Blue  Moon Valley Farm

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First 5 months of Sky's First Year.

We brought Sky home when she was 7 1/2 weeks old.  Photo to the left is the second day with us.  Her color is sable in this case a red sable with irish markings.

A few days after this photo was taken hubby and I were training Sky on her come, out in front of the house.  We were about 60 feet away from each other calling Sky back and forth when a flock of geese flew over the South end of the property. At this moment Sky was with hubby and heard them, she ran half way back to me and stood looking at where they were flying.  I called her back to me which she did then she went back to her Spot where she stared at that the geese.  Hubby called her and she went to him but again return right after to the spot and then sat down watching them.  Once they were out of ear shot she left her spot and came to me.  Since then every time big birds fly over she is watching them and in the case of the hawks chases them to the property line.
Down by the chickens coop we have a real problem with voles.  These are small underground rodents that makes burrow lines like moles just smaller.  You can always tell when you step on the lines as they are not very wide but run in a zigzag every where in the area.  They tend to come up at the ground feeder for the chickens and their water station.  I started to work Sky on scenting them in ground when she started sniffing at their burrow lines.  One day while we were out I made a extra point to point to one and asked her "what is there" in a higher excited voice.  When she started to paw at it I told her git it and good girl. We did this everyday for a week or so.  End result was when she was 4 months old she finally made her first kill and left the vole at hubby's car door.  I was outside and hubby and Sky were inside when I found the vole.  He had car parked on our graveled rock parking pad.  There are no voles anywhere near this area as it is tightly compacted.  The vole was right at his car door slightly wet but clean so I knew Sky had killed it and dropped it there right before they went inside.  She has since eradicated all of them near the chicken coops and is now working on the ones near our gardens.

When she turned 5 months old her herding ability showed up.  It was February and the young hawks were out and hunting.  Since I free range my chickens they are a tempting target.  Thanks to Sky we lost very few this year.  The following story is the first time her herding showed up.  I was inside and Sky was outside with hubby and BIL, who was staying for the month.  We all heard the rooster call.  I went out on our back porch to see where it was only to find Sky herding my best hen under the porch I was standing on.  Bil was on the ground just a few feet away, so he saw her mouth was closed.  What I saw was she was right up the tail of this hen using her paws to direct it.  We called her off when hen was under back porch.  Prior to this all happening we had had problems with Sky chasing a rooster around the place.  It was only one rooster that she did this too.  What caused this to happen was the main flock rooster did it too him too, so that is why Sky did it.  I ended up rehoming him and that took care of the problem.  We tended to be worried about her chasing the chickens due to that one she did chase.  So I did work her alot on preventing that with this years hatching.  She never went to bite them just run after them but kept  certain distance away when doing this.  I worked her off leash which did not help matters as I did not have good control of her.  Note to all those in training do not do what I did it will just stress you out. 

I have lots of training experience as I have been a pro pet trainer and pro drug dog trainer for years.  But I have no herding training experience.  Here is a clue * even though these dogs have natural herding instinct they still require some training for control.  Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.  Most everyone that introduces their dog to stock has them on leash.  It is a safety factor plus a control factor. My fault was she was so easy to pick up basic commands like her name, sit, come that I forgot my own training rules.  Hey even us pro trainers make mistakes.  But truly I had to talk with a herding trainer about how to work her for working with the chickens.  You can find the link to the trainer I talked too in the links section.  She is one of the few that have experience with English Shepherds in herding.   Basically I had to get a harness and hook up her up to my long line.

Now Sky has had many opportunities to herd the chickens.  One time we were on the connecting two acres on our East side.  Our main flock was up there in brush but I did not know it was them. Our neighbor had just come over to report they had lost some chickens, hubby had drove down to meet them and I was still up on the acreage with Sky on leash.  When hubby told me what had happened I thought these chickens might have been the missing ones as I could not see them clearly.  I took Sky of leash and told her to move them out.  She went right under the old fence line and did just that.  Rooster and hens went down towards hubby on our property while Sky herded my pick hen back to me again.  Sky is very intuitive as I never made a fuss over this hen but she was a special hen for my breeding program.  Hens was from another breeder and I had plans to keep all her chicks that I hatched the next spring. 

