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Old 02-11-2014, 10:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Does your dog protect your chickens?

Okay, so I became chicken-obsessed last summer, but too late to start my own flock In the meantime, I have moved into a different home, on a much bigger piece of property (about 3-ac, 1.5 is fenced out back), and basically have zero nosy and/or annoying neighbors. YAYAY!

So, spring is approaching, chicks will be hatching soon (meaning I want to start selecting and ordering tomorrow!), and I am Bound and Determined to have fresh eggs and tomatoes this year. No holds barred, lol.

The summer garden plot is selected, planned, and just waiting for the soil to dry out enough to start turning it. And still, I have LOTS of space left for the dogs and chickens...

Here's my deal. I intend to free range my chooks. I have solid enough OB now on both my dogs to feel comfortable that if we start the chicks inside the house and take the right steps, my dogs will recognize that the poultry are Mine, and not their prey. That's not my concern. My concern is what to do with the chooks when I eventually start letting them out. I have about another 1/2 acre that is heavily wooded (tall pines and dense underbrush), but outside my back yard fence, that would make excellent range for the chickens...BUT, it's outside the fence, where Jack can't practically watch over them.

I *really* want to put the chooks in the woods. I mean, we have several trees in the yard, but nothing grows under them, meaning No Bugs, etc. And those woods are just jam-packed with a chicken Feast of free chicken feed!! And they'll actually be safer there than in the yard. We have hawks galore here in deep east Texas! The next biggest predator would be the snakes, and I actually do Not want to be attracting them inside the fence. I'd rather lose some eggs or even chickens than my Jack to a cottonmouth.

So, I'm torn. Do I confine the chickens to the fenced yard, where I feel confident Jack will ward off any predators...except the two biggest threats, being the hawks and snakes! Or can I just make sure I have a couple roosters to alert me, and let them enjoy the woods?

Either way, I am totally prepared to lose a few chickens along the way, so if you're sentimental about that, well... I'm just trying to keep it natural, and making no apologies as I enjoy my chicken noodle soup for dinner.

IDK, I'm thinking it will be cheaper and easier and way more natural to put the chickens outside the fence, let them roost in a natural environment, and cultivate some nests where I can collect whatever eggs the snakes don't eat first. I have no doubt y'all will tell me whether this is a Crazy plan!
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It depends on the dogs. My girl Clover had high prey drive, but she was great with the chickens. Then adding another dog to the pack made it dicey...but we did ok, teacking Onyx that the chickens were not to be chased, but herded occasionally. We then added a 3rd dog to the pack and all bets were off. Kacie has very high prey drive, which made young Onyx follow suit. So the chickens were not safe with three dogs. We had to make a secure run for them.
My chickens use to do happy hour with me, but they also ruined my perennial garden, so I'm ok with them not free ranging.
I'd love to turn them out into the woods daily to get their insects/bugs, but not sure they'd return every night so we don't do that either. We now have four chickens in an enclosed run/coop, we get four eggs daily(even in this harsh winter weather!)
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:10 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I seen a GSD chase a coyote that was trying to get the chickens on his property. They ran around trees in circles and finally the coyote took off into the woods. The dog chased the coyote a little bit into the woods and came back when he knew it was gone. It was something to see, he did protect the chickens. They were in an enclosed coop.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by onyx'girl View Post
It depends on the dogs. My girl Clover had high prey drive, but she was great with the chickens. Then adding another dog to the pack made it dicey...but we did ok, teacking Onyx that the chickens were not to be chased, but herded occasionally. We then added a 3rd dog to the pack and all bets were off. Kacie has very high prey drive, which made young Onyx follow suit. So the chickens were not safe with three dogs. We had to make a secure run for them.
My chickens use to do happy hour with me, but they also ruined my perennial garden, so I'm ok with them not free ranging.
I'd love to turn them out into the woods daily to get their insects/bugs, but not sure they'd return every night so we don't do that either. We now have four chickens in an enclosed run/coop, we get four eggs daily(even in this harsh winter weather!)
I have been reading up, and it seems like they will return and follow you into the coop every night if it's on schedule...and you feed them, even when they've been eating all day long, lol!

And yeah, I think three dogs might be too much to ask

I only have two, and my female is a senior now. Still spry, but even for a Weimaraner, she obeys like nobody's business. I'm not at all concerned about my dogs eating the chickens!

I guess, my Real question is whether the chooks will be safer under forest cover, or out in the open where a hawk can scoop them up before Jack can even bark!?
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RIP Mattie - female GSD 10/18/02 - 7/24/2013
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llombardo View Post
I seen a GSD chase a coyote that was trying to get the chickens on his property. They ran around trees in circles and finally the coyote took off into the woods. The dog chased the coyote a little bit into the woods and came back when he knew it was gone. It was something to see, he did protect the chickens. They were in an enclosed coop.
I love this! Makes me wish neither my dogs nor my chickens had fences!!!
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Lillian - female Weimaraner b. ~2005
RIP Mattie - female GSD 10/18/02 - 7/24/2013
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I would keep them in a covered area, but hawks aren't stupid. You should have a Roo to help warn the chickens if a predator is around, they are very good at that. We had racoons and oppossums trying to get into the areas the chickens roosted, so we had to lock them in a safe area every night.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onyx'girl View Post
I would keep them in a covered area, but hawks aren't stupid. You should have a Roo to help warn the chickens if a predator is around, they are very good at that. We had racoons and oppossums trying to get into the areas the chickens roosted, so we had to lock them in a safe area every night.
Thank you. I'm gonna start with a couple dozen hens and 2-3 rooos. Couldn't do that inside the fence, but outside, with Jack and the Roos for alarm, I think most of my hens will be safe and sound!
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Lillian - female Weimaraner b. ~2005
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Old 02-12-2014, 12:50 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Look closely at this picture. This coop belongs to someone I know that removes wildlife for a living....

http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum...1&d=1392180608
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:57 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llombardo View Post
Look closely at this picture. This coop belongs to someone I know that removes wildlife for a living....

http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum...1&d=1392180608
YIKES!! Is that a possum in the hen house?!

No way, Jose.

I have been reading more and reconsidered my initial approach. I am only going to start with 3-4 hens this year, and they will either be in a very secure coop (with hardware cloth buried underground to keep the diggers out), or safely under cover of a chicken tractor for their yard time.

I ordered 15 chicks, but thankfully my friend who lives on a ranch was wanting to increase her flock this year, so she will trade me some honey for the extra chicks. Yay! and whew

Finished my brooder today (except that I need to buy a bigger drill bit so I can mount the roosting poles at baby height). I put plexiglass in the front panel, so the dogs can practice their calm down while observing the chicks "Just being Chickens." I'm hoping it works as well as the baby gate to the cat room did when I introduced the kitten. The goal is that by the time the chicks are feathered out and we start venturing outside for hardening off, the dogs will be like "Oh, those birds again?? Meh."
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Jack - male GSD b. 8/9/10
Lillian - female Weimaraner b. ~2005
RIP Mattie - female GSD 10/18/02 - 7/24/2013
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Old 02-16-2014, 09:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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My First Brooder:
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Does your dog protect your chickens?-photo-1.jpg   Does your dog protect your chickens?-photo-2.jpg   Does your dog protect your chickens?-photo-3.jpg  
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Amy and the dogs,

Jack - male GSD b. 8/9/10
Lillian - female Weimaraner b. ~2005
RIP Mattie - female GSD 10/18/02 - 7/24/2013
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