Life on the farm is tough. If you have any experience, have read the stories or have been keeping up with the blog, this is evident. The fall was hard on the flock. In the the span of about a month we lost countless hens (all heavy layers). This led us to two very important realizations.
Option 1) With the flock getting picked off at a rate of at least one per week, we were not going to have any left, especially going into winter when the hawks are even hungrier. Hawks are our biggest predator and impossible to control. Because they are ‘birds of prey’ and subject to the Migratory Bird Act. The federal fine for illegally killing hawks come with a $10,000 fine, 2 years in jail and seizure of the weapon used. And then there are separate repercussions from the state. There are permits that you can get if you can prove you have taken measures to protect your animals and that they are impacting your farm financially. But, while I now hate hawks with an incomprehensible burning passion, I just cannot kill one. So option one is off the table.
Option 2) Get a guard animal. Donkeys are supposed to be great for guarding large animals. They are often used to guard cattle and sheep and are great at controlling larger animals such as canines (foxes, coyotes, wolves, dogs, etc.) but they really could care less about the ones that are cleaning us out, the opossums, raccoons and hawks. So the next bet is a guard dog. We did quite a bit of research and decided that we wanted/ needed to get a Great Pyrenees. Deciding to get one is significantly harder than finding one. Luckily I had some friends, Noah Ranells and Ben Bergmann of Fickle Creek Farm that I knew had have litters the past two years. They have a very large and divers farm in Efland and depend on their Pyrenees for their livelihood. I called, emailed, had friends put in plugs for us and just plain BEGGED for them to part with one for us. Things had become dire on the farm. We finally connected and they agreed to sell us a 2+ year old dog named “Clarice”.
She is SO sweet. But she is first and foremost a GUARD DOG.
She is adorable, sweet and a damn good guard dog!
Clarice took quite a while to warm up to us, but she has come a long way. While she is not exactly a lap dog (and in no way should be – she is first and foremost a guard dog). But she loves ‘belly-rubbies’ a good scratch behind the ears. That is, if you can catch her. Se loves to play the good, ole “catch me if you can” and will finally fall on the ground roll over and expect lots of love.
Most important, we have not lost a single chicken since her arrival. Again, we were losing about one a week. We were so convinced that we were on our way to losing the entire flock, we placed an order for 19 chicks to replace the flock. Well… we currently have 17 adults, 19 1-month old chicks and then seven 2-week old biddies. Yes, if you do the math… that makes 43 chickens. FOURTY-THREE CHICKENS!!! In 4 locations on the farm. Things are a bit complicated and time intensive!