Chickens, like horses, are prey animals. Unfortunately, they are much more vulnerable than a horse in today’s environment. All chicken advisors say that dealing with predators is a major issue for chicken keepers. Actually that is an understatement. To hear people who keep chickens tell it, predators come in all shapes and sizes and from all directions, mostly under cover of night.
One of the most important decisions to make is what overall strategy to use to defend the chickens. Some people say not to let the chickens roam. Others describe elaborate efforts to predator proof the coop and chicken run. Just when I was getting discouraged, something amazing happened. I found a blogger who suggested getting a livestock guardian dog called a Great Pyrenees and I just happen to have one!
Our Great Pyrenees is a big fellow named Jack. Jack is not officially a livestock guardian dog in that he does not live out in a run with the stock. He guards by walking the perimeter of the pastures with me and by keeping watch from a large fenced area in the center of the property. From there he can see almost anything that happens. As anyone familiar with the Great Pyrenees breed knows, the one thing you cannot do with a Pyr is let them roam free. They have a very grand vision when it comes to exploring a natural perimeter!
Up to this point, the main focus of Jack’s deterrence of wild animals has been keeping deer from the various gardens, both vegetables and fruit plants. Though we can see many walking through the fields at sunset, they leave our gardens alone. Jack’s area is right on the other side of the fence from the chicken coop so I am hopeful, but obviously chickens hold a different attraction than plants and deer are not the problem.
Jack is a “Jack of all trades.” He is a buddy to my husband who is retired and home every day. They hang out in the family room near the back patio where Jack maintains his guard post. He is also a therapy dog with the local Therapy Dog International group. He and I visit personal care facilities, hospitals and schools.
While I hope that Jack will be a deterrent to chicken predators, it remains to be seen. He does not sleep outside all night. We have always brought him in at bedtime because he has a very deep and resounding bark. He loves to sleep in the hallway near our bedroom and I am pretty sure he has no desire to change his routine. While he will probably try to do his best in guarding the chickens, I won’t count on him to do the graveyard shift