Sometimes in life you get something that makes you wonder how you managed to function before you go it. That’s pretty much how we feel about our Great Pyrenees pups, Bo and Lou. Pyrenees have been on our radar for a long time, but until recently our home wouldn’t have provided the right environment for them to thrive. Now that we are building our farm with them in mind, we are enamored with them.
As you’ll recall, we got Bo and Lou back in January when they were little, squishy puppies. Ok, Pyrenees pups aren’t exactly little, but man are they ever cute. Well, our little fluff balls have since matured into stoic, lanky 7 month-old teenagers. Perhaps “teenager” isn’t fair, because they don’t really act like teenagers, but they’re kind of at that developmental stage where they haven’t filled out all the way and they still like to wrestle around. At every stage of their lives, I have to say, they have been the best dogs we could ever hope for. We absolutely adore our two old-timers up at the house (13 year-old Oscar and 10 year-old Merle), but these puppies have seriously made me question whether I ever want another breed of dog. From the day we picked them up they have been the calmest, most well mannered dogs we’ve ever had. Sure they’ve chewed a few collars and leashes up and they like to carry their food bowls out into the pasture sometimes, but overall, they’ve surpassed our expectations.
Since we got the puppies we have been working with them to get them used to being around our chickens. We plan to have the dogs guard our future flock of sheep, but one of the other main reasons we got them was to hopefully eliminate some of our chicken predator issues. We have set up a fenced off area using portable electric sheep fencing that surrounds a permanent chicken run where we’ve housed some hens after our winter dog attack. It also surrounds our newest “hoop coop” that houses all of our soon-to-be-laying pullets and another area of electric poultry net that surrounds fresh pasture for them. We’ve created an alley around the pullet coop and fence to allow the dogs to patrol their entire perimeter. We often walk them around their perimeter, but Shannon also takes them for a walk around the perimeter of our two front pasture areas so they are familiar with our boundaries. We plan to eventually have both pastures fenced in, so they will have a decent amount of ground to cover.
From day one, we have been working with the dogs inside of the permanent run to get them used to being amongst the chickens and ducks. We started by taking them in on leashes, and corrected any undesirable behaviors, like chasing or trying to eat their food. As they’ve gotten older we’ve begun to allow them in the run without leashes, but still with supervision. They show almost no interest in the birds, even when the roosters mount the hens! We’ve been really pleased with how the dogs have interacted with the chickens, but recently we’ve noticed that if any pullets jump the fence into the dog area, they get a little more excited about the chickens. We’ve seen Bo run toward the chickens, but we haven’t seen any physical altercations yet. We’re wondering if perhaps the dogs distinguish between dog areas and chicken areas and while they are fine with the chickens when they go into the chicken area, they are less so when the chickens enter their area. Perhaps we’re being overly concerned, but we are going to start leashing the dogs and bringing chickens into their area to get them used to having chickens in ALL the areas they will be covering. We are planning to run an egg-mobile down the pastures once we have the permanent exterior fence up and we need to be able to trust the dogs with day-ranging chickens. We’re easing into this because we can’t afford another setback like the stray dog attack. It takes 4-5 months to get a chick to laying age and we don’t want to have to start over from scratch again. I have no doubt that some day we may go down to the field to find a chicken walking on a sleeping Pyrenees, but we aren’t there yet.
Even though we still have a little way to go before we can fully trust these pups with our poultry, we’re encouraged by their protective instincts. They’ve become pretty good little barkers and will give passing deer, coyotes, and throaty trucks an earful. And when they show each other their teeth while they wrestle, it becomes clear why they are such revered livestock guardian dogs. These dogs are not for everyone, but they are perfect for us.