Be Selfish, Dont share (with the foxes and raccoons)

Dave Robinson
By Dave Robinson on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 9:34am

After losing all of my first flock to predators ( I thought it was foxes but Raccoons turned out to be the big killers) I considered a lot of options.   "Locking them up at night"  just didn't fit in our lifestyle as we travel a lot.   We had been raising an English Shepherd and when he graduated to staying outside with the chickens all night, the problem was solved.    We've lost no birds to predation since then.   An added benefit is that we also lose nothing to the deer.   We have 14 fruit trees in the small pasture that the chickens free range in.    The garden is  just outside the free range pasture and the dog's proximity is enough to keep the deer away from that as well.    The dog stays with the girls 95% of the time.   Sometimes he rides with me in the truck and occaisionally comes in to the house for a visit.   But his scent around the chicken coop is enough to keep all the predators away.

So for us, the combination of a fenced in free range pasture that encloses the chickens and the fruit trees and an English Shepherd on duty has kept us 100% free from sharing with the deer, foxes and raccoons.

5 Comments

jasonw's picture
jasonw
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 17 2011
Posts: 1018
Livestock guardian dogs

Dave - sounds like your english shepherd is doing the job perfectly. 

About 9 months ago we got a Great Pyrenees livestock dog and she is "on duty" every night at about 8 pm.  From about 2 months old she has been true to her breed and has been exactly what we needed to help protect the goats and chickens.  Now our biggest threat to our chickens is climate change.  With the weeks of 100+ temps (one day 111 degrees) we have lost 3 birds.  Just dead. 

There are only 2 drawbacks of having this extra special member of the homestead:  We have to consider the extra resouces and preps for her (food, water, care) and she loves to bark when on duty.  She lets everything know that she is there and standing guard.  From the second she swallows that last bit of night time food till the rise of the sun - she will bark intermittently.  Takes a bit of getting used to.  We are having to help train her not to bark at anything and everything she sees or hears.  But the evenings are cool and sleeping under the stars has been fun.  She doesn't bark as much if we are there to support her. 

Just thought I would share our latest effort on the homestead. 

Cheers,

Jason

Dave Robinson's picture
Dave Robinson
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 8 2011
Posts: 3
Is Barking Necessary in a Security System?

For a while, Hero the English Shepherd barked too much.   We got a bark collar and the barking has almost gone away.  He will still bark if something is really bark-worthy ... but I think in the animal world that his scent is the number one deterrent anyway.    Also, after a while the bark collar can be removed.   He's still batting 1000 on losing no chickens.    

BTW  Jason, sorry to hear of your heat losses.   We only get to mid 90's here in VA but it's sometimes pretty humid.   Best thing I've found is to provide shade.    It seems that growing shade is cooler than structural shade.    Maybe the green leaves transpiring moisture.    Anyway, in the hottest part of the day, my girls (and Hero) are under the shade lean to with greenery growing around it.

Dave Robinson's picture
Dave Robinson
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 8 2011
Posts: 3
Is Barking Necessary in a Security System?

For a while, Hero the English Shepherd barked too much.   We got a bark collar and the barking has almost gone away.  He will still bark if something is really bark-worthy ... but I think in the animal world that his scent is the number one deterrent anyway.    Also, after a while the bark collar can be removed.   He's still batting 1000 on losing no chickens.    

BTW  Jason, sorry to hear of your heat losses.   We only get to mid 90's here in VA but it's sometimes pretty humid.   Best thing I've found is to provide shade.    It seems that growing shade is cooler than structural shade.    Maybe the green leaves transpiring moisture.    Anyway, in the hottest part of the day, my girls (and Hero) are under the shade lean to with greenery growing around it.

kirstenved's picture
kirstenved
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 28 2013
Posts: 1
What breed of dog to keep

Hello. I was just wondering if there are particular dog breeds that are " friendly" to chickens. Is the English shepherd one of them? I plan to keep a dog to guard my chicken coop, but I am not too sure about what breed to get. I heard some stories of chicken raisers, that sometimes a neighbor's dog would prey on their chickens. Do you have any suggestions aside from the English shepherd? Also do they have to undergo special training so as to condition themselves not to harm the chickens? Thank you and will be really appreciate if someone could enlighten me about this matter. smiley

libertymtn's picture
libertymtn
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 16 2013
Posts: 1
dog breeds for chickens

Hello, I am new here. We have lived in a very rural area of SW Arkansas for over 30 years. We were the first to bring a livestock guard dog breed into this state (Jan. 1981). For some years, we were a nationally known kennel for Great Pyrenees dogs. Several champions, etc., even one in the Hall of Fame (Liberty Mtn. Sonny Shasta, HOF). But we don't show or register our dogs anymore. In fact, they aren't pure Pyrs anymore, either (thanks to a visiting Australian Shepherd some years ago). But we don't know what we would do without these dogs. We have hundreds of acres of wild around our place and it's a mile and a half to get to the mailbox up on the road (and the next neighbors). We have lots of "predators" that we have seen with our own eyes over the decades, including bear, cougar, red wolves, coy-dogs, coyotes, fox, bobcat, bald eagle, etc. In all this time, we've not even lost a chicken to a hawk, thanks to the Pyrs. They even kill skunks without seeming to mind the smell (but we do!). And more than once, we've seen them gang up on a venomous snake and kill it. They don't bother the non-venomous snakes so apparently they smell the venom and know. Our dogs are not forced to stay penned with a certain group of animals. They have free run of the place and of the surrounding areas (which was a good thing when escaped jailbirds were coming down our creek one day). We pet them and love on them every day as we go in and out of the house.

