Farm Dogs

Winter 2013

 

Two dogs call Schacht Farm home. They are unique and exceptional in personality and in the vital role they each play on the farm. They serve as guards to the poultry. It is no easy job to live with and protect 1,000 loud and pushy laying hens, 900 curious and mischievous turkeys, or a few thousand stinky and irritating broilers….depending on the time of year. It is a tough job….so here, I give them the praise they are due while also providing a more clear picture of what is involved in producing the poultry our customers enjoy.

 

Savannah is our oldest guard. She is a cross between two guard breeds, Maremma and Great Pyrenees. She is 8 years old and came to us as a rescue dog 5 years ago. The folks who rescued her noticed that she would chase out any bird who tried to land in the back yard. I brought her home and took her on daily walks through our flock of hens, letting her get acquainted with them while supervised. Our hope was that she would bond with the birds and protect them against air predators such as hawks, eagles, and owls…and she did. Through the years I have been amazed by her sound judgment in unusual situations. For example, when Savannah patrols the perimeter of the turkey paddock, she listens for the clicking sound the energizer uses to electrify the fence that contains the turkeys. If she does not hear the clicking sound she understands that the fence is not operational, and she must drive the birds away from the fence since there is no shock to turn them if they test it. This keeps them from pushing the fence over...and us from having to wrangle up a huge flock of turkeys very often. Savannah’s current post is with the hens, until she is assigned to the turkeys next fall.

 

Olie, short for Oleander, is our 5 year old Great Pyrenees. She came to our farm as an 8-week old puppy. She was born to working parents who had posts at another farm. She had supervised visits with the poultry as a puppy, and as an adolescent Savannah oversaw her training, teaching her how to deter air predators when they would fly overhead and correcting her if she chased after the hens. By the time Olie was 9 months old she was assigned to her first job guarding a few thousand broilers all by herself. We didn’t have a single loss that summer to predators. Being awed by animal behavior, it really was fascinating for me to see this little ball of fluff express her instincts as a guard at such an early age, and to develop into such an integral part of our farm in such a short time. Olie’s current post is with the hens, and Savannah, for the winter, until she is assigned to the broilers in the spring.

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