We have heavy pressure from foxes when Spring arrives and all the free-ranging birds need extra protection. In preparation, we moved some of the Barred Rock chickens into a new coop that is situated in the middle of the winter sheep pasture. That pasture is guarded by our two livestock guardian dogs - Harry, the Great Pyrenees, and Stella, the Maremma. The field is also surrounded by electric mesh fencing. The plan was to close the chickens into the coop for about a week so that they could get accustomed to their new home.
Three days in a row, we arrived at the farm and those birds were loose and foraging with the sheep. The Barred Rock chickens are quite calm and were easily corralled and tucked away back in their coop. We simply could not figure out how they were getting out.
On the fourth day, I arrived at the farm and was doing chores when I noticed that Stella, our Maremma livestock guardian dog, was rubbing her body on the chicken house door and repeatedly nodding in my direction. Her message was clear. “Let these birds out!” I explained that it was too soon for them to be free ranging and that they had to stay in the coop for a few more days. She did not approve of this poultry oppression.
When I arrived at the farm that evening to close up the turkeys and ducks, the Barred Rocks were again loose and foraging with the sheep. I walked all around the coop and found that the pop door – which operates on a gate-type latch – had been opened.
Apparently, Miss Stella not only opened the door for them, she also fastened it so it would stay open! So, in addition to her sheep tending chores, that dog has taken charge of the chickens. Captives no more, the chickens seem happy and are laying in the nest boxes and going to roost in the coop when the sun goes down. Those foxes can look elsewhere for their spring delicacies. Our birds are protected by Stella - poultry freedom fighter extraordinaire.