Guard animal for small homestead/farm?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Eir, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. Eir

    Eir New Egg

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    Ok so here's what's up. I live on a 15 acre farm in Texas that currently has a horse, 2 dexter cattle (heifer and bull), a small goat herd (a male and two females who just had kids, though we are selling the kids off), chickens, turkeys, and sheep (we'll be getting rid of the sheep soon too as they came with the property when we got it and are all castrated males whose only purpose was to mow the lawn. They are meat sheep, not wool). However, we've had predator problems and just recently one of the turkeys was taken by a fox. We need a guard animal but I'm not sure what would be best for the property.

    The chickens and turkeys have mostly been the one's to get picked off but when we first got to the property one of the sheep was found dead in the lower lands of our pasture. This may have been because he fell down the rather steep slope we have which is more like a mini ravine so it may not have been a predator. None of the other animals have had any problems with the slope though, and the poultry all love walking around in it- which could be a problem for any guard animals trying to keep everything safe. We also have problems with the occasional hawk that will take the chickens :/ yeah, lots to do on the farm.

    Note, guard dogs are out. We have 5 dogs right now and they are all companion animals/pets so we just wouldn't be able to see dogs as anything more than pets that sleep inside with the people :)

    I've been researching llamas and donkeys but just can't get any good definitive information so if anyone has any experience with either of those animals please help.

    Edit: The predator may have been a fox though coyotes roam around the area frequently and a mountain lion has been spotted before but not by us and not in awhile.

    (Long post is long)
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2012
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Dog of at least 65 lbs would be best as that is what I use on an 18 acre patch. During about half of year my dogs inside as well but they can get outside all night even during offseason, otherwise they keep us warm in bed. During offseason most of flock confined except when dogs out. Problem with donkey or llama is that neither will be inclined to herd with birds as a result will not be inclined to provide protection when needed. Niether donkey or llama can be counted upon to deal with hawk or owl. Latter if great-horned could target turkey. If you use llama or donkey you will need to confine the flock protector in area birds are kept concentrated in and then they will be hard on pasture.
     
  3. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    You are keeping cattle and poultry once you get rid of the unwanted sheep and goats. What I suggest is a good safe pen for the birds and leave it at that. Not much is going to bother the cattle except for mountain lions and rustlers.

    A donkey might try to kill your dogs. It won't protect against small predators like weasels or against birds of prey. Llamas are worthless as guardians. I suspect that the "guard llama" myth was started by llama breeders desperate to try to unload their unwanted males. I tried a llama and he tried to kill the lambs and was terrified of the dogs.

    Stray dogs and coyotes can kill llamas, so they can't protect against much. They are clumsy and don't have much fighting skill.

    You don't want livestock guardian dogs, so there isn't much left for you except for safe fences.
     
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  4. HouseCat

    HouseCat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Have you looked into a Game Cock? A good cock is the best "flock insurance" I've ever had. Barn cats keep the keep the predators away during the night and the Cock watches over them during daylight hours. Although nothing tops a good secure run. I've been told that Goats make good Guardian Animals- is this not true?
     
  5. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree with Oregon. If dogs are out, you just need to secure your flock.

    You don't say what it is that you think may be killing your birds. That would also be a consideration. Even dogs are not able to protect from a hawk or owl, though some may try or at least alert to them. We had donkeys (our landlords) here when we first moved. They would go after something if it was close but wouldn't just chase after something that they saw. If they didn't see it, they did nothing. Not too long ago I saw a coyote in an overgrown area of the pasture about 50 feet from the donkeys and horses. My landlord said that after they got the donkeys, they didn't lose any more sheep but the sheep stuck right with the donkeys or horses.
     
  6. cgmccary

    cgmccary Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I keep a donkey (a Jenny) in the pasture. Like you, I have a Dexter Bull & Cow (and her calf). My Jenny is very canine aggressive and although she "knows" my dogs and is less so with them, they learned to watch out for her. A donkey really protects her territory and is not particularly protecting the other livestock-- though I have witnessed my dogs wanting to play with the calf and the Jenny was having none of it. She ran off the dogs and stood by the calf. My Jenny loves my cows (she was raised with cows and is young herself- only about 4-5 years old) and she bonded to my cows from the start- the cows bully her around.

    My set-up is perfect for donkey protection. My pasture forms a horse-shoe around my home and barns so a predator must first go across the pasture (the Jenny's territory) or come directly to the front (i.e. dogs). So what you are doing is taking advantage of the donkey's natural instincts to be territorial and also their usual canine aggression. Beware that not ALL are canine aggressive. I initially had an intact Jack and this does not work as he was aggressive with my Dexter Bull-- instead get a Jenny or a Gelded Jack. One more thing, my Jenny does not really like the chickens or geese either. I have seen her run and try to stomp them -- she does this less now. The birds also have learned to give her enough latitude to escape those hoofs. She once tried to stomp a mother hen and her chicks. It was a game hen. The game hen flew at the Jenny's eyes and the chicks were fast and all escaped -- in other words, my Jenny is not relentless on wanting to stomp my birds or she would succeed at some point.

