Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tucker – English Shepherd – Chicken class #1

I must apologize to my readers, as I had honestly thought that I had posted how I was going to work on training my English Shepherd, Tucker, how to guard the chickens. But after I had posted Chicken class #2, I realized that I hadn’t posted anything yet. So, I’ll take a minute now to explain the reasoning behind the Chicken classes.

Tucker face 2-13-2011

Tucker at about 14 weeks old 2-13-11

I bought Tucker a little over a year ago, mostly as a guard to my little flock of chickens, ducks and geese, and for a bit of herding the cows when needed. While he seems to have the herding down pretty well, and took great care of a little bull calf that didn’t have a mamma last year, he didn’t seem to get the idea that he was supposed to be watching over my poultry. Now to be fair to him, I had no clue how to train him. He watched over the little calf with no guidance from me, and I’ve read how this wonderful breed seems to naturally want to take care of all the critters on the place, that it didn’t really occur to me that I had to figure out a way to train him. Looking back, it’s like a “well, duh!” moment, but he’s such a great dog, I just assumed he’d just kinda fall into it all by himself.

All was well actually with the chickens until the fall of 2011. My husband had bought a little heeler pup in September to replace the one that died earlier, and both dogs had the run of the place. I came home from work and found a small bunch of feathers from one of my Aracuana/Leghorn crosses, but no bird. Never did find her. Than my Khaki Campbell drake disappeared. Then over the next day or two, I came home to some headless chickens. Needless to say, I kinda got a bit freaked, as I couldn’t figure out what was happening to the birds. I’m still not sure, but I reinforced the chickens courtyard and locked them up. The dogs were sent to doggie prison, a large kennel by the house.

Tucker watching the chickens

Tucker watching the chickens

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out how to train Tucker that the birds were his responsibility. A few suggestions had been to take him with me when I feed, collect eggs, etc. Well, I have been since I got him, and although he sniffed at the birds, and was curious, he didn’t seem overly impressed with them. I don’t really spend much time with my birds, although I would talk to them mostly at night, and when the Aracauna/Leghorns were younger, I’d pick them up and pet them and talk with them. But none of my birds are specifically pets, so time is not spent on them much. My son was the chicken whisperer. I didn’t seem to inherit that gene!

Then I got to thinking. Tucker probably doesn’t relate to the birdsĀ  because he doesn’t see me doing much with them, and because we don’t spend time with them. Other four footed animals are easier to relate to for a dog. Poultry, I have discovered, not so much. So on the mornings that I can, I have been taking him into the courtyard when I let them out of the coop, and we just hang out with the birds. I can see him paying more attention to them each time I take him in. Here’s the link to the video I took of his first time: Tucker and Chicken class #1.

Hence the Chicken Class for Tucker. I’m hoping that by spring, when I want to let the chickens out to range on the pasture, Tucker will be ready and willing to watch over them and keep them safe.

Tucker and chicken class – #2

Tucker checking out the chickens at the pond

Tucker checking out the chickens at the pond

Tucker seems to be getting the hang of the chicken thing. Here’s a video I took on his fourth day in with the poultry: Tucker: Lesson 2 with chickens.

He’s curious about the chickens that go on the other side of the wall to get a drink from the little pond in their coop, and seems to think they should all be together. I like the way that he’s watching them, and is going up and sniffing them and checking them out. He’s also very low key the whole time. He’s thinking about it, and perhaps what Mom wants him to do.

Tucker at my feet

Tucker at my feet

One thing he does that I have to work with is that when I’m in the coop with him, he comes and sits/leans on my feet and legs. He still watches the birds while there, but I would like him to stay off of me, and focus a bit more on the chickens. I need to start putting myself out of the picture so to speak, and not always be in the coop with him, so he starts understanding that I want him to watch over the birds for me. I’ll stay close by so I can watch him and run interference if necessary until I feel he has the idea firmly in his mind.

When the weather gets a bit better, I’ll be letting them loose in the pasture, and will continue to work with him then. I’m looking forward to them being outside and able to free range again.

Tucker checking out the chickens

Tucker checking out the chickens