One lesson you learn early as a farmer is that chaos reigns and can play havoc with the best laid plans. This is especially true for those of us who allow our animals to, well, act like animals. There is a delicate balance between animal freedom and animal protection. Particularly with free-range poultry. Mother Nature can be a wicked mistress! Last Fall we learned a hard lesson - we lost 9 Holiday Turkeys to a coyote attack. The takeaway was that we needed livestock guardian dogs.
Being ever vigilant for a good deal, we found a local breeder on Craigslist and went to check them out. They had several 2-year-old males for sale, but they hadn’t been trained to chickens yet. Not wanting to risk losing more turkeys, we worked out a deal where we would borrow two of their older females (Bonnie & Princess) and come back in the spring when the boys had more training. Unfortunately, the owners had a difficult winter with Covid19 and didn’t have a chance to train the dogs. We had grown attached to Bonnie & Princess, and they were quite effective, but with the addition of sheep to our crew, we felt that the addition of more (and younger) dogs was necessary. Fortunately, the owners were agreeable to allowing us to keep Bonnie and Princess, and we added two males to the team.
Our strategy was to have the males (Loki & Toby) apprentice under Bonnie & Princess who were guarding the chickens – figuring that the older girls would keep the young pups in line. Well after losing several hens to the new dogs (with little protest from the girls) we had to change directions. Toby & Loki seem to do well with the sheep and hogs, so we currently have them in another pasture overseeing that group. Woe to the chicken that wonders into the sheep paddock!
The plan now is to spend a few weeks trying to break their insatiable appetite for chicken. I don’t have high expectations as I am not a patient person, but I'll be working with Tobi and Loki intensively over the next few weeks (and purchasing some shock collars) and hope to be able to rely on them to hold back the chaos as opposed to adding to it in the future.
This Week's Markets
Pfarmers Market returns for regular season with a new location
The Pflugerville Pfarmers Market is returning with pfresh produce, meat and homemade goods, starting May 11 on every Tuesday from 3-7 p.m. through October 26. Due to construction on Old Austin Hutto Road, the market will be located at Pflugerville First United Methodist Church (500 E. Pecan Street) throughout the regular market. Just enter through the main entrance, and we will be set up in the back parking lot. Remember, when you shop at the Pfarmers Market, you are supporting local farms and small businesses!
All Pfarmers Market participants are encouraged to wear a face mask and practice social distancing. HFind out more at and sanitizer will be available at the entrance to the market. pflugervilletx.gov/pfarmersmarket.
The Elgin Farmers Market is a year-round market that will remain open every Thursday. Pre-orders are encouraged.
The Taylor Farmers Market is a year-round market that will is open every Saturday. Pre-orders are encouraged.