    I also have regular mutt dogs that are pets. My Shepherd mix keeps things run off and is protective of farm and home (she is not so much protecting livestock as she is guarding the home-place) -- again taking advantage of her natural instincts to protect her home. She can be aggressive toward strange dogs and people but she particularly hates coyotes, coons, opossums. She stays in most nights but if something is lurking, she seems to know and barks to go outside, no matter the hour. The other dogs are hound mutts and a Mountain Feist, and they do run and bark at things (and can take care of themselves so a deterrent in their own right). The Feist just sounds the alarm for the Shepherd mix and the hounds to come outside. I make one dog stay out during the night if for no other reason than to alert my Shepherd mix (usually the Feist).

    My Geese protect against hawks & stay out 24/7. The GHO do not bother my birds. Most predators just do not want to contend with so much trouble to try and get a chicken.

    My Jenny:


    [​IMG]
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Some dogs are very effective against hawks and owls. Donkeys do protect sheep because two species will herd together although poultry will not stay with such a protector.
     
  8. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As stated, some dogs will be effective against raptors though I think some type of hunting/bird dog may serve the purpose best.

    From what I've read donkeys need to be raised with the species that they are meant to protect and not have other equine to socialize with. Before we moved here, our landlord had 17 sheep and 2 horses in the pasture. All but one of the sheep were killed by coyotes. They then got 2 donkeys and the ram remained until they were all sold. The ram hung out with the horses but from what I was told, the sheep did not hang around the horses when there was a flock of them.

    From what I've seen, donkeys will react to an eminent threat. IE: Landlords dogs come in to pasture, close to the donkeys, the donkeys react. Another time, 2 dogs in my pasture that killed a few of my chickens. I called the donkeys over because I was scared the dogs were going to go up to where my ducks and geese were. The donkeys saw the dogs and vice versa. The donkeys did NOT react they did approach slowly and followed me for a while (we were walking around ~12 acres) but they did not go chasing after the dogs. Another, I saw a coyote in the pasture not 50' from the donkeys and horses. They did nothing, the coyote was traveling in the opposite direction.

    Every animal is different. The best livestock protection breed may not protect or may kill their charges.
     
  9. SallyinIndiana

    SallyinIndiana Overrun With Chickens

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    Which dogs are good for hawks. I'm going to try and convince my husband that we need a dog.
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I do not think it is breed dependent, rather it may be a matter of training. I am currently using German pointers that target both hawks and owls. During early stages of training the dogs simply react to alarm calls of chickens and with owls in particular my use of flashlight. We caught a barred owl a few weeks ago although I do not know how that was done other than action occured near brooder under roof. Adult dog will now chase at dead run a Coopers hawk flying just over flock and will not allow red-tails to land even on power-line for more than a couple of seconds. They are also able to contend with other predators. Oppossums and raccoons are now taking a heavy hit at dog's paws and last summer we actually caught and killed a red fox and just a couple weeks ago bowled over another that has not returned since. Dog also dominates coyotes but coyotes have yet to be a problem. Your coyotes in Indiana (I was raised there) may be introgressed with wolf so possibly a bit larger making dog size more important. Only real limitation has been with larger dogs than mine and that dynamic is changing as second is maturing enabling pack mentality to operate with territory defense. Bulk of dog's work load will be after dark. During production season their base for operation is porch from which they can oversee roosting sites and I can also hear their barking to I can intervene as needed. Sometimes a raccoon can get into a tree or oppossum in location where I can help.

    German pointers are high energy hunting dogs but also very, very smart. At least those with which I am familiar. Be carefull, their smarts can also work against you if training technique not appropriate. I multi-task my eldest dog as he is now used as a coon dog which is very much in line with the bred for use in Europe where breed was developed. Mine also are good around small kids which is not a characteristic that can be said about all standard LGDs. During winter they make excellent bed warmers but will want to go outside everytime birds make a ruckuss that is not crowing. Be very carefull if they kill a oppossum or raccoon during winter nights as they may try to sneak it into house and under bed for their dining pleasure.


    Biggest limitation I have found is with the dog's limited cold tolerance which I get around by having free-ranging of vulnerable birds restricted to March through November since pasture productivity is season anyway. Same dogs handle heat better than standard sized LGDs.


    I employed imprinting on poultry prior to initiation of training process. Most folks with standard LGDs that do things as I think they should do little more than imprint pups on herd and minimize interaction between sheperd and dogs. This is in part becuase LGDs operating with mobile herds well away from your dwelling must not be overly inclined to hang away from charges. With my usage, the dogs can still be a pet which jives well with how my poultry are kept.


    Use of any dog is not just a choice of breed or even how dog is trained. It is also about your poultry management techniques. Strive to make it so dog's job is easy and keep communication channels between you, dog, and poultry open. Chickens are harder for any dog to guard than any sheep or goat which in part be cause chickens do not always cooperate when small fast predators will try to employ snatch and run techniques that predators on larger animals cannot do.
     
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