Raising hens on pasture has unique problems. Predators being a major one. In our area, these can include foxes, raccoons, coyotes, domestic dogs, hawks, and eagles. Most pastured eggs producers use mobile electric netted fence to keep their hens safe. It works well for predators approaching by land, but most of our problems have been from predators in the sky. A mobile fencing system will not work for air predators unless you are able to cover the top of your enclosure. Nearly impossible. Additionally, our farm has very few level spots which make mobile fencing challenging.
Last year we had major losses to our flock from hawks and bald eagles; and there is not much we could do to protect them.
This is what was left after a bald eagle attack last year, basically feathers and feet!
Enter livestock guard dogs, Anna and Elsa.
Adorable, huh? But not too ferocious in this picture.
We got Anna and Elsa in September 2015. They were promptly named by a certain “Frozen” crazed 3 year old.
Anna and Elsa are Great Pyrenees, a breed known for being well suited to guarding livestock. They have been a wonderful addition to our farm. The breed is slow to mature and they still have training to do, but we love their gentle nature and protectiveness.
Elsa, on the left. Anna on the right, sleeping on the job.
Our first challenge was to discipline ourselves into treating them like working dogs, not pets. We are dog people and this was hard. Livestock guard dogs must be trained that the chickens are their “tribe”, so ours live with the chickens 24/7. Even in winter, they stay with the chickens in the coop. It is quite a symbiotic relationship. I have witnessed the chickens “grooming” the dogs by pecking burrs from their coats.