In France, Pyrs were called "mat dogs" as they would sleep on the mat in front of the door IN the house at night. If robbers tried to break in, the door would hit the dog and then he'd get the robbers. The dog was not forced to live with the livestock 24 hours a day without a human there with him and the flock. If the human was home, the flock was in a pen (a fold). We don't have animals/livestock too much any more but for many decades (most of our lives) we had commercial cattle, registered Morab horses (we had 50 at one time and we were the world's largest breeder of this breed), registered dairy goats (had five breeds at once and showed in a five state region), registered Suffolk sheep (showed them and ate them), registered Rex rabbits (kids showed them), all kinds of poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, etc.), cats, kids (oh, wait, they aren't animals! Most of the time...LOL!), etc. My husband grew up on a cattle ranch/wheat farm in NW Oklahoma and his family also had commercial sheep when he was a kid. We owned a grain elevator/feed store in the late 70's. We had dogs to herd cattle/sheep but we did not know about the livestock guard dog breeds yet. Not until 1980. We bought our first dog, a 3 month old female, from a huge sheep ranch in New Mexico. They'd been using the Pyrs for about 30 years by then. We flew her in and she sold us on the breed. She saved some newborn goat kids for us almost right away. They were born on a very cold night and the mom didn't lick them to dry them off. It was her first kids and she didn't know what to do with them I guess. The pup licked them dry for her and we found them together at daylight with the pup still licking on them every now and then, and the goat mother standing off to one side. So we bought a second dog from the ranch in New Mexico - a year old registered male. Not long after, we found a pair in Virginia that came from top Pyr kennels (Skeel in Idaho and Poco Pyrs in New England), and they already had championship points on them. We took out a bank loan to buy them and flew them here. Those two are the foundation of the lines we still have today. We expected our dogs to be good enough to win in the show rings but also to be working when home. And they did.

So...dogs guarding chickens. The LGD's are supposed to do this just fine (they don't really guard the animals, they are guarding their *territory* and anything in their territory benefits by it, including my house and car). What we've experienced is that puppies/young dogs are the ones you have to watch. They want to play with the chickens/poultry and you have to teach them that they cannot do this. We forgive one dead chicken, but not a second one. We've not had to go that far with a pup...yet. But the ranch we got our first two Pyrs from told us that they would shoot a pup/dog that killed a second chicken after being disciplined for killing the first. If you cannot wait for a pup to grow up and get past the baby stages of stupidity now and then, find a dog that is already at least a year old and grew up with chickens/poultry so you know he's good to go. We took in a year old female (purebred) who was not wanting to stop chasing her owner's chickens. She's two and a half now and she doesn't bother our chickens anymore. She's turning into a really good work dog. We have a five month old daughter out of her that we kept. Around two is when we see them stop with the puppy mind and start acting like an adult. We have had our Pyrs live to be 15 years old so two is not old for this breed. In fact, we used to not see adult Pyrs (especially males) not being shown until they were four or five or even six years old...which is when they came into their adult coats. People want them finished by one year old now so they've bred them to mature faster. They don't usually live as long, either. Same for the goats. Watch who you buy a Pyr from...there are a lot of what I call "trash Pyrs" out there nowadays and they aren't good work dogs and some aren't even good pets. Seeing too many people-aggressive Pyrs, too.

I met a sheriff in Texas one night (on my way to a dog show in Houston) who told me that he had a friend who was using a Pyr with his fighting chickens. There was a fence around the chicken area and the dog had free roam in there. He kept out the coyotes/fox/etc. that used to get the chickens who are helpless because they are tied to their shelter (to keep them from fighting with each other). Easy pickings. Since then, I've heard of others doing the same thing.  My main complaint about the Pyrs/LGD's with chickens/poultry is they don't work so good with possums. Once the dog grabs the thing, it plays dead. Then the dog leaves, thinking he's killed it. Even with me standing right there and screaming, It's not dead!! the dogs still leave. The one dog that helps take care of that is our miniature Dachsund. He will keep worrying that possum for hours even after we've killed it and it really *is* dead*. He doesn't care of the possum plays dead and he can also get into tight places (like in the floor under our mobile home) where the possums try to hide (and we can't reach) and he'll keep after them until they try to run for it...then we get them. As long as the possum is moving and showing life, the Pyr *will* go after it, but once they think it's dead, that's it. They also don't seem to bother black snakes in the chicken house. They are not venomous and I guess that's why they leave them alone. So we have to watch for them in the nests where they are going after the eggs. We put golf balls in there and we've had a bunch just disappear. The snakes swallow them, thinking they are eggs (we've caught some with the golf balls in them). I'm told that it will kill the snake. If we catch them alive, we put them in a bucket and dump them off in the boonies at least two miles from here. One neighbor has one of the last small family dairies still going in our state and we figure he has lots of mice so we dump the snakes in his neck of the woods. LOL!

I believe that having older dogs who know what to do, teaching the pups, is hard to beat. Our pups are usually following the adults to bark at coyotes when they are only two or three months old. By 6 months, they are fully able to take down a coyote. We love that our dogs allow us to co-exist peacefully with the wildlife. The wildlife just stay out of the dogs' territory and don't bother our other animals. Even our "neighbors" have benefited. The neighbor on our west who owns several hundred acres would move his momma cows to our side of his road when they were going to calve. If he left them on his side of the road, the coyotes/etc. would get the calves. If they were over by us, our dogs kept his calves safe. That man did this for 20 years until he died. Now all that acreage is planted to pine trees (widow).

I apologize for the long post...

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