KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: dogs (page 1 of 2)

Homestead Hounds: Herding Birds & Hunting Mice

Our two dogs, Bolt and Coona, make a really great mouse hunting team. Bolt, the quicker of the two, has lightning fast reflexes and can snatch a mouse straight out of the air. Coona, who is the hound, usually flushes mice out to Bolt by rushing in between feed bins and spooking them out in his direction. It’s fantastic to watch their cooperation!

While Coona is the second-in-command mouse hunter, she is the leader when it comes to duck and chicken herding. We recently noticed that her legacy as a hound/shepherd mix, makes her an excellent and very focused duck and chicken caretaker. Because our birds are pasture raised and free ranging, they are often ending up in places where they shouldn’t be! One of these places is the backyard. The backyard fencing is cattle paneling, which means that birds can easily slip in and out of the yard. Until recently, Jason or I would herd the ducks out of the yard ourselves before letting the dogs outside, but ultimately some would sneak right back in. It took us only a few days of watching Coona interact with these daring ducks to realize how gentle she could be when herding them back through the fence towards the woods. Bolt, on the other hand, has always needed a bit more coaxing in order to be gentle  with the birds. He just gets so excited!

Coona impresses us every day with how much she loves her job. She will quietly and  contentedly lay near the back fence waiting for a chick to pop through and then slowly, and with complete focus, usher the chick back through to his side of the fence. Bolt is often watching this… He usually keeps a check on himself so that he doesn’t chase the birds too intensely or grab one with his mouth. It’s amazing to watch Coona be so delicate with ducks and chickens. She interacts with them very lovingly, with great tenderness, and with great concern for the rules. We would love to be able to say that we taught her to be such a great herding dog, but it’s just not true. It’s in her blood!

Considering the great working team that Bolt and Coona are, it’s no wonder that they have a fantastic time outside together securing the homestead and caring for the animals!


Homestead Dogs Frolic in the Grass

Of course the poultry, pigs, and cows are loving the nice weather and the lovely, tall grasses. But what about our 2 crazy homestead dogs? Watch the video and see…



Amelia the Pig and Bolt the Dog!

Bolt loves to chase and hump Amelia the pig!


Jason and the animals spending some quality time together…


And a video of Bolt and Amelia!

New Dog Food for Bolt

After a period of itchy skin and irrirability for Bolt, we decided that it just had to be someting more than the weather. A few months ago he went through the same sort of “spell” and then seemed to get better… His hair grew back on his back and he seemed less annoyed.

And then out of nowhere, really, he got itchy again and seemed less happy about everything.

There is a chance that he has allergies due to the season, but we really think he needs a new diet, one that is better suited for him! We’ve talked before about homemade dog food for Bolt, but since posting our dog food recipe, we found a dry food that seemed to have healthy, natural ingredients. So, since it was much easier to give him the dry food, we started giving him that (with some supplements and meat sometimes).

During his most recent itchy/annoyed period we realized that something had to be done! So we decided to start from the ground up… With his food!

We checked out Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats again to see if there were any easy diets we could find that would help us determine if he was allergic to any ingredients in regular dog food. We found one that is perfect for us, and really easy to make. We’ve tweaked it a bit ourselves to make sure that he’s getting extra protein and fat (since dogs don’t need any carbs anyway). Dr. Pitcairn calls it the Dog Allergy Diet 1, and for the past few days we’ve been giving him only that. We haven’t noticed if he’s gotten less itchy yet, but he is certainly less irritable!

Bolt the dog

Bolt, Captain of the Clean Plate Cub!

Also, we realized that he really needed a food change when he wouldn’t eat his kibble! He would sit and wait for us to tell him to go to his bowl, but then he wouldn’t go over and eat once we told him to. After a few minutes he would check out the food but then only eat a few bites and go lay down. He wasn’t acting sick in any other ways, so we figured he was fasting since he know the food wasn’t right for him anymore.

This new recipe has him racing to the food bowl when we tell him to go, and eating every single grain of rice! This is great news to us!

