Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Tag: dogs

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 🙂


Deciding on Free Ranging or Building a Run

To cage or not to cage? That is the question. We chose to not cage but everyone’s answer is going to be different. When asking this question one needs to consider the land, neighbors, money, predators and time.

  1. Land – If you live in a cul-de-sac my guess is that you will be building a run. Although if you train them to come when called and have supervised free-ranging time, there could be the best of both worlds. The more land you have the more options there are. We live on seven acres so we chose a stand alone coop and the birds have free reign over the whole property.
  2. Neighbors – When in close proximity you MUST make friends if you decide to free range. Go around to the neighbors and let them know what you are thinking on doing, then hear them out and go from there. If they are being difficult try an egg offering deal such as every couple of weeks bringing them a dozen eggs. If they are happy about having chickens running around then still bring them an egg offering to keep them happy. When building a run make sure that you keep it clean and not too smelly or else know an egg offering is needed to keep the neighbors OK with smelling poop.
  3. Money – This was our biggest challenge. In order to safely enclose the amount of chickens we wanted we would have had needed a couple hundred dollars in fencing to keep them safe. There was no way that was going to happen. So free ranging them became even more of a reality. Survival of the fittest right? If you have the money and are only doing a few, then a run would not be nearly as expensive.
  4. Predators – Ask around! Again with the neighbors. People who have lived in your area for more than a year will know what to watch out for. If your predator is bears, get livestock guardian dogs; coyotes, trees for the birds to jump in; hawks, bushes for the poultry to hide under; snakes, set a trap. Building a run will over course help deter all of these predators except the bears. All in all a livestock guardian dog will help with all predators but…that is only for the people who have major flocks. Some regular dogs are easy to train and will help with the predator problem as well, just be careful because dogs are also a type of predator to the poultry. Bottom line, make sure there is a place that the flock can escape to if a predator decides to come traipsing into camp.
  5. Time – If you are impatient like me, not to cage (free ranging) will definitely be your answer. How much time do you want to spend cleaning the run? How much time do you want to spend building it? Planning? Your time is valuable, always remember that. Opportunity Cost! Economics class coming into play. What you choose to spend doing for thirty minutes is time you could be doing something else. Choose what matters and is important.
  6. Eggs – Do you want to go on an Easter egg hunt everyday, train chickens to only use the laying box, or not worry about it all? Luckily we have not had a problem laying outside the nesting box but we are only dealing with one laying hen at the moment.

So now you know the factors to consider free ranging or building a run. I do realize this is all written in a free ranging voice, but there is no right or wrong way to raise birds. Keep them safe, love on them (to a point), do what is best for your family, and if you do something and it doesn’t work out just dust yourself off and try again. Good luck on making your choice.

If you have chickens what choice did you make? If you don’t which one would you lean closer to? and why?


Were there fleas back in the “Little House on the Prairie” days? I seriously do not think so. There was no Advantix, Advantage, Comfortis, and any of the other flea repelling medications we have today. So if they didn’t have these chemicals we use, what chemicals did they use back then? By now I hope you know I am being sarcastic.

Well here on the homestead we got infested! I do not mean our dogs and cats got some fleas and we needed to keep them off of them. I mean they were EVERYWHERE! The Littles were being bitten, the Hubby looked like he had chicken pox but only on his legs. Me…I had a bite, maybe two. For some reason after pregnancy I have not been loved by the bugs and I am not complaining about it.

Anyways with having the Littles around it made us go the natural route first.

  1. Borax all of the rugs. Sprinkle/pour it all over and use a broom to push it into the carpet fibers. Leave it for at least 24 hours. Vacuum and repeat as necessary. You can also substitute food grade Diatomaceous Earth .
  2. In between Borax treatments vacuum everyday, maybe even twice a day.
  3. Lavender! Put drops of lavender everywhere. On the collars, the pet beds, your bed and the animals favorite places to be.
  4. Garlic…this was a tough one. Get the pills for you if you are being bit and get the chew-able tablets for the animals. I found some on amazon and bought the human ones at Walmart.  The problem with having Littles is that they don’t want to swallow pills and even disguised in food the eldest Little would not swallow the pill.
  5. If all of the above fails (because I could not keep up with the fleas from two cats and two dogs…) bug bomb, get a month of chemicals for the animals and start over. If using chemicals do not go cheap, those just do not work and you will have to buy the more expensive stuff anyways.

To bug bomb is not my first response but we were overrun and we didn’t want to invite people over, and everyone was tired of being eaten alive.  We lost the great fight and fell yet again to the conveniences of today (not always a bad thing).

Have you ever fought the great fight against fleas? How did you handle it?

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?