Having the best farm dogs is priceless. Working farm dogs are happy to please their owners and delight in keeping wild, crazy critters away. They don’t complain about working late hours or even about the weather. The best farm dogs naturally love their work, and they’re eager to do a job well.
When my husband and I bought our home we were blessed to acquire two very sweet Border Collie mix-breeds with the property. The dogs had lived on our homestead almost all of their lives (approximately four years), and it was home to them. The dogs took a while to get used to us being here, and there were some trust issues between us for some time. They didn’t know what to think about the new owners, and we didn’t know how they’d take to us or our backyard chickens.
Doby, the lead dog, warmed up to us very quickly. Max, or as I like to call him “Wild Max,” was very skittish. He wouldn’t come near us for a couple months. Several ham bones, treats and plates of strategically placed leftovers later, Max finally warmed up to us. We weren’t so nervous about the dogs’ reactions to us as we were our animals, though. The dogs were obviously so sweet natured and respectful of us, but they had not been around chickens before to our knowledge. Because of that, we made sure the chickens were penned up tightly and that we watched the dogs closely during the day whenever they ventured near the chicken runs.
About a week after we moved in I noticed “Wild Max” getting closer to my chickens than he had in the days before. I watched him ease right up next to the coop, closer than I was comfortable with. I wanted to chase him off, but I was afraid that I would scare him and lose what little trust he might have had with me at the time. I stood watching for several minutes, ready to jump in if necessary. I guess Doby sensed my concern because he ran up to Max and nipped him on the nose and chased him off. Somehow Doby knew that the chickens were our family, and he made sure Max knew that, too. What a blessing! Lesson learned, and I didn’t have to teach him!
Things went smoothly for the next weeks. Max still stayed back for the most part, but we were seeing him more and more each day. Doby was always happy to accompany us and show us around the homestead. He knew the good spots and wanted to be the one to show them to us. Our relationships were growing. We started letting the chickens out during the day, and they weren’t bothered by either dog.
One evening, about a month later, my husband and I were watching television when we heard some barking. It sounded as if the dogs went tearing through the yard toward the chicken coop. My husband grabbed the flashlight and we went out to investigate, fearing chicken predators. As we neared the coop, I noticed Max barking in the distance, but Doby was almost completely inside the coop. It looked as if he had hold of one of the chickens and was trying to drag it out! My husband called out Doby’s name, but Doby kept on barking and digging into the coop! “He’s eating one of my chickens!” was my thought. I looked in horror as I thought I was witnessing the horrible death of one of my girls!
Then I heard my husband: “Wait. It’s an armadillo! Doby has caught an armadillo!”
Oh, the relief! He was protecting our chickens, not eating them! I cannot begin to say how proud I was of my dogs at that moment. No chickens were hurt, thanks to my boys. Doby and Max both got a lot of praise and some special treats that night.
As the months passed everything fell into place. Max started coming closer to us and even let us pet him. We learned to trust our dogs, and they trusted us.
My family had never owned farm dogs prior to Max and Doby, and I must say that they have been such a joy. For what they do to help us, they are worth their weight in gold and more. We had owned dogs before, but they were more of the “family dog” types. Don’t get me wrong, we spoil these dogs like we did our other dogs, but the best farm dogs serve a purpose. They keep the critters away and keep our chickens safe 24/7, and that is priceless.
Do you have dogs that watch after your flock? What breeds do you feel make the best farm dogs? I love my Border Collies and plan to stick with that breed. What are your thoughts about farm dogs?