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Earning Their Keep

January 14th, 2014

We’ve had a bit of a warmup here in Maine, it’s been in the 40’s the last couple days. I’m not complaining as the inch of ice finally is almost melted off the driveway. I’m not so happy to see the snow melt, it’s provides valuable protection for the garden during the winter. With this warm weather, the risk of predators also goes up. Thankfully, Tara is very aware of this as well.
Tara sniffing
She’s been patrolling the perimeters and is more alert than usual during the day. Yesterday she spent a lot of time standing on top of the tallest snowbank sniffing the air. Dexter has also been spending the days outside, hunting along the rocks walls in the gardens, rustling up his own meals of tasty little rodents.
Hard working animals 1
The Sweets, our garage cat, is also working hard, though she’s nocturnal so I don’t see her very often. I have spotted her up under the chickens several times late at night when I take Tara out. Thankfully she’s keeping the mice out of the coop and away from all of our outbuildings. Working animals are very valuable when you have a place like ours. It’s great when you can use an animals natural instinct to help you out! They certainly make our lives much easier and do a great job with their appointed tasks.

Do you have any working animals, or have you been around working animals?

12 Comments to “Earning Their Keep”
  1. Lemongrass on January 14, 2014 at 7:38 am

    my sister has a buck-full of cats around her chicken and eggs farm. they do a lot of work keeping mice from her chicken feed. i have no working animals, but grew up with lots of them. a couple years i had a few worm bins, that earned their keep. am planning to set that up again real soon.

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  2. Jennifer Fisk on January 14, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I’ve always said my cats are working cats because of the rodents they eliminate. My dogs do chase the deer away and I think their scent does the same for fox and coyotes. So far, I haven’t had a racoon here either but have seen them at the end of my road.
    A friend has a Corgi who came from a farm. He has herded lose rabbits for me and has attempted to herd the goats. Goats don’t take a Corgi seriously though. One day his owner was doing horse barn chores at UMO when the dairy herd got out and came thundering up to the horse barn. She let Murphy out to herd them back to their quarters which he did like the hard wired guy that he is. Only one young heifer argued but ended up complying with the Corgi.

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  3. Nebraska Dave on January 14, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Susy, there are no domesticated animals around my garden but I’m trying to keep the natural balance of nature there. The wild turkeys are similar to the chickens during the summer time. They will scratch around in the heavy mulch eating bugs, the groundhog will eat up the excess garden foliage, the raccoons and deer will clean up the corn patches, and the snakes will keep the rodent population in check. Yeah, well, that’s how I picture it in my mind. Real life? Not so much. I am trying to work toward protected areas in the garden for me and unprotected areas for them. I kind of invaded their home so I really feel some what obligated to pay some rent. The last two years they have not been too greedy …. well expect for the sweet corn. It must be like candy to those crazy raccoons. I did snag a couple dozen ears before the colony of coons wiped it clean which my grandson has been ever so grateful this Winter. So my answer would be nature itself is my working animals. I am truly trying to integrate myself into their world. Not the other way around.

    Have a great working animal homestead day.

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    • whit on January 14, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Corn is more like coon heroin, it seems to me. :). I love that you put the wild animals to work in your garden, NB Dave!

      Reply to whit's comment

    • Joan on January 14, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Dave, when I was a kid my dad grew lots of sweet corn. One year it was disappearing and he blamed it on ‘coons until he caught our beagle pulling over the stalks and chowing down. She managed to do just as much damage as the coons.

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      • Susy on January 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm

        I could see Lucy doing this, one year we weren’t getting any strawberries and we were blaming chipmunks – though we weren’t sure how we had any chipmunks since a feral cat had moved into the garage. Then I found Lucy out chowing down on all the ripe strawberries. She will also do this blueberries if given the chance.

        to Susy's comment

  4. PennyAshevilleNC on January 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Wow! Tara looks great, and I love that she is happily doing what she is made to do- what a rescue!
    Our Lab is more a family pet and will be Therapy certified soon to visit in hospitals, etc. Once we realized his personality would work for that, we had to share him. It is so special when you can ‘listen’ and read your animals to provide them something that gives them a valuable life…

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  5. whit on January 14, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Our little “feral” mouser, Rosie, has taken to patrolling the perimeters of outbuilding with us. We she heads inside the chicken coops, they don’t enjoy it much, but she is very thorough. When she stops at a nest too long, I know it’s time to dump the hay out of it and let her get the hunt on.
    She’s so funny, because she kills and lays them in the driveway, meowrring her head off. Then a few minutes later, I’ve seen crows come snag her kill, making me wonder if they have some sort of agreement. :)

    Next project is to secure up our Abominable Growman (aka high tunnel) and let the chickens do their work out there.

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  6. Lorna on January 14, 2014 at 11:47 am

    My parents had a barn cat, appropriately named Demon! I’ve found that the best way to control rodents in the garden is to have an underfed (by humans) cat, which will be fat and happy doing what it does naturally. Or, as in our case, to have neighbors with cats who think they own our place.
    May I ask what breed of dog Tara is? Someday I’d like to have an outdoor dog to patrol the grounds for deer/raccoon/what-have-you. My husband and children have not been around big dogs, so are a bit nervous (I was attacked by a German Shepherd once, so I understand!)
    But I agree, working animals are infinitely useful around a homestead. And a pleasure for the people who live there and care for them.

    Reply to Lorna's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Tara is an Anatolian Shepherd, a Turkish breed of livestock guardian dog. Depending on whether or not you have livestock probably would decide which type of outdoor dog you would want to have. Livestock guardian dogs have been bred for protecting of livestock. Tara is more of an all around farm dog here until we get sheep or other livestock. She does a great job protecting our chickens.

      Personally, I’m more leery of small dogs. I’ve been attacked by both small/large dogs in my life. But I’m much less afraid of big ones for some reason. I’d recommend the following book, it’s a great resource:

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  7. Lauren on January 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    We have a Pyrenees, Milly and a Pyrenees/Anatolian, Pansy who keep the predators at bay around the farm. We also have a few cats but only one seems interested in mousing. I am so thankful for our LGD’s. We have only lost one chicken since adding them to the family. They also keep deer and such out of the garden which is a huge plus.

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  8. Colleen on January 15, 2014 at 11:08 am

    We have an Australian Shepherd. We dont have sheep, but he does help herd in the chickens from time to time. He is always on alert to racoons and does a great job to keep them from invading the chicken yard.

    Reply to Colleen's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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