Shepparton News

Maremma trio rules the roost

CHICKENS SAFE WHEN DOGS ARE ON JOB

- By Monique Preston

The three Maremma dogs at Zanker’s Farm spend their days and nights protecting the farm’s chickens from foxes and hawks.

Max, Lucy and Puppy 1 are working dogs on the Mundoona property, spending their time guarding the farm’s 2000 chickens.

However, they are not the only canine members.

Jack, a Jack Russell, also has a role as the family pet.

He also likes to “work” on the property, and particular­ly loves pats from any visitors to the produce shop.

Zanker’s Farm’s Tracy Zanker said Max, 4, and Lucy, 2, tended to spend their time keeping a watchful eye on the chickens, guarding them from the channel banks.

Puppy 1, however, keeps a much closer eye on them, tending to stay in the paddock where the chickens are free range.

Tracy said while all three guarded the chickens from predators, 17-month-old Puppy 1 was especially great with any birds of prey that came to attack the chickens from the air.

All three Maremmas spend their time on the farm with the chickens, and are not allowed at the house, although Tracy said Max would occasional­ly come back if there was a storm, because he is scared of them.

Tracy said occasional­ly they couldn’t find the three Maremmas anywhere on their property in the morning, after chasing a fox during the night and then just sleeping where they stopped.

At times like this they don’t seem in a hurry to get home and will turn up in the middle of the day.

“If a neighbour ever rings us to mention they have seen them in their paddock, we tell the neighbour to put on their pretend grumpy voice and tell the dogs to ‘go home’,” Tracy said.

“Once you get them walking in the right direction they know what this means.”

Puppy 1 is the most recent addition to the farm – born to Lucy in the chicken paddock on a cold May night last year.

He was one of four puppies born, but as Lucy was a young mum she just had them in different parts of the paddocks and left them to freeze, Tracy said.

Fortunatel­y for Puppy 1 and another pup, Puppy 2, the humans found them and were able to warm them up.

A vet from Taiwan, who was staying at the time for work experience, helped Tracy keep the two puppies alive for the first 12 hours before they could get Lucy relocated and bonded with them.

Deciding that they didn’t need four working Maremmas, the Zankers found Puppy 2 a new home.

Tracy said all three working dogs had different personalit­ies.

“Max is very affectiona­te and wants you to pat him forever,” she said.

“Puppy 1 is happy to have a short pat and then go and do his job.”

Lucy, however, doesn’t likes pats all that much.

Puppy 1 also has a habit of “inhaling” his food, whereas the other two Maremmas like to take their time.

As well as their normal food, sometimes the dogs would “help themselves” to an egg that a chicken had laid in the paddock, rather than in their nesting boxes, Tracy said.

Tracy, husband Tim Zanker, and their three sons Aiden, 21, Jacob, 19, and Kyle, 17, have been at the Mundoona property – near Wunghnu – for the past four years, however, they have owned their business Organic Ways Eggs for 10 years and previously farmed in NSW.

Tracy said when they bought the business it came with a Maremma dog, and they had always had at least two since, as they found they were good for guarding the chickens.

The dogs even score a mention on the Organic Ways Eggs packaging, which says “hens, genuinely free range in moveable houses on organicall­y managed pastures guarded by friendly Maremma dogs’’.

Unlike the Maremmas, the Zankers’ two-year-old Jack Russell Jack sleeps in a kennel at the workshop near the house.

However, he also likes to get out on the farm.

“Every morning, soon after the sun rises, Jack goes for a morning walk with Aiden to bring the small group of dairy cows home for milking,” Tracy said.

“He likes to be part of any action on the farm.

“If he can jump in the vehicle and catch a ride to go out to the chickens to collect the eggs in the evenings, he will, otherwise he follows behind running out to the paddock.”

Jack likes to play with the other dogs when he gets the chance.

“He sometimes forgets he’s little. He likes to think he is a big dog,” Tracy said.

He is also responsibl­e for guarding the chickens around the house area and protecting them against foxes and snakes.

He had also proven his worth as a keen mouser, keeping the mouse population down around the sheds last winter, Tracy said.

Jack also likes to greet all visitors to the small retail area they sell farm produce at, sneaking a pat from whoever he can.

He also loves jumping into vehicles and going for a ride – even if sometimes it is with people staying at the Airbnb at the property.

 ?? ?? Relaxed: Maremmas Max and Lucy spend much of their days guarding the chickens from channel banks on the farm.
Relaxed: Maremmas Max and Lucy spend much of their days guarding the chickens from channel banks on the farm.
 ?? Picture: Rodney Braithwait­e ?? Calm: Tracy Zanker with Puppy 1, one of three Maremmas that guard chickens on the farm.
Picture: Rodney Braithwait­e Calm: Tracy Zanker with Puppy 1, one of three Maremmas that guard chickens on the farm.
 ?? Picture: Rodney Braithwait­e ?? Watchful: Puppy 1 keeps a close eye on one of the farm’s chickens.
Picture: Rodney Braithwait­e Watchful: Puppy 1 keeps a close eye on one of the farm’s chickens.
 ?? ?? In the field: Puppy 1 spends his days and nights guarding chickens from predators including foxes and hawks.
In the field: Puppy 1 spends his days and nights guarding chickens from predators including foxes and hawks.
 ?? ?? Famous guardians: The Maremmas even get a mention on the Organic Ways egg cartons.
Famous guardians: The Maremmas even get a mention on the Organic Ways egg cartons.
 ?? ?? Give me love: Jack, a Jack Russell, likes to get pats from everyone.
Give me love: Jack, a Jack Russell, likes to get pats from everyone.

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