I am Neither Sheep, Wolf, nor Sheepdog

Many people have heard the analogy of the human population being divided into three groups:

  • Sheep – The masses. The general human being that is, mostly, a kind and caring person that hangs out with others of their kind. They gather in groups and go along with their lives. Sheep graze along, often herded by Shepards and their Sheepdogs. Sheep, generally, don’t have the ability to harm others of their kind, unless there is some kind of strange accident.
  • Wolves – The evil of the world. These are the criminals, the terrorists, and often also include others that have evil on their minds and are just looking for the right opportunity. Wolves, if unchecked, would decimate the sheep and eat their fill. The wolves of the world have no empathy or consideration for the sheep.
  • Sheepdogs – These are the protectors of the sheep. There are two types of Sheepdogs, the Herders and the Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs).

Herders – The Herders keep the sheep going in the right direction and keep them all together. They nip at the heels of the sheep that refuse to go along with the flow and do what they are told.

LGDs – The  LGDs live amongst the sheep. They are there awaiting the potential attack and are prepared to use their fangs, their size and power, and their other natural abilities to meet the wolves head-on. Sheepdogs, supposedly, are altruistic, and would never harm the Sheep. In real life, we know this isn’t true, but their failures also fit this analogy.

Privately armed citizens often use this analogy to explain their role in the world as Sheepdogs.

The analogy is not perfect, but it tends to fit pretty well. Sheep are not bad. They do their job, they care about each other, and they just want to live peacefully. They are not looking for confrontation. This describes the general population.

A huge issue for many Sheep is that they do not want to have Sheepdogs around. They don’t like to be told what to do and when to do it by the herders, but they really dislike the LGDs as they are big and powerful and remind them of Wolves. A Sheepdog that gets upset could easily kill a Sheep. Sheepdogs can be violent. The Sheep would like to think that Sheepdogs are not needed because they don’t see Wolves ripping out the throats of their friends and family on a regular basis. They see Wolves as being very rare, even though the Sheepdogs are what make the Wolves’ presence rare. The Sheepdog is a constant reminder to the Sheep that there are wolves close by enough to be worried about the Wolves.

Of course, when Wolves show up, the Sheep want the Sheepdogs to be there to defend them. The Sheep do their best to hide behind Sheepdogs when the Wolves are present or at the perimeter.

In a perfect world, a Sheepdog would look like and act like a Sheep, until it needs to be a Sheepdog. Sheep would be so much happier if the Sheepdogs were more Sheep-like.

Other Groups

There are a couple of other groups that we should consider when talking about our population and extending this analogy a bit more. Granted, there are probably others, but these other two groups fit the model.

  • Shepherds – Sheep are their property and the Shepherds decide when to sheer them, where they will graze, and when they will be moved to another field. Shepherds even control the breeding of the Sheep in many cases. The Sheepdog is also the Shepard’s property, and they are deployed according to the Shepard’s needs and desires, and they protect the sheep. The Shepherd feeds the Sheepdog, and the Sheepdog follows the directions of the Shepherd. The Shepherd would, certainly, punish a Sheepdog that ever harms any of the Sheep. By the way, the Shepherds also decide what meets the definition of a Wolf, too, and what the Sheepdogs need to confront.
  • Porcupines – This has been proposed, by several people, as a new category for this analogy. Porcupines are not like Wolves as they do not attack other animals and treat them as prey. Porcupines forage for food and pretty much keep to themselves. Porcupines do not initiate confrontation. However, Porcupines are able to defend themselves very well.
  • Pet Dogs – I guess there are also pet dogs that have the tools to be violent, but either don’t have the demeanor or the training to use the tools that they received at birth. How should we react when we see a pet dog? Do we assume it is a Sheepdog or that it is a Wolf? Can we easily identify a pet dog?

[Edited on March 27th, 2016]

I just heard an awesome one from Ben Schorr when discussing this analogy. I was saying that it really isn’t a good idea to try to take away the fangs of Sheepdogs just so the Sheep can feel more comfortable while they graze. His response cracked me up:

“I think the Sheepdogs should keep their teeth but the German Shepherds should leave their tennis balls at home. And for God’s sake can somebody take that squeeky toy away from that Chihuahua!”

It really comes down to Pet Dogs needing the right training in the use of their fangs, which, assuming they have the ability to be violent, would make them Sheepdogs, too.

Summary

I am not a Sheepdog. I am not out there looking to protect the Sheep. However, I am willing to help protect my family and close friends. I am absolutely able to protect myself.

In fact, I am able to be lethal. So, I am a bit more than just a Porcupine. Maybe I am a Buffalo or a Rhino.

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Chicken Coop and Run–Winterized

This is my first Winter with chickens. As previously discussed, they can be expensive when it comes to setting up, but they are a wonderful hobby for me.

