighbor of Schell-Geisler called her at work and said two dogs were attacking her birds.
The neighbor, Robert Maskrey, directed police to where he had seen the dogs and reported that they appeared to have been the same dogs that attacked the birds March 25.
A Brookfield policeman killed one of the dogs when it appeared to be in attack mode, while the second ran away.
Police Lt. Pete Gibb said he saw dead chicken carcasses “strewn about the area.” Four or five chickens were dead in a coop.
A large Doberman ran into the coop barking and growling “ferociously,” Gibb said. The dog “ran directly at me snarling and barking. Fearing that a(n) attack was imminent, I drew my sidearm and shot the dog four times.”
The dog fell and began to seize, and Gibb shot it again “this time to put it out of its misery.”
A black and tan shepherd mix dog ran toward Gibb, but veered off southward when Gibb yelled at it, he said.
Gibb recognized the dogs as belonging to Tracy A. Culp, 38, of 1240 Collar Price Road. Gibb said he talked to Culp, and she said she had let the dogs out “and they took off.”
A Trumbull County Dog Warden delivered the dead dog to Culp, police said.
In the March 25 incident, police saw the dogs attacking a chicken. The dogs were caught, but a rooster was killed and other birds were injured and had to be put down, Schell-Geisler said.
Police charged Culp with failing to confine her dogs in the March incident, and she has pleaded not guilty. Police filed a second-offense charge from the new incident.
Police Chief Dan Faustino said Gibb was shaken up. No officer likes having to fire at an animal, he said.
Schell-Geisler described herself as being unable to cry because she is so angry. She said she had about 40 birds, including some rare breeds, such as Red Dorking chickens, whose ancestors date to the Roman empire.
“They’re an old breed,” she said. “They’re one of the few five-toed chickens.”
She sells chicken and duck eggs and ducklings and goslings, breeds birds for show, and slaughters and sells some for meat.
People might say, “It’s just chickens,” but Schell-Geisler said they are so much more to her.
“They’re comical,” she said. “They all have their own little personalities.”
Some of the birds require daily interaction with Schell-Geisler, and will even sit on her lap, she said. They run to her when she pulls in after work.
“Miss Hennypenny up there, every day I have to lift her up and give her a hug,” Schell-Geisler said.
The birds know their names and like to get their photos taken, she said, and peck at her door to try to be let in the house.
The birds will put up a fight, and she credited one rooster, who didn’t make it, with saving his flock.
“Apparently, he put up a good fight, because all his hens made it back to the coop,” Schell-Geisler said.
“I could never fence them,” she said. “When you have them in, you run the risk of them getting full of parasites.”
Her only exception is when birds get into the road. She cages them for a week to teach them a lesson, and they usually learn it, Schell-Geisler said.
“I don’t feel I should cage my animals when there are ordinances on the books for other animals,” she said.
In addition to trying to round up her remaining skittish birds and looking for carcasses, she might have to buy an incubator for the 13 goose eggs whose mother was one of the casualties.
“If the other hen doesn’t sit on them, I might have to try that,” she said.
After the first time Culp’s dogs got loose, Schell-Geisler said she could forgive Culp.
“I can’t forgive the second time,” she said.