Here is our take on Dr. Pitcairn’s Dog Allergy Diet 1:

  • Breakfast:
    • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
    • 1 cup of cooked or raw venison (depending on what we have on hand)
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Dinner:
    • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
    • 1 cup of venison
    • 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil
    • a pinch of holy basil (an herb that promotes calm)
    • 1/8 teaspoon of Vitamin C powder

We’ll also be adding two more things to his dinner plate: a complete multi-vitamin for adult dogs and some bone meal (food grade and safe for dogs), but we’re waiting on these to come in the mail. We give him bones sometimes and we plan to make more bone broth, but just in case, we’re getting bone meal as  a backup if we’re short on bones or broth for a while.

We’ll see how the diet works out over time, but for now we’re feeling much better about him feeling better!


what all of us animals have in common…

one thing’s for sure, living with animals on a farm reminds you how much all of us animals really have in common.

when it gets hot and humid outside, we all head for the shade and search out some water. since i just got back from the beach, i spent most of today dreaming about a large body of water to soak in (like a pond!). i also drank tons of water today, which i really needed to add ice cubes to since i spent most of today with my hands in a scalding hot dish-sink. we’ve decided against cutting on the air unless company is visiting; we really like hearing the world outside our windows and having the AC on makes us lazy bums who avoid doing anything outside.

since today was a hot one, and i spent most of my time looking out the kitchen window  at the birds, i was reminded of these common needs we all have in the heat… shade and water!

the chickens were nowhere to be seen when the sun was shining, but as soon as a cloud would cover the sun they would come out of the house for a little exploration. the small white shade cloth that we’ve recently added to our new chicken pen setup provided enough shade during portions of the day for rex and a select group of his ladies to nap in the shade.

the geese spent most of the day sleeping while floating in their kiddie pool, and bolt tried to hog the floor fan that was supposed to be blowing on me while i washed dishes. no doubt if he had been outside he would have been hiding under his shady bush!

all four geese chilling in their kiddie pool together!

all four geese chilling in their kiddie pool together!

bridey drank tons of water and bolt could be heard lapping up water from the upstairs toilet, the downstairs toilet, a downstairs water bowl, and an upstairs water bowl. when it rained later in the day both he and i really enjoyed walking in it to cool off!

so whatever animals you have, mammals or birds, or just your partner (since we humans are animals too), make sure they’ve got plenty of water to drink and shade to hide in!


Bolt’s Bush: A Dog’s Best Way to Beat the Heat

Now that summer is rolling in and temperatures are quickly rising into the 90’s during the afternoon, a dog needs a way to stay cool and keep from overheating. While Emma and I can hang out in the carport porch and sip on iced spearmint tea, Bolt, our 1 year old black lab/boxer/? dog has to find other ways to avoid the hot NC sun.

He is somewhat of a wuss when it comes to hot weather and can often be found hogging the floor fan, or nestling right up to the AC vent to stay cool without a second thought for those of us “downwind.” However, when he is outside with us none of these options exist. So he has to be creative…

Take this bush for instance. It sits smack dab in the middle of Bolt’s outdoor area.

A lone bush in our side yard, the area where bolt hangs outside.

A lone bush in our side yard, the area where Bolt hangs out outside.

Notice anything interesting about it? No? Let’s get a closer look…


It’s Bolt! The shade of this bush is the perfect place to beat the NC heat!

Hahahahaha! This bush is Bolt’s preferred hideout from the summer sun, and where he can most often be found when the thermometer dips above 83 degrees. Here he can snooze in the shade, roll in the dirt, and quickly ambush anyone foolish enough to casually walk by his bush (and scare the pants off me as I walk by with headphones in).

This got me thinking about how to make his bush an even better summer getaway and design it specifically for a dog’s summertime needs. Number 1 is shade–and any shrub or bush will do the job–but maybe a plant like rosemary, with anti-insect properties would take this up a notch, not to mention provide great herbs for the kitchen. What about planting some nice geraniums around it to help repel mosquitoes, the vector of heartworms and annoying itchiness. Maybe some pennyroyal, or fleabane to combat fleas, and some chicory in case he feels the need to fight some internal parasites.

