I honestly couldn’t imagine having chickens free ranging in my yard if I didn’t have the Chicken Herder. The girls are always testing boundaries, much like a young dog. They go where they know they aren’t supposed to, and even after being chased away, they simply wait and do it again.
The Chicken Herder and I have trained and trialed in herding over the past couple of years. But, in the past few months our training has taken a nose dive and my little Chicken Herder has lost some of her confidence. So, I thought herding the chickens might be a good way to get her confidence back, and possibly help with chicken chores. I honestly had no idea how much I would come to depend on her!
I like to let the girls free range whenever I’m home, being either outside with them or on the other side of a warm window watching them. Their actions are fairly predictable, but every now and then a few of them will try and break out from the temporary fencing I have up. My whole yard is fenced (which they really can’t get past), but I like to keep them contained in a smaller area, so I can see them all. They have plenty of room, but for a few of them the challenge of going beyond what I have given them is just too tempting.
Enter the Chicken Herder. She now knows her job, and the chickens know that. It’s to the point where all I have to do is call for the Chicken Herder and the chickens flee the crime scene, pronto! My once unsure Chicken Herder then struts her stuff around like she knows just how valuable she is when it comes to keeping chickens in line.
There are still some maneuvers the Chicken Herder and I have yet to master, but we’ll get there. All in due time. I learned early on that herding is a journey—a very long and sometimes trying journey—but one I would do over and over again with my little Chicken Herder. She is truly a treasure beyond measure.
So… it is just me, or has it become more difficult to get up during these darker and colder Alaska mornings? I have a fuzzy alarm clock sleeping next to me which helps, to a degree. But on some mornings, I don’t think dynamite could dislodge me from my warm and cozy flannel sheets.
Once up, the routine is: let the dogs out, feed the chickens, open the coop up, and then feed the dogs. Lately, bringing unfrozen water to the chickens has been an additional chore. (Note to self: Get the chicken waterer situation figured out today!) So, as I was bringing the clean, unfrozen waterer back in to the coop, the chickens decided to rush the door. (No doubt they began hatching this scheme once they saw me leave with the frozen waterer.) First one out was, of course, Elsa, with three more close behind. I put my arms out, then tried to grab them–but let’s face it, grabbing a chicken is like trying to grab a greased pig, especially three all at once! I started to get frustrated and then remembered I have a super power waiting just inside…
A quick walk to the house and I opened the door, called for The Chicken Herder… and off she went. I told her to round ’em up and put ’em back in. And that she did. Maybe it’s because she hadn’t had breakfast, yet, but she was a bit more, well, full of herself. I had to tell her to slow down a couple of times. But, given that we have been working on getting her herding confidence back up, I was just thrilled to see her work so enthusiastically. It may sound odd to someone who doesn’t do herding or have stock, but I’m so happy to have my enthusiastic, super fast herding dog back!
Please note–The Chicken Herder does not hurt the chickens in any way. She merely applies pressure from behind to get them to move in the desired direction. A good stockdog is worth her weight in gold!
Yesterday was just too gorgeous here in southcentral Alaska to not get out and play. After a brief discussion with Ms. Chicken Herder, we decided a hike up Bird Ridge with its southerly slope was just what we needed. It was sunny and warm (for Alaska), mild wind, and not a cloud in the sky. Bird Ridge is one of those hikes that is like climbing stairs, but you are well rewarded for every step with breathtaking beauty all around you. With each new step, there is a new view–a new snow capped mountain comes into view, a bore tide surges below, an eagle soars high above. It truly is paradise.
I wasn’t really planning on going all the way up. You can get some pretty spectacular views at the lower altitudes. But it was such an awe-inspiring day that time simply stood still, and we frolicked here and there, up further and further, among the jagged rocks and crisp snow. The colors were surreal: verdant green, snow white, and electric blue.
The snow was refreshing, the air intoxicating, and my chicken herder’s excitement contagious. What a grand day, not soon to be forgotten! Alaska is a very special place. (wag, wag)
As summer turns to fall, the leaves slowly swirl to the ground… and chickens run, thinking the sky is falling. Oh girls, you are quite safe. As the bread dough is rising, I’m giving my girls some free range time in the yard. Their antics are both relaxing and amusing.
I gather some rose petals from my still blooming and quite fragrant Rugosa rose bushes. Add to that some fresh herbs–rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme–and in to the nesting boxes it goes. Nellie soon discovers the rose petals and snatches them up–one by one–almost as fast I put them in. Yes, the girls know what’s good for them.
Time stands still as I engage in the chicken world. The girls often circle me, perhaps it’s a safety blanket of some sort, or maybe they are as curious about me as I am of them. My rooster coffee mug is a big hit today. He’s quite the stud, even if he’s only a painting.
The bread buzzer goes off and it’s back in to their run, with assistance from my little Aussie, aka “the Chicken Herder”. It doesn’t take much, the girls know the routine. Though, there is always one who tries to defy the dog. Silly girl, the Chicken Herder always wins.
With the girls safely in their run, I return inside. Chickens are such a lovely diversion.