Posted : 4/22/2008 6:13:04 PM
Okay, this is small, right? If so, I agree with the geese suggestion. Here's why:
Really, to consider this wisely, you need more information. Or you need to share more information if you want help.
- What kind of predation are you hoping to discourage? Canids, domestic vs. wild, rodents, raccoons/possums?
- What is your homestead situation? Do you have lots of visitors? How strong are the boundary fences?
- What are your tolerances for noise?
- Are you interested in learning to train a whole new breed/species/variety just for guarding?
- Do you envision alerting to danger as being the primary function, or do you want your guard to drive away intruders, or battle to defend them if needed, or actively move his charges to safety and perform other tending functions like keeping young warm?
You probably want guineas or just aggressive roosters, if:
- You just want to be alerted if something's amiss
- You have lots of desirable visitors that could be intimidated by something bigger (ie, grandkids)
- You don't have heavy predation, just maybe timid hawks and egg-hunters to be discouraged
- You have a high tolerance for noise, because noisemaking is the only real defense these fowl have to offer
- Your main defense will be tight fences, which will also keep in your winged fowl (guineas like to roam pretty far)
Larger fowl like peafowl, swans, or geese might be a good choice if:
- You want something slightly aggressive against light predation (winged predators, egg-hunters, foxes, timid coyotes, timid dogs)
- You like a varied homestead
- You don't need guarding that is discriminatory (all intruders will be challenged equally)
A farm breed might be a good choice if:
- You are looking to add a new dog to your pack anyway (such a dog will expect to be a member of the household as well)
- You have moderate predation (winged predators, small wild canids, aggressive rodents and raccoons) and expect mostly
- You live in a somewhat densely populated area
- You are a little nervous about "training" a guardian breed, since farm breeds think more like herding dogs
- You want intelligent discrimination of what constitutes actual threats, and what does not
- You expect a hands-off approach to guarding - a farm breed won't be on patrol 24X7
- You have a "Plan B" in effect if the guarding doesn't work out, as there's about a 25% chance that any individual in one of the farm breeds will actually be a threat to the fowl, rather than guarding
A large independent guarding breed of dog might be a good choice if:
- Your stock will be spread out over a wide area (an acre or more)
- You have heavy to very heavy predation
- You expect your guard to "battle to the death" if needed
- You want your guardian to be bonded to the stock only and not seek human companionship
- You are looking for a high level of "stock attentiveness" - this is the stuff in the Lassie books where the dog tells you a chicken is stuck in a hole, or eggs are hatching and mom's not around, or a chick gets lost and the dog brings it home - only they don't really breed for this any more in the herding breeds
- You live in a very rural area where the neighbors won't mind if the guardian dog goes out of your fences to see what that noise was
- You just think it's really cool!
None of this is set in stone. There's a lady in uh, I think it's Wisconsin, who breeds a cross of livestock guardians, just for small homesteaders. They are selected to be homebodies, very stock attentive, and friendly with farm visitors if properly socialized when young. One of the reasons I don't like Komondors, for instance, is that they tend to be the opposite - actively people aggressive, but kind of clueless about stock.
A friend of mine has a Komondor who bites friendly visitors to the farm, but lets all and sundry wildlife walk off with the lambs - because they don't fit his picture of what "aggressive" is - he goes by his own feelings, not the distress of the stock. Thus, he missed the fact that crows were pecking the lambs to death, and raccoons were walking off with poultry, right under his nose. My friend is borrowing Tully, my big male Maremma, for the rest of her lambing season.
That's not entirely accountable to breed - one needs to look at the lines and what the breeder in question breeds for. Look at the operation and ask yourself honestly how it compares to what you are going to need. Someone who has 3000 acres in the middle of nowhere and has very heavy predation is selling dogs who will frankly get bored out of their minds guarding chickens, unless you are planning a commercial pasture broiler operation. I know someone who's doing about 100 laying hens on pasture and has a guard dog with them - they are all behind electric netting which is moved every day, so the dog always has something new to think about. He's got an Anatolian/Akbash cross, another cross that is getting quite popular.