Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Category: Domestic Animals

Cats and Dogs with hopes for more

Our (Wannabe) Livestock Guardian Dogs

Upon coming to the homestead I got introduced to the concept of a livestock guardian dog (LGD). Seeing as we had nothing but chickens we weren’t ready to invest in a real purebred LGD. Instead we went to an event in the Mall by the Humane Society and found ourselves the cutest most adorablest had to have …….. PUPPY!

She was an 8 week old, German shepherd, Australian shepherd, border collie mix, (or so they think from her looks). Her name was given by the shelter, Ellie, and she practically trained herself.

Apparently chickens use the bell system too!

We used a bell system to let us know when she had to use the outdoors and she only ever had a couple of accidents in the house. She became like our chickens, Free Range. But there was something missing, a partner. Ellie got a bit lonely so two weeks later we picked her up a buddy, Bella the Newfoundland.

she slept all the time!

Now this breed is on the LGD breed scale but the question arose “Was Bella from a working dog line?” So we called up the original owners and found out she came from a working farm!!! But her parents were the laziest dogs…..NOOOO!!!!!

It all started going down hill from there. Chewing, nibbling the Littles, chasing the chickens, peeing everywhere, this all continued until the unfortunate happened. Two thirds of the chickens died from the neighbors dog and Bella’s rampage. I know there is a chance I could have trained it all out of her, but with three Littles under the age of four I mentally was not there. If it was during any other season of life I would have considered keeping her, but it wasn’t so we found Bella a home (without chickens) and continued on with just the one dog, Ellie, and things calmed back down.

she hated the car

When considering a Livestock Guardian Dog know that BREED matters, PARENTS matters, and your willingness to TRAIN them matters. Even though breed does play a big role in all of it, know that personality trumps it all. Eventually we will acquire a real LGD but until that time comes, a good farm dog will have to do.

helping dig the new tree holes

Ellie quickly became an excellent farm dog, she kept coyotes away and only bothered the chickens when she wanted to eat the scraps I gave them or drink out of their waterer. The turkeys would climb all over her, the feral cat kept her company, and the newest kittens learned that she was their friend and only wanted to play. Unfortunately our fence was not up to par, our entrance gate didn’t work, and Ellie had discovered she could get out.

On the morning she figured out there was a way out she tried to follow me out of our driveway, I stopped and put her back and the Hubby kept her from running. Later on that day as we picked the fruit on our fence line my heart dropped. I heard a huge thud and ran to find that Ellie had been ran over by a car and the car didn’t even stop. She died on impact. We promptly buried her, said our goodbyes and spent the rest of the night crying (ok I was the only one crying), and talking about how good of a girl Ellie was and how she was in Heaven with Jesus, if you are not a believer that is OK, but we are and like the eldest Little likes to say, “Great Grandpa is taking care of Ellie until we get up there ourselves”. We will miss her dearly and I miss having that security she brought us.

She is even more behaved then the chickens 😛

One day another dog will come to live on the homestead, but until that day we will be fixing the fence, making sure the gate will shut, and saving up to be prepared financially.

Have you ever had a farm dog or Livestock Guardian Dog? I hope your story ended better than ours, do tell 🙂


You Know You’re a Homesteader if…

  1. Your daughters have and wear bonnets. We got ours from Calico Ghost Town, but I would love to make them myself.

    the oldest Little

  2. Smash ants with your hands. These are the least of my worries out here.
  3. Leave the daddy-long-legs in the shower to eat the other bugs. that come crawling in the night.
  4. The barn cat makes friends with your inside cat. Our barn cat has become like a big papa.

    black is inside cat, orange is barn cat

  5. You have a barn cat!
  6. Chickens come to the front door clucking  for dinner. In our case a few of them have to have a baby gate up so they won’t actually come inside.     
  7. Turkeys cuddle with your feet.. and you love it.

    ignore my feet 😉

  8. The Littles bring chicken feathers for the teacher. At least our eldest brought only the cool looking feathers for her teacher.
  9. Wake up to the sound of a rooster

    Red the Rooster

  10. 9pm rolls around and your bed is calling for you.

The Joys and Woes of the Barn Cat

Craigslist is just as bad as Facebook. Reading all of the pet ads is so addicting to me, I do it to get my animal fix. Well every once in a while I’ll actually find an animal I want and in this case it was multiple animals. Now it was time to convince the Hubby this would be a good idea. 5-6 barn cats would come live on our property to help control the rodent population.

