While making plans to move out to the new house, there were a lot of things we had to take in to consideration. One of the biggest things we had to take into account with our chickens, our small dogs, and our future livestock plans, was predators.
The biggest advantage of raising chickens and doing gardens in the city is the lack of predators. Sure we’ve gotten the occasional squirrel stealing our corn, and the odd skunk trying to get to our eggs, but for the most part, we’ve been predator free. At the new house we had already seen a lot of evidence of coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and many other beasties who would just love to get their greedy paws on our chickens, eggs, feed, you name it. There would be no harder blow then moving our flock to the house only to have them wiped out in the space of one night with the wrong visitor finding its way into the coop.
We were already working hard to turn the new chicken housing into Fort Knox – hardware cloth, deep dug fencing etc. We also planned on installing motion detector lights, which we know are a good predator deterrent. However, we knew we would need more, especially with the cold weather approaching and the wildlife getting hungrier and braver in pursuit of their next meal. As I researched and pondered the situation, one solution began to make the most sense – a livestock guardian dog.
Now, we have always been small dog people – after all, they are the most practical dog for urban life, and, well, we just love our tiny dogs to pieces. All of the breeds that work as livestock guardian dogs are at the total opposite end of the spectrum; not just big, but HUGE. Large dogs have always intimidated me, and to consider owning an extra-large breed was a really hard concept for me personally.
With further research, one particular breed stood out for us – the Great Pyrenees. One of the oldest domesticated dog breeds, these gentle giants have livestock guarding in their blood. Their docile nature coupled with their natural ability made them a good choice for first time owners. As a bonus, my mother-in-law has a 7 year old Great Pyrenees named Yeti, so I already had some hands on experience with the breed.
After much back and forth, we decided to bite the bullet and make plans to get a Great Pyrenees for the new farm. After searching for a bit, I happened to have the good fortune to stumble upon a farmer way up in northern Maine who was expecting a new litter of puppies within days of my phone call. I told him to hold one for me, and spent the next few weeks checking in on the puppies with periodic phone calls, and listening to the farmer tell story after story about the brave and heroic deeds of his own Pyrenees.
In the meantime, I did my own research. Owning a working dog, and one of such enormous stature, was way out of my comfort zone. Raising a livestock guardian dog is a whole different ballgame then a companion dog, and was definitely different from the Chihuahuas I love so dearly. I was a bit intimidated by the concept of raising a dog that would get big enough to realistically contemplate eating me someday. I read articles by the USDA, talked to experienced farmers, and bounced around on the net reading different people’s experiences and their opinions on raising this particular breed for this particular job.
When it came time to finally go get my pup, I felt ready, prepared to be a tough but loving owner to this new addition to our family. We drove for three hours and picked out an adorable, tiny polar bear pup that I named Nimbus.
Nimbus spent the first 8 weeks of her life in a cow stall, and we’ve established her bed and toys in our new barn. With her double coat and breeding geared towards arctic temperatures she loves the brisk Fall weather and gets overheated if she has to sit in someone’s lap. She doesn’t go in the house. While this has caused some comments from some people I know, it’s best that we establish these things now, both for Nimbus and for us, and be to consistent in this and our other decisions with her training. Having her in the barn at night has already saved our chickens from at least one predator that we know of.
And even though Nimbus has a different role in our family then then our other dogs, she receives no less attention and love from all of us. She’s a big ball of fluffy joy, who is going to grow into an incredibly valuable part of our farm. And after all, how could you not love a face like that?