Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Puppy Love?

After a LONG weekend saga with friends wrapped tight into the Haitian orphan adoption situation, I'm gradually recovering and getting on with daily life.

The 5 remaining layers are doing well. Even the one with the crooked neck. She's moving around, clearly eating and drinking, and even laid an egg the other day. We bottomed the big layer pen and moved the meat birds into it so we can eventually take down the electric fencing. However, I simply cannot even BUDGE that pen. With 24 fat birds, the weight of the birds is over 200 pounds. Then take a large amount of poop caked around the wire and the ground... its just not going anywhere. We're hoping to slaughter the roosters this Saturday to ease the load a bit, but this is just NOT going to be a sustainable option.

So what do we do?

My vote is get a dog. Randy's warming up to the idea. So, holding true to our absolute nerdist ways, we've researched it thoroughly. We've decided a border collie is the dog for us if we do go with the dog plan. Given a job to do (and I'm always thinking of jobs this pup could do for me!) they are supposed to be tremendous animals. Can it water the fruit trees for me? If I turn on the water will it take the hose to one tree, wait for my signal then take it to the next tree? Gloria can do that, but she gets bored doing it everyday and it becomes a battle of wills. I win when I engage mind you, but she'd much rather being doing things with me instead. Can this dog roll empty chicken waterers to me? Can in run into the pasture and retrieve hay baskets and empty feed buckets for me? Will it collect the sticks that litter the pasture and drop them on the burn pile? Will it read all the great literature I miss reading out loud to me as I hoe the garden?

The toss up was between a border collie and australian shepherd. Aussies seem to bark a bit more, being better "watch dogs"... as in it will bark if an armadillo enters the yard. They also love to herd children... sometimes by nipping. I'm all for our dog herding our kids and keeping them out of harms way, but I'd prefer them using the "care bear stare" method instead. Maybe a few barks to let me know something's amiss. Aussies also have such a need for human interaction, they may not be satisfied sitting outside on duty while we are all inside doing school or inside chores. I'm NOT going to have a house dog. Porch, garage, no problem, but a furry creature will not be in bed with us.

So the bottom line comes down to if the expense of keeping a dog is worth its service. Calculating, barring the unexpected, it should cost around $300 a year to keep a dog of this size. That's like losing a half a pen of meat birds every year. Do we just let it go and take the risk of predator loss or do we essentially "buy insurance" against it?

Randy asked a very good question- if we do get a dog and its just not filling the role we want it to fill, will we be too attached to get rid of it? I don't think that will be a problem, but I also remember having "Rooster" and how sad I was to see her go. "Rooster" was one of our first laying hens that started the horrible habit of egg eating. She got the boot from the pen every morning and would lay her egg in the scrub every afternoon. We called her Rooster because her comb was enormous. She followed me around like a puppy. I really enjoyed it. This went on for a few months then we found fleas in the house. We assumed it must be from the day ranged chickens as those were the only animals anywhere near the house. It was so hard to chop off Rooster's head. I hated it. Especially when it later dawned on us that we were just given some furniture from a friend of a friend... who had cats. All that to say, no, I won't be chopping the head off a dog who doesn't pull its weight, but it could be a little hard to see him go to another family.

I think I'd really like a pup if we get one. I've heard border collies are rarely pushed to their potential which causes some very destructive habits to be formed. Though it would be a while before a pup could perform its duties, I think I'd rather do that than shock a pampered pooch into work-life AND have to break its bad habits.

I'd love some people's perspective on this topic. Please leave all opinions, for and against. Also give any other thoughts of other jobs to give it to keeps its mind properly employed or other concerns we may not have yet considered. Thanks in advance.


  1. FInd a dog you can train to pull weeds then you will have the great find--even to be able to train others for sale. Aunt Kris

  2. A Border Collie is a great farm dog. They are all that my grandpa kept on his farm when my father was growing up. All of my aunts and uncles have great memories of the dogs. Remember though that you will also have to train the children how to handle the dog or she will think that she is higher in the pack hierarchy. My step-grandpa had a German Shepard on his farm and my step-aunt and uncles also have great memories. The difference in the two farms and need in dogs were that my grandpa that a lot of animals, barns and grew hay for the animals and sale. My step-grandpa lived further from town and had lots of coyotes because of the river on his property and the deer that graised on his corn and beans. All he ever had were chicken and a few pigs. The German Shepard was fierce enough to defend the animals and kids from the coyotes and energetic enough to protect all of the land. I hope that helps.
    Kaiti and I are settling in well. We have started composting and planning how to set up the yard. We are going to do square foot gardening. I love the idea and am glad to get the farmer in me growing, without the work of big fields. We haven't read the city ordnances yet, but I bet it will not be fun when we are ready for chickens. We are already having trouble with the feral cats up here P.C. they are coming on the porch and spraying because they see/smell Ryot. He is pissed;)
    Do you guys get Urban Farms Mag? We picked one up the other day. Love it. Great pics and fun articles and ideas. Going to get a subscription.
    Well, we love your articles. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day. God Bless!

  3. i have strong opinions about the guarding prowess of great pyrenees. our dog (mostly GP mix) is fenced into the animal paddocks until she learns her boundary. then all gates can be open and she'll stay from the yard and not do dog things there. any toys, clothes or other coveted items left in paddocks should be considered sacrificed to the gods of protection.

    herding dogs need regular training and attention. a GP can be left to their duties as long as they have plenty and have been showed what they are.

    the GP idea is just an opinion and everyone has different experiences based on their exact conditions. good luck