Sky's intuitiveness saved my husbands back during butchering time during this month that BIL was down. Hubby and BIL bought a pig to butcher during Sky's 5 month old time.  It was the right after halving it and I was inside on my computer in the living room. Front door was open but storm door was close and it is glass. I saw Sky run to the door which was behind me as I was sitting on the couch.  She hit the storm door with both paws digging like a maniac at it.  She has never done this before or after. I got up let her in and she ran to window jumped up on the chest right below and whimpered, then ran to the door and back to window and looked back at me.  I started to get a clue and knew something was up and put on my jacket.  We went outside and Sky ran to the shed. By the time I got to the corner of the house I heard oaff and bam and BIL say are you OK Tom.  Turns out my hubby was being not so smart or as I call it down right stupid. He decided to lift half of this 750 lbs pig all by himself.  Now he at one time could do this when he had his old position at work but now he is a long haul truck driver and has lost muscle do to that.  It was a very good thing Sky came and got me and ratted out her dad.  If he had done that again it would have landed him in the hospital.  I asked why they did not use our dolly and hubby said it would not roll on the stone parking pad.  I side it would and got it out and proved him wrong.  I rolled it to BIL he lowered other half of pig and we rolled it into the shed.  Sky was a very smart and good girl this day.

Second Half of Sky's First Year.

One day after Sky turned 6 months old I had let her out to run and play.  Shortly after I heard her barking so I went outside to see what was up.  She was facing the two acres behind us on the East side of our property which is about 800 feet from the house. She was in the middle of our field barking like crazy.  I could see something moving there but not what it was so I moved a little closer to where Sky was standing.  It turned out to be a small herd of deer.  I told Sky it was OK just deer and called her to me.  She did not want to come because they were intruders to her but she did and the deer moved on.  I am very glad she held her ground and did not go after them.  They have showed up since with her doing the same thing.  We do not mind the deer passing threw our place.

About a month later Sky got to really protect her chickens.  We were inside when I heard the roosters go off.  Sky and I both ran to the back door and onto the deck.  I saw movement down in the brambles and told Sky to go down which she did but ran toward the rooster so I went down to direct her better.  When she went where the movement was a young hawk flew out of the brambles and into the tree.  I told her to watch it, which she did till it left while I checked the area.

Turned out hawk was on top of a hen and was plucking out back feathers.  The hen was OK and had gotten on her back when I tired to get her out of the brambles.  Got her upright and she shoved herself under a log there so I let her be to calm down.  Since the rooster was still going off I told Sky to bring him down to shut him up.  Sky did that then came back to where the hens was checking her out to make sure she was OK.  

Later in the day I went down to collect eggs and Sky went back to check on the hen.  I went over also to find she had left so I called Sky back into the house.  When we did locked that night we were a hen short so I figured that hen decided to sleep outside but I thought I saw her in the coop so was not sure.  The next day Sky kept going close to the area where I saved the hen.  At one point I was on the deck which is 15 feet up in the air there and watching Sky. I knew something was up for she just stood there like she did earlier when we had a hawk attack one of the rooster that it killed. I told hubby to check it out and sure enough there was another hen there that was dead.  Seems hawk attacked two hens not just one for this one he pierced the breast on then moved to the second one that I saved.  The story of the rooster I mention happened the month before.  It let us know the Sky was not a livestock killer or eater of those that were killed.  Sky was outside with BIL when I walked out on back deck only to see a hawk less than 16 feet from me on a branch looking down at the coop. It saw me and took off but I looked down to see Sky standing over a rooster looking up at the hawk or where the hawk had been.  I called BIL to check it out since he was at the shed. He went over and found the rooster dead and brought it in to process.  After the defeather it was determined it was all hawk damage.  Sky never touch the rooster not even when we were waiting on BIL to go collect it.

When Sky was 8 or 9 months old she got to work some cattle.  It was a nice day outside and we were all out working at our shed putting together a new chicken coop.  Sky was roaming property and keeping an eye on the chickens which were ranging.  I heard her barking again so walked around back of house to see at what this time.  Much to my surprise it was a herd of cattle.  Umm we did not own any at this time so where did they come from.  I knew our property was open back there but no one had any close that looked like these that I knew of, as they were a mixed lot not all black angus.  Anyway, I told Sky it was OK and to move them out and back the way they came.  She proceed to bark and step forward and the cattle calmly turned and went back the way they came.  After she made sure they were off her place she came back to me to get a real deserved Good Girl hugs and rub.  Threw out the day she kept checking to make sure they did not come back.

As you can see Sky has had a very busy first year.  This is not all she learned or did but it is some of the big highlights.  I will be posting updates in our Blog about her.  So make sure to watch for them.