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Cougars, chickens and LGDs

 
pollinator
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Location: Southern Oregon
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My neighbors have informed me that cougars are a major problem in the area. I'm skeptical. I'm sure that there are cougars in the area, but given the number of domestic cats wandering around, it's seems like they aren't that hungry. But the reason I'm bringing this up is, I was advised to get LGDs even for chickens that are in a secure coop. I am thinking that I will get LGDs when we get goats, but wasn't thinking about it for the chickens. What does everyone think? On the one hand, getting them early would allow us to get used to dealing with them before the goats, but I'm afraid that a few chickens wouldn't be enough to keep them busy. And, as I understand it, working dogs like to work.
 
pollinator
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I agree that people letting their cats roam would seem to indicate that cougars aren't as big an issue as they're making it out to be.  If you're new to the area it may only be them giving the new people a rough ride.  I'd ask more questions, though I think you'll get a better idea of the actual problem if you call the local animal control agency.

As far as LGDs for chickens, if it's a secure coop, I don't see them being necessary.  I don't know much about what LGD breeds or what numbers you would want to deter cougars as I haven't had to deal with them, but it would be good to get info on dealing specifically with them.
 
pioneer
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Location: California Coastal range
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They don't hunt domestic cats as much as you think.  We let our cats roam in this neighborhood and the Minton lions are seen routinely and have killed goats.  Does your secure chicken run have a wire roof also ? I have a mountain lion problem but I wouldn't get a dog before I was ready just for chickens.  You can work around it by waiting until later in the morning to let them out, decrease your risk.  That is what I am doing for the goats right now, just not letting them out of the barn until a few hours of good daylight.

But if your neighbors say you have a lion problem I would believe it.  Our mountain lion population has increased a lot since I have lived here, and we still have domestic cats but have WAY less racoons than we used to, and less coyotes. They may take a domestic cat but it's not a noticeable decrease like the racoon depopulation.

 
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Location: Haida Gwaii, British Columbia (7b)
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I currently have a 6 month old LGD mix (Akbash/Great Pyrenees/Maremma). She has already begun showing her guardian traits, and my 6 year old is her charge! It’s neat to watch her sit and watch over the yard while my 6 year old plays out there. Also, I’m a dog nerd, and have recently been consuming a lot of LGD content. Excuse my dog-nerd passion.

I do think LGDs would be a good addition - especially if you will be getting goats.

Some thoughts:

1. From what i’ve read, LGDs don’t form bonds with poultry like they do other livestock. They will however guard or patrol the property - depending on the breed. While they won’t face a cougar, if they hear/see anything (even branches swaying in the wind) they will go on defensive, barking and trying to pinpoint the threat, while slowly retreating to their main charge (likely your house).

2. If you’re up against cougars, you will need at least 2 LGDs. One will stand guard and protect your house, and will not go on the offence, but 2+ LGDs will be needed to defend/patrol the property against active large predators. Teams of LGDs are known to take on cougars, bears, and packs of wolves!

3. LGDs don’t start properly guarding or patrolling until they are about 2 - so it would be advisable to find some mature LGDs. Alternatively, get one mature (with work experience) and one pup. The mature working dog will train the pup!

Let us know how it goes!

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Any excuse to drop cute pics of my dog. This is Fluffy Marshmallow. Such a tough name...
 
Stacy Witscher
pollinator
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Thanks for the replies. I think that we will wait to get an LGD for a while and see how things go with the chickens. The coop isn't finished but the plan is that the run with be covered. If it turns out to not be enough, I will deal with it then. I have done some reading about LGDs and cougars, and I know that we will want two.

It's seems likely that there is plenty of food for the cougars, so they don't need to attack cats. I was wondering if that's why we don't have many deer on our property. We have been here two months and have only seen one. But there are plenty of wild turkeys, jack rabbits, raccoons, and according to the previous owners a ring-tailed cat.
 
pollinator
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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Stacy, In my area, cougar sitings are not really uncommon.  I’ve seen four over the years, without really looking for them.  It seems like every year we hear about someone seeing one fairly close by their homestead.  Cougars here mainly seem to feed on deer (two species of deer are abundant here).

Stories about cougars raiding chicken coups are so rare that I can’t recall an incident right now.

Here, much more typical coop raiders are coyotes, raccoons, and even large owls.  But I think it can be difficult to advise from the experience of other localities than your own.  As Debi advised, I go with the idea that local lore (if you can talk about specifics with level-headed people who have been local for a decade or more) would be worth listening to.  Because I believe local genetic variants of the cougar species — not to mention a locally adapted culture among cougars, passed down from mothers to offspring — can result in a particularly typical local behavior pattern.

Maybe the cougar is a realistic worry where you live, though it’s not where I live.
 
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