Meet our loyal chicken protectors

A Maremma Sheepdog with Forage Farms Pasture-Raised Hens

It takes a lot of work to keep Forage Farms ticking along. One of the most important jobs is to ensure our 6000 chickens are protected from predators. The pasture raised, natural environment we provide for our birds means that they are never locked up, even at night. They are free to come inside if they wish but we don’t make them. We have four essential workers who make this happen. Meet Leah, Max, Daisy, and her little sister Holly – our trusty Maremma dogs! 

Traditionally bred to protect sheep in Italy from wolves, the Maremma has proven to be a very loyal chicken protector. They will protect pretty much any animal once they bond with it. You may know the movie Oddball that was inspired by a true story about how some Maremmas restored a famed little penguin colony on an island in southwest Victoria. Before the dogs were introduced some cunning foxes had been having a field day and less than 10 penguins were remaining. Thanks to these clever dogs the numbers were restored to 140. 

Leah, Max, Daisy, and Holly have plenty of fans and are the highlight of a tour to Forage Farms. They have distinct personalities and Leah our eldest dog is very easy-going and tolerant. She even lets the chickens give her regular haircuts with their pecking! Max is 2 and a half. He is a big sook and loves a pat. The babies are Holly and Daisy. Daisy is very outgoing and likes lots of attention. Holly has not yet moved to official duties as she is still a nippy little 8-month-old pup. We will keep her at the house until she grows up a bit.

When the laying chickens are young the dogs are allocated a flock each and live with those hens for their entire working life. They are particularly useful in protecting the chickens from eagles who hover around day and night. The Maremmas are very loyal guard dogs and their loud barking is enough to scare the predators away. We retire our chooks every 12 to 18 months and at the same time, we give the dogs a lovely big bath and a bit of a holiday before they take on their new flock.

The dogs are a significant investment, and they play a crucial role on our family farm, so caring for them well is important. They have a healthy diet of organic working dog biscuits, bones, and pork although Leah has been on a diet recently as she is known to steal the chicken feed. The chooks sometimes try and peck at the dogs’ bones, but this is when their protective instinct turns to their food first!

It gives us great joy to create healthy food and the Maremmas are essential to running our regenerative farm so that our hens can live the way nature intended them to. 

If you would like to purchase our eggs, checkout the Forager's Map to see where you can get them. Or send us an email - 

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