Chicken Dog

livestock guardian dog Baloo on snow
This is Baloo. He is a fourth generation working dog on our farmstead. Baloo is a poultry guardian dog by his own choice. He’ll work with the pigs and sheep on occasion with me. He raises the alert to strangers or odd things happening (“Pigs out!”, “Puppy stuck!”). He has even pulled sled in the winter with the rest of the pack. But his real preferences is for guarding the chickens, ducks and guineas as well as caring for the puppies. He is also a push over with babies. Two year old baby Hope rolls all over him with nary a peep from Baloo. Soon he’ll be going to my brother and his new wife’s home to guard their poultry flock and their coming baby.

At fourteen months Baloo is a lean 80 lbs and still growing so he’ll be one of our larger dogs. He’s at that lanky big puppy stage where his legs almost seem to long for him and his paws are still oversized. His gentle nature and unflappability in the face of flighty birds make him a natural for working with the poultry who often are a bit too tempting for many types of dogs. I think much of his personality, as well as his coloration, came from his father Cinnamon who likewise looks like his father Coy.

It is interesting how each dog is different yet at the same time I often see behaviors and temperaments crop up repeatedly. Tendencies that seem to come out based on genetics rather than environment. All of our puppies are born and raised right with the livestock. They smell, hear and finally see the pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, guineas and our children from a very young age. Some of the dogs end up generalists, able and enjoying working with all of the animals from the 8 oz chicks to the 600 lb pigs. Others like Baloo seem to pick a specific animal type and prefer that for their work assignments.

Through training I can reorient a dog’s focus but I prefer to work with their own inclinations. It is much easier on both the dog and I. It also saves time to work with their strengths. Finding their inclinations and working with them is a lot of fun. Watching them blossom into productive adult working dogs is a both rewarding and joyful process.

Happy New Years to one and all!

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Saturday: 21°F/1°F, 1/2″ Snow, Partly Sunny
Friday: 23°F/7°F, 1/2″ Snow, Overcast
Thursday: 29°F/11°F, 1/10″ Rain, 1″ Snow, Overcast

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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10 Responses to Chicken Dog

  1. Sandy says:

    Happy New Year Walter and family! Cheers!

  2. Urban Agrarian says:

    What a beautiful dog. Your brother is lucky to be getting him.
    Happy New Year to you and your family.

  3. Hick says:

    That is one gorgeous dog. I’ve been by here a couple of times but have been unable to leave a message due to dial-up issues…country living at it’s best.

    Happy New Year and many blessings to you and your family.

    PS: I got an slr digital camera for Christmas and am hopeless. If only I could take pictures 1/10th as nice as yours I would bee happy. (Dream on, Hick…)

  4. Hick, Thanks for the complement on my photos. Realize that I only show you the best of the best of my photos so you’re seeing a very biased sample! :) I also have about 30 years of experience. To get good at it practice, practice, practice. Take lots of pictures, note what the conditions and settings are, when you review the pictures in your computer again note the settings and what looks good. In time you’ll improve. The beauty of digital photography is that electrons are 100% recycleable and not environmental toxins like film processing. That means you can feel free to shoot lots of different photos to get use to settings, try things, out etc. Keep dreaming and keep on shooting! Cheers, -Walter

  5. TalaMuir says:

    What a beautiful dog!

    Happy New Year!

    Steph

  6. Janis says:

    Baloo is one handsome dog, and a lucky one, too, for living in such a gorgeous setting, having good “dog work” to do, and a patient and loving human to help him fulfill his purpose.

    Happy new year to you and yours, Walter!

  7. DrFood says:

    OOOooh, I want a poultry guardian dog! Maybe not so big though–I think I might be done with really big dogs. Baloo is gorgeous–his coloring reminds me of my sister’s red Shiba Inu (another fairly primitive dog breed).

    Reading this makes me realize that all the dogs you listed off with the various colorings (in the comments for a 2012 post) are not all currently living on the farm–oops.

    My beloved self taught poultry guardian dog, Java, is long gone and her understudy has turned out to be a failure–too sweet. Once Mocha passes (he’s 12 1/2 which is pretty old for a purebred German Shepherd) I will be looking for a puppy (NOT a purebred dog) that was whelped on a home/farm/homestead with free ranging poultry. I’ve read that 10-12 weeks is a key developmental period for puppies–things they live with prior to this age are considered “in the pack” and therefore not prey. However, I think it’s best for puppies to stay with their family until 12 weeks, so I’ll need to find a pup from a place with poultry.

    • I’ve noticed that the dogs classify creatures into four groups:

      1) Pack – which is divided into high and low pack;

      2) Livestock – which are the animals they care for, to be protected and eaten in their time;

      3) Wildlife – outside which may be prey or not, often these include very similar to livestock but are fair game for hunting; and

      4) Predators – outside which may be a danger to Pack or Livestock, to be warned off or killed and typically also eaten once killed.

      My observation is that the wild cousins use these same designations. Studies have found that wolves protect their herds of grazers from other predators, following the herds, culling the weak and thus protecting and improving the herds. Wolves are natural ranchers which is probably why they integrate into human ranching society so well.

      Over the decades some of our pack has gone to other farms to work. Some are local and I see them time to time, like Baloo, Kimsa and Margarita. Others are more distant but they sometimes write and send photos. Like in a wolf pack the breeding rate is very low, typically in a pack only one Alpha female breeds and only with the Alpha male. Everyone else in the pack provides a supporting role to raise the next generations.

  8. irma says:

    I am in the process of catching up on your blogs, but meanwhile before I lose my train of thought, are there any blog post (yours or others) on how to train a dog to protect livestock? Thanks

    • There are many books and articles on how to train dogs. Try this search and this one for Amazon. We start with exposing the dogs to the livestock as puppies born from our best dogs. Then we teach basic communication and commands like come, drop, etc. It is a matter of working with them a little every day. Having experienced dogs to help train the pups works wonders.

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