Ike and his flock
The electric poultry netting we use is on its last legs. We’ve used it for 4 years now, 8 batches of broilers. Some of the wire has come undone, leaving gaps in the fence. That’s not usually a problem as long as the fence is hot, but we’ve got a fault somewhere in the electric fencing that surrounds the pasture. Matt’s walked the entire fence but hasn’t found anything yet. Now it’s time to check all of the insulators for a faulty one.
So the poultry netting isn’t getting any juice, and last week the chickens discovered a couple of these gaps in the fence and staged an escape. It was Wednesday, one of the days that the CG magazine crew was here. We were sitting around, I think waiting on the food stylist to whip up the next watermelon recipe for photographing, when I noticed chickens meandering about the pasture. Matt rounded them up and re-penned them, but a little while later I noticed a couple had escaped again. And when I went out to feed them I came upon a hawk noshing on free-range chicken.
I went around and tied up the broken parts of fence the best I could. All of the chickens stayed in the pen the next day and I thought we were in the clear. We’ve never had a hawk problem, and I figured we only did this time because they were outside the fence. But on Friday afternoon I discovered a headless chicken inside the pen. On Saturday there were two!
And the war was on.
Sunday morning when I went out to feed them I took Ike, our Great Pyrenees with me. And there was the hawk having his breakfast right there in the pen. Score 5 for the hawk.
Pyr’s are livestock guard dogs (LGD’s), but we’ve never tried Ike in that capacity. He’s pretty spoiled. I’m really the only thing he usually guards, working from home as I do. It’s a cushy job. (His, not mine. Well, maybe mine, too.) So suddenly taking him out and putting him in the chicken pen was a little like a reality TV show where a rich, spoiled little frat boy is forced to go on a 2-week cattle drive. (I can’t believe I just admitted I watched that one.)
I gave him a pep talk. “Okay Ike, this is it, this is what you were bred for. Dig deep. Tune into your instincts. Channel your sheep-guarding ancestors in the Pyrenees mountains, fighting off bears and coyotes to protect their flocks. Guard the chickens, Ike, guard the chickens.”
And then I left. And he just stood and stared at me with big eyes, like when you leave your kid at school for the first time and he really doesn’t want to be there. It was a look that said, “Where are you going?! Don’t leave me here! TAKE ME WITH YOU!!”
He’s been out there 4 days now, and no more chicken deaths. A neighbor even saw the hawk a couple of days ago, sitting in a tree right near the chicken pen. (And bless the neighbor, he did his best to scare it off for us.) The chickens don’t mind Ike. He goes in their shed and lays down, and they down around him. He drinks out of their waterers. But I wouldn’t say that he’s embraced his new role yet, more like resigned himself to it.
What is that chicken in the middle looking at?
Ike in the shed, checking out the super flexible chicken