I think this would be a really cool permaculture design project, and is definitely something I am going to think more about. Let me know if you know of any other plants that would fit well in a dog’s play area. But for now, you can find Bolt enjoying the shade and solitude of his bush, waiting eagerly for the cooler temperatures of fall, or for us to turn the AC on and bring him inside.

happy birthday, bolt!

today is bolt’s first birthday.

we’ve started the celebration by:

  • spraying bolt with the “jet” setting on the hose while he runs around loving it and avoiding it all at once
  • filling up a little pool for him to jump in to cool off (which he didn’t want to get in and only drank out of)
  • laying in the shade
  • feeding him lots of breakfast, including some chicken eggs
  • giving him a venison bone to chew on, complete with lots of attached meat. he’s already devoured the meat and had been carrying the bone all around the yard, trying to find a good place to bury it and changing his mind about the best location every time he sees you looking at him

the video below is just a simple video showing bolt enjoying his special day in the some of the ways listed above. bolt’s big birthday present coming later today is… his very own goose egg! he’s going to love it!

happy birthday best friend and son, bolt!


training the puppy: stopping food aggression

bolt is a wonderful dog!

but, like all dogs and humans, he has his own unique personality and quirks. we think that he may have been the dominant puppy in his litter and/or was very used to fighting his siblings for food when he was little.

growing up, i helped raise 4 puppies over the years (you know, the way that all kids help out with puppy chores), but none of those 4 dogs ever had any dog food aggression issues.

we didn’t notice that bolt had anything going on with him for the first few days that we had him, probably because we just didn’t happen to touch him while he was eating. we touched the bowl, moved it or picked it up, but never touched him. when we touched his bowl he never responded, since (as we learned later) some dogs are only bothered if they are touched when eating.

the first time we realized he had some dog food aggression issues was about a week after we got him. we fed him in his usual bowl and we were watching him eat. jason noticed that he was eating super fast (not unusual for a puppy) and got a little nervous that he might choke. so, he put his hand on him and tried to pull him back a little bit from the food. as soon as he touched him, bolt started making a gurgling sound in his throat, which jason thought was choking. so, he picked him up and tired to look to him. during this time, after hearing him make the noise without the food in his mouth, i knew he was growling.

just as i was saying “he’s not choking, he’s growling at you,” bolt started freaking out (still in jason’s arms) and growling, showing his teeth, and getting so worked up that he was spitting and struggling. he was amazingly intense and seemed like a possessed demon dog!

jason put him on the ground and had to work a little bit to get him onto his back. he held him down for a little bit until bolt relented (which took a little while).

at the time, we thought that being the alpha in the pack would mean that we would need to show him his place during times like this by asserting our position over him. maybe this would have worked for a different dog after just one time being bluffed down, but it didn’t work for bolt. he did this to us a few more times and we continued to bluff him down. still, we didn’t feel like it was working, and only making him more anxious during eating time. after a few weeks we decided to look into other methods for teaching him that it was okay for us to touch him when he was eating and to let him know that we were, in fact, the top dogs.

i had heard all about cesar millan before, but had never seen any of his videos or read any of his writings. we decided to look into his website and check out his videos online. they helped a great deal!!!!

here is the run down of what we learned about how to deal with dog food aggression in the safest and least stressful way (for both you and your dog).

depending on the severity of their dog food aggression, this is what we think could work:

  • start by feeding your dog and simply walking by him while he is eating. if he acts aggressive as you walk by, be sure to have a scrap of something more delicious his dog food in your hand, and toss it in/near his bowl. this teaches him that human presence near him when eating is not a threat. in fact, it is a benefit… he might just get a treat!
  • each day, or every few days, you can walk closer to him while eating (always with that extra bit of something yummy), and eventually stop and stand near him.
  • in our case, since bolt only cared if we touched him, we started by getting close to him and putting the treat in the bowl (watch body language and don’t push any boundaries!). after a while, we would pet him a little while he ate.

