Friday, December 3, 2010

Cleaning Up's in Thier Blood

Our Great Pyrenees have done a great job keeping our pastures free of predators. Before the pups and the electric fence, we were plagued with predator attacks, and I came very close to writing the whole pastured poultry endeavor off and callling it quits. It's hard enough to make a profit, and if you're loosing birds regularly to predators, it's impossible. Old-timers told me it couldn't be done, even the ones who were hippies before hippies were cool. That year we came so close to throwing in the towel that we actually put the remaining flock up on Craigslist for sale.

So a two and a half years later, we're still here, and the two goofballs below play a part in it.
You'll notice in the picture above that Fredo, our male dog, is carrying a chicken. The chicken is dead, and he's doing what comes natural to him. Livestock guardian dogs have the need to "clean up" whenever there's a dead animal around. Sometimes it mean hauling the animal off, or often trying to eat it. This particular chicken was on the floor of the coop last night. I knew she'd be dead by the morning, so I moved her out into a pen in the pasture. Sadly, this morning she was dead as a doornail. I opened up the pen door to remove her, and before I could get in, Alfredo walked straight into the pen, picked the dead hen up, and trotted off. I guess he'd been waiting all night to get rid of the bird. Often, LGDs are blamed undeservedly for killing stock - I've been guilty of it too. But my pup crew has earned my trust.


  1. I have a great pyrenees that likes to pounce on the hens and lick them. I have occasionally found a very wet and scared chicken in his dog run that I have to let out. I'm sure that they have learned their lesson about flying over the fence or squeezing under the door. Because he likes to chase the chickens, I haven't let him roam around in the same pen without supervision.

    Do you keep your dogs separate from your chickens?

  2. That's a play/affectionate instinct in the dogs Dave, and is both good & bad. It's good b/c it means your dog is taking ownership of the birds, and it's bad because that leads to dead or injured chickens. Pyrs are great dogs, but they're extremely affectionate, and to a goat or ewe, that means a chewed ear or slobbered on coat, for a chicken, much more fragile in comparison, it can easily be killed or plucked clean. I disciplined my dogs when I'd catch them doing it, going so far as to spy on them and pop 'em with a paintball gun for the bad behavior. The truth is, you'll lose birds. Just be patient, make sure you let her know it's bad, and around two years old it should be a lot better.

    And yes, I keep my dogs in with the chickens.