Side note, we see so many ground squirrels, rabbits, and gophers, it is about 20 a day. Our neighbors have had a hard time growing things and keeping the produce and there are so many holes covering the ground I trip every few feet.

Well after much deliberation I succeeded in getting the Hubby on board. So off we went to the Humane Society and picked up 6 wild barn cats. The plan was to keep them in a pen for a month feeding them wet food so that they will learn this is home and that they would get food at least once a day. We got home, built the cages with the pens the humane society gave us, put the carriers inside, opened the carriers, and ran back. None of them came out but I was only half surprised.

bringing home the wild beasts

bringing home the wild beasts

We had a party to go to so we left them for about 6 hours which was OK-ed by the Humane Society. Upon returning I checked on our 6 cats to find 2. That’s right TWO! But wait…I walked closer to check on the two and one of them squeezed through the lid/sides leaving behind a tuft of fur.  Now we were down to one. Ava the grey.

A couple of days later we brought home one more feral cat to be friends with Ava. His name was Nemo, and yes he was orange with white stripes. We did not name the cats, the Humane society did and we decided to keep them.

Fast forward a few months we released Ava and Nemo and my worst fear was neither of them would stick around, but they both stayed and always came for their nightly food.  The rodents were starting to dwindle down and all seemed to be going well. Then a week passed by and we hadn’t seen Ava. While walking around the property we saw clumps of fur and realized a hawk had taken her away. But thankfully we still have Nemo. According to our neighbors they have a few cats living in their shed that met the description of the originals we brought home.

Fast forward a few more months the rodent population has decreased so much we now see one every couple of days. Nemo has become friends with Figaro , our inside cat, and has even come inside our house for a couple of minutes, let our daughter pet him, and has made acquaintances with our dog Ellie.

Overall, we love having wild cats and they haven’t tried to eat any of the chickens.

Have you ever tried to have a barn/wild/feral cat?

Stay tuned for more wild cat news 🙂


The Chicken Tragedy

*Disclaimer* There is disturbing news in this post about our animals journey

As you might remember we are down to 25 birds, there are 223 chickens and 2 beautiful white Muscovy ducks. Just the other day the Hubby and I were saying which chickens we will let live for a long time. Meaning they might not even make it to the crock pot. I know *gasp* that what happens when you name them. I read it time and time again but I chose to name them anyways, lesson learned. We love our birds and the Hubby loves the ducks.

So why is this a sad update? Well I went to the library with the Littles for what I thought would be a couple of hours and of course Hubby was at work, so I left the dogs outside so they could play. I had done this a couple of times before and all had gone well. As a reminder our chickens are free range…our neighbors dog is free range..and now our dogs were free range…yes, go ahead and do the math…the outcome is exactly what you think.

I got nervous at the library, it had been three hours instead of two and in that moment I knew it was time to rush home. The first thing I see is Blue laying on the sidewalk and a Cochin covered in ants by the front door. It only went downhill from there. I tried to usher the Littles into the house before they saw anymore of the dead chickens and made them take the dogs with them. I then became the search and rescue team. The coop was ransacked! Our neighbors dog was in the duck pond and poor Minnie (our female Muscovy) had her back ripped open and was still alive. *I know he led the attack* If you get animals, make a first aid kit. I didn’t have it in the budget when we first brought them home and thought I’ll get around to it. Well that never happened and I had poor Hubby running around town trying to get me what I needed. My lesson was learned, I had nothing to help our duck except rinsing her wound and putting her in a calm place.

The hunt continued for the rest of the birds but all I found were more dead ones…but at the very end when all hope was lost I found 5 survivors! They had hidden in the bushes and the wood pile. They were so scared they wouldn’t leave the coop for days. We were now down to rock-a-doodle, Diamond Jr., 2 Leghorn chicks, and Ruby. Only ten bodies were found so we hoped the rest would come back over the next couple days. Unfortunately they did but not in the way we wanted. Evidently the dogs had buried the rest and were digging them back up.

Needless to say our neighbors dog is now restrained, we found a better home for Koda (she had a love for chickens and with three Littles it was not the right timing for her), Ellie is in Chicken training doing extremely well and we have added a rooster, which there will be more on him later.

Have you ever had a chicken tragedy? How did you handle it?