we also decided that we weren’t too concerned about him wanting his own space while eating, but we wanted to be sure that any future kids wouldn’t have trouble if they bumped into him while he was eating. we thought (after watching a cesar millan video) that one of the best ways to remind him that we were in charge was to have him sit and wait before we was allowed to eat. we also decided to train him to sit part of the way through eating and wait again, while we added treats to his bowl. this has been super successful, and he knows that he must sit and wait (even if he is salivating and the bowl is right in front of him) until we say “go!” he’ll even listen to his “stay” command before eating if we are in the next room.

ever since implementing these tactics, we have had no trouble with bolt’s food aggression. we still have to make him “sit” and “let go” of any bone he might be chewing on, because he is sensitive about the bones, but we’ve found that offering him a piece of meat in exchange for the bone works nicely.

ultimately, you have to decide what sort of relationship you want to have with your dog, taking into account his own personality (and yours). bolt is a great listener in all other aspects and we are happy with the way we’ve approached his training, especially since i can now give him a “good dog” pat while he eats without fearing that he’ll growl at me!


Giving Dogs Bones: The How and Why

With the recent scares, recalls, and revelations of questionable ingredients in commercial dog food, it’s no wonder that many pet owners are looking for a better way to feed their canine companions. Homemade dog food is one, noble option that many, including us, have turned to.

Because dogs have co-evolved with humans for so long they can eat, digest, and derive nutrition from many of the foods that humans eat (check out NOVA’s Dogs Decoded Documentary, here on youtube, for more on the bond between dogs and us). That is, many of the foods humans used to eat. Hunter/gathers didn’t frequent McDonald’s, and your dog shouldn’t either.

One thing that is a great supplement to your dog’s diet are bones. Dogs love to chew on and eat bones. They have been doing it for thousands of years, both in the form of leftovers from humans, and from wild game they took down themselves.

Bones supply calcium, an essential mineral and nutrient for healthy canine growth, development, and well being. Without a healthy dose of bones, you must supply this calcium in other ways, either in the form of supplements or in egg shells. But the most natural way for dogs to obtain calcium is by eating bones.

Chewing on bones also helps to keep a dog’s teeth and gums healthy. If a dog doesn’t have bones to gnaw on, they may turn to other sources, such as your furniture, shoes, or tool handles. A nice bone session also lets a dog focus his energy, and is good mental stimulation. These kind of activities, like a long walk, can do wonders to improve poor behavior and help calm stressed or nervous dogs.

Our number one resource for all things pet health has been Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, and in it Dr. Pitcairn lays out a few guidelines to consider when giving your dog bones. First, avoid chicken bones as they easily splinter and can hurt your pet. Try to focus on bones larger than your dogs head, so that they won’t be able to swallow it whole.

Don’t feed cooked bones, only raw ones. Cooked bones also tend to splinter and could be dangerous. Also, avoid feeding frozen bones because your dog may chip or break a tooth. Let them thaw out a bit first.

Dr. Pitcairn also recommends giving your dog a “bone fast” where he eats nothing but bones and has access to plenty of clean water all day. This simulates the natural conditions of predators, and can help clean out your dog’s system and keep him healthy and strong.

Here are some of the things we have learned while feeding bones to our young dog Bolt:

Always watch them carefully; Bolt can chew through a bone in almost no time, especially the epiphyses, or ends of the bone. These smaller pieces can become choking hazards.

Watch out for food aggression issues when feeding bones, especially with dogs that have shown this behavior before. When Bolt was little, he had some food aggression issues–we solved them–but a nice meaty bone can be sooo delicious that your dog may forget himself a bit, and get defensive over it. I try to make sure that he sits, and drops the bone before I take it, and I like to “trade” a piece of meat or other snack for the bone.

