Taylor Farms, Texas
Free Range Chickens and their Turkish livestock protection dogs
We first got our ornamental chickens, primarily Salmon Favorelles with a few Barred Rocks and Banties mixed in, in the late 1970s. We were happy to have our own farmstead and lots of space. While most of our weekdays were spent off the farm at work and transporting children to and from childcare, we enjoyed having animals that were gentle enough for our young children to be involved with. And then the neighbor's dog arrived. Over the course of the next few weeks he decimated our chicken flock, killing over 30 chickens. When we added a few new hens, he quickly finished them, being smart enough to only show up when the one family car was not in the drive!
Rica the Kangal Dog and her charges Shaggy the Akbash Dog and her Silkies
It was a heartbreaking experience for us and our young children. With no local leash laws, we couldn't compel the neighbor to confine his dog (until he bit my husband who caught him in the act and made a grab for him). Then the dog was confined for ten days -- and released again. In time he met the fate that many rural chicken killing dogs meet.
We cautiously rebuilt a smaller flock of hens and added ducks to the mix. Coyotes discovered the ducks and began taking them from our yard at sun up! We sometimes arrived in time to see the coyote staring back from a small rise with its prey, watching to see if we were going to chase or if we had a rifle in our hands. Our chickens, particularly the young ones still in a special brooder house, began falling prey to some small predator that simply bit necks and killed the hen and young pullets. Probably one of the many skunks that we had worked so hard to eradicate.
Our farmstead experience was not the happy one we wanted it to be. We had gotten two dairy goats, which were as sociable as pet dogs. We became afraid they would fall prey to dogs or coyotes. A long time friend, a local veterinarian made a recommendation to us. Get an Akbash Dog. We did -- not immediately because finding a pure Akbash Dogs was not easy in 1978, but she had warned against a variety of other breeds and emphasized the importance of getting a PURE Akbash Dog.
In time we found our dog -- and discovered that with the right kind of 24 hour protection we could have chickens, ducks, and goats with no losses to dogs, coyotes, skunks or even hawks.
Now grandchildren help us gather eggs - the farm and the house are larger. The hens are sex-linked with some Red Stars and some Delawares thrown in and one Americana for that once a day green egg! We provide free range eggs to family and co-workers who are embracing the idea of "locavorism!" We have been through generations of Akbash Dogs, including some that I have now gone to Turkey and brought back myself, and a Turkish friend 20 years ago added Turkish Kangal Dogs to our farm. The breeds are kept pure and keep away the predators, which now include bobcat, black (predatory) vultures, and feral hogs!
A Jungle Fowl can set in peace. Kangal Dog pups get started with chickens.