Meet Ares (pronounced air-ees), god of war in greek mythology, as we are going on war against foxes and hawks.
Ares is a livestock guardian dog, Maremma x Sarplaninac. His job will consist in protecting our chickens while they free range 24/7, following the goats in our rotational/cross grazing practice.
Ares will need training and supervision before he can protect our chickens against foxes and hawks. We choose a livestock guardian dog, as we do not shoot, trap or poison wildlife (introduced or natives). But what is a livestock guardian dog and how do they work?
Livestock guardian dogs (LGD) live with the livestock to protect them from predators. LGD have been bred to be inoffensive to stock in their apparence (eg. floppy ears) and are generally very calm around stock. They are also independent and work with livestock unsupervised. LGD protect livestock by disruption, territorial exclusion and confrontation.
Disruption happens when the presence and behaviour (eg barking) of the LGD interrupts the hunting behaviour of the predators who then choose to withdraw and go elsewhere. Territorial exclusion occurs when the wild predator recognises the area used by the LGD as the territory of another predator, thus avoiding the livestock in that territory. Confrontation involves the LGD confronting directly a predator that is attacking, chasing or approaching the livestock. This could push the LGD to fight with the predator, but this is the last resort action.
LGD have been used worldwide to protect livestock against wolves, bears, lynx, wolverines, mountain lions, foxes, dingoes, birds of preys… There are few different breeds, here are a few available in Australia, the Maremma, the Pyrenean Mountain dog, Anatolian and Sarplaninac.
LGD’s pups need to bond to the livestock between the age of 8 weeks- 16 weeks, and need guidance and training before they are ready to fulfil their job.
Ares is set up in a run amongst the chickens. This set up lets him interact with them but if he becomes too playful he can’t hurt them. One broody chicken is in his kennel (safe in a crate) all the time, and all the hens have decided that his bed is the best spot for laying eggs. Well, our little Ares is a brave well-mannered little guy to let all these ladies in! He gets some supervised free time with the chickens (outside his run, where he can run and play) and goes on walk to learn puppy’s things and meet all the other animals that are not a danger (like the goats, the ponies…). On our walk he learns also where the boundaries are, meets people and socialises with other dogs.