I wouldn’t give a dog a bone when other dogs are around. Again, such a treat could lead to a fight and some hurt feelings. If you have two dogs, separate them and give them each a bone to chew on.

As long as you follow a few simple guidelines, feeding your dogs bones is a great way to improve their nutrition, health, and behavior. Introduce bones slowly to their diet, and always watch keep an eye on them.

If you can’t or don’t want to feed raw bones to your dog, try making bone broth. Basically a super charged stock, where bones are cooked down in water (with a touch of vinegar or lemon juice) for hours until they turn to mush. When you can smush the bones between your fingers, it’s done. Add a scoop to the top of your homemade dog food for an extra jolt of calcium and other micronutrients that are present in the bones. Your dog will love it.

hawks and moles and mice, oh my!

we’ve had some amazing animal adventures over the past few days. this is to be expected at the beginning of spring (or at least what appeared to be spring until it dropped from 50 degrees to 20 degrees over the course of 5 hours today and then started to snow and sleet!). this means the school system where i work is closed tomorrow… and i get to spend my birthday at home! fantastic!

the other day bolt unearthed a mole while digging in the yard (now we know what he’s been digging for!) and played with it a little bit but wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with it since it wasn’t fighting back or running–just laying there and squeaking. bolt’s problem was solved when he encountered an escaped chicken (6 of them sneaked out of the small crack in the gate during feeding time a few minutes before bolt found the mole). the chicken ran from jason and i and flew towards bolt, who forgot all about the mole and tried to pluck the bird out of thin air. luckily, the chicken never got close enough, seeing the big black monster that bolt has become, and turned back toward us. when bolt returned to the mole it was gone, having waited for the opportune time to make his escape!

after this adventure we also noticed that dodger had caught a few prizes: field mice. we saw him catch 2 from afar, and later jason confirmed that dodger had eaten the head off of at least one of them. a little bit of a waste, dodger… we wish you would eat the whole thing!

also… about a week ago, jason saw a small, white-speckled, brown hawk fly in twice to smack up against the bird net above our chicken yard. after seeing this he sent me a text message that said: bird net: 2, hawk: 0.

unfortunately, this same hawk got smart and found a small hole in our bird netting a few days ago. the holes were torn in the netting a few weeks ago when we got 8 inches of snow. the wet, thick snow on the netting weighed it down too much and ripped out some of the zip ties that we had used to attach strips of netting together. we had noticed the holes but didn’t think too much of it, considering that up to that point we hadn’t detected any animal attacks at all.

anyway, this crafty hawk (which we are pretty sure is a cooper’s hawk) spent a few days looking at the netting and plotting his entry (or so we can assume). the first signs we found of his success came on friday.

i usually open up the chicken house and let them out into their yard every morning around 6am. jason found a dead bantam in the corner of the chicken yard around 7:30am. she was ripped open with many of her feathers missing and half of her breast was eaten. it was clearly a hawk attack.


a cooper’s hawk, photo courtesy Tobeyotter

the circumstances are still a bit of a mystery considering that the hawk was sitting outside the bird netting when jason came outside and flew away. did he kill and eat the bantam the night before and come back for more the next day? did he hear jason coming outside and somehow escape the netting in time (but stay around to actually see jason appear?). also, why was he able to catch bantams but not our standard hens who are much slower? after thinking on it, we’ve realized that the hawk probably didn’t even try to get the larger hens, since a cooper’s hawk is about the size of a crow. but, we just aren’t sure!

so, long story short: we lost a bantam from the hawk attack. then… late in the day on saturday once jason and i went inside after being outside all day, the hawk came back and went for another bantam! he got inside the netting again and pulled the feathers from another bird but did not wound her. jason and i chased him away and we have since patched all the holes in the net. once we move our chicken yard later this week, we’ll re-patch it again just to be sure.

overall… very frustrating. but also, admittedly, very exciting. and we suppose that this is the way it is: we’re learning firsthand that raising animals and plants comes with some failures and some successes. some living and some dying. you witness birth; you witness death, and the cycle goes on…


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