Bird LifeBreedsLivestockWorking Animals

Permaculture Pooch

Alanna Moore is the author of ‘Backyard Poultry – Naturally‘ – where you can read more about Vikki and poultry care, including a permaculture approach to keeping them.

You don’t often hear about the positives of dog ownership, in a permaculture sense. My Jack Russell terrier Vikki is a permaculture farm dog, who works for her keep – a real ‘WOOFer’. Not only does she provide a 24 hour fox warning system, but she also uses special skills with the rare poultry I keep.

Vikki can catch a chook on the run. One mention of “catch the birdie” and she flies off in hot pursuit, to finally land on top of the target bird and hold it firmly (but unharmed) underneath her until I arrive on the scene. Other Jack Russel owners can’t believe it’s true. One guy lost 57 chickens to his dog in three minutes! Vikki’s dad happens to be a chook killer too.

Her breed was developed to hunt rats and rabbits – no wonder they are such a popular farmers’ companion. I’ve heard of Jack Russells who climb the macadamia trees in the plantations near us, and catch rats red handed. When Vikki used to catch rabbits on my property she would bring them home for butchering and enjoy the spoils of the hunt for dinner. Not surprisingly, the rabbits keep well away these days. She also chases doves from freeloading in the chook feed bowls, keeps goshawks from snatching chickens and warns us of snake presence and visitor arrivals.

Instincts Modified by Training

Vikki’s natural instincts have been modified by lots of good training. When we got her at 5 weeks of age we put silky chickens and baby guinea pigs in her bed for her to bond with. She would happily doze off cuddling a fuffy fat pig, who would sneak off to the other end of the box with great relief when she finally fell asleep. The farm animals became family, with Vikki their protector. Lots of discipline and patience were needed in the learning process along the way. Training was hard work at times. Now she loves to please us and revels in her farm work.

All domesticated animals are a nuisance if not trained or managed correctly. If we provide them with proper sustenance, protection and the freedom to follow their natural behaviours, they can be so rewarding to us. When people and other animals have symbiotic partnerships of mutual benefit that also create ecological balance, it is a natural harmony. Our animal allies have much to teach us.



  1. Great Story Vikki. We had a Jack Russel(Genny) and she was awesome at catching rats. We spent the time required to make her useful. It’s all about owners. The book “how to be your dogs best friend” was a great help to us. Thanks for the positive story.

  2. Great Story!

    As a proud Jack Russell owner about to embark on a permaculture lifestyle it was very heartening. I actually trained our JR (Cosmo) not to kill the Blue Tongue lizards that have shared our backyard for over six years now.

  3. Hello Alanna,
    I was wondering if you would be able to giver further tips about how to train Jack Russell to treat poultry as part of their pack please ?
    Many thanks

  4. Hello everyone,I own a BullMastiff/harlequinDaneXPitbull and Two WolfhoundxStagHound all of which are hunting dogs and will track and catch any size pig, scrub bull or deer.

    I introduced these dogs to the farm life at 1-2 years old after they had began hunting for a little while on the coast and had reached maturity, it took a good 2-3 months of constant training before i was confident with leaving the dogs around the chickens. After 6months the dogs are the farms own private security they have established respect for the other animals on the farm and even leave our penned pigs alone, its been 2 years since we moved and i havent had a problem. I cannot say how to train your dog but it must become comfortable with the animals presence and purpose, i do beleive strongly that dogs who do not have bloodlines with sustained work will be alot harder to train.

  5. Great story Alanna, very inspirational!

    I agree 100% with the last part where all domesticated animals can be a nuisance if not trained or managed properly and I will add that it is the human’s responsibility to ensure that the animals are treated, trained and managed properly and I include cats when I say this as well.

    I personally don’t see any real reason why domesticated animals cannot be incorporated into a permaculture system if they’re properly treated, trained and managed and they do have other uses other than just being a companion/best friend.

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