Here is what I learned from the chicken raisers in Colorado:

  • Make sure there is enough space to keep stress low.
  • Sand in the coop and in the run is great for all year round, but especially Winter.
  • Sweet PDZ is great for the smell and is also good for the chickens’ health.
  • Food grade DE (diatomaceous earth) can help control parasites.
  • Heated water is a must unless you want to constantly go out and replace frozen water with warm water.
  • Keeping chickens dry is probably the most important concern.
  • Keeping chickens protected from predators is another very important concern.
  • Supplemental heat is not needed.
  • Air ventilation is important whether it is hot or cold.
  • Supplemental light is not needed.
  • Some breeds just won’t produce in Winter no matter what.

Space

In my city, Aurora, Colorado, we can have up to six hens (no roosters) with a permit, on lots larger than 20,000 square feel, we can have eight hens. Our city requirements are basically:

  • Coop (they refer to it as the house) must be at least 2 square feet per chicken of floor space.
  • The run, which must be attached to the house, must be at least 6 square feet or larger
  • The combined structure cannot be larger than 120 square feet.
  • The combined structure must be 15 feet or more from property lines unless the neighbor provides written permission for it to be closer.
  • Chickens must be secured in the house from dusk until dawn.

Obviously, the more space available, the better. The chickens love scratching around and eating bugs and grass and such.

What we did was build a run that is 8’ WP_20160323_17_21_08_Prowide by 12’ long by 6’ high. We actually went 6’ high to patch the privacy fence on the one side, and the other is 5’6” to give us a slope for rain and snow to drain off.  We then added a coop that we bought from Murdoch’s. I wish we had not purchased it, but, we have it, and it is doing its job.

The run is directly attached to our tuff shed, and is well anchored.

Yes, our chickens are spoiled.

Sand Floor

In general, many people feel that sand in the coop and in the run is great for all year round WP_20160323_17_20_27_Proas it allows any water (including chicken poop) to drain away easily and helps keep their feet dry. Sand is also fairly easy to rake clean of waste. I use a big cat litter scoop to clean through the sand on a regular basis.

Another benefit of sand is that it retains heat and it is a big benefit in the Winter.

As you can see, even though we had about 15 inches of snow, it is perfectly dry inside, and there is no mud or wet area inside the run.

I have heard from several people that the sand is nice in that it keeps their claws nicely trimmed, too. Think: Chicken Pedicure.

The Chicken Chick recommends construction sand vs play sand.

Sweet PDZ

This is a mineral that is marketed to horse stables. It controls odor by binding to ammonia and neutralizing it. The mineral also absorbs moisture. The mineral is available in granules or powder, but for chickens, granules are best. Powders can get cause respiratory issues for chickens.

Ammonia not only causes a great deal of the smell that attracts flies and the general smell, it also impacts respiratory health and egg production. 

The best way to use this mineral, in my opinion, is to mix it with the sand. Others use it in the poop trays below perches.

DE

DE is a fine powder that scratches the waxy shell of insects and parasites and causes them to dry up and die. I use it to kill off ant hills in my hard, for example, and it is not harmful to humans or animals. Make sure you get food grade DE, which is readily available.

I have heard some chicken raisers use a bit of DE is feed to keep internal parasites under control, but I only use it by putting down a bit in the areas where they enjoy their dust baths and I put some down in their nesting boxes under the pine shavings.

Heated Water

While it is only needed in Winter, the ability to provide a source of fresh water that doesn’tWaterer (2) get frozen is pretty vital to chickens. Of course, my dogs share their water with the chickens and expect the same in return. Smile

In my case, my chicken run has power available to it, so it is easy for me to just get a heated waterer and plug it in. We have power because we have our run butted up against a nice tough shed that has power. We have been pretty lucky in how some of our earlier decisions have helped out.

Keep Dry

OK, this sounds like common sense, but I have seen way too many chicken raisers that WP_20160324_12_08_10_Prodon’t provide a covered run area and some means of keeping blowing rain and snow out of the run.

Sure, chickens can get wet, and they will be fine. After all, they are outdoor animals. However, being wet takes away from their ability to keep themselves warm. One of the keys to our run was that we bought WP_20160324_12_08_29_Proclear poly roofing panels that are supported with 2×3 wood studs. So far, they have held up to a couple of really heavy snow storms. If I had to redo it, I would turn the 2×3’s on their side to provide even better support for the roofing panels.

We were also told that it is a good idea to staple some plastic sheeting on the sides of the run to keep out blowing rain and snow. I will take it off once the weather warms up, but it has certainly been a big benefit to the chickens.

I cleared off a corner to show the roofing. It was fairly cheap, and provides a great deal of additional warmth in the cold months.

Predators

Keeping chickens protected from predators is another very important concern. Of course, Dogmost of us recognize this, but I don’t think we all look at the most common predator for chickens: domestic dogs.

I thought we might lose a chicken to a hawk, a raccoon, or even a skunk, but I never thought about dogs being our biggest concern.

We lost one chicken to a friend’s dog (our fault for not watching over it) that just wanted to play with the chickens, and its prey drive kicked in.

We lost another chicken to a neighborhood dog that jumped our fence. It killed the poor bird and ate about a fourth of it. It also wounded two of our other chickens. This terrier jumped over a four foot fence into a neighbor’s yard, then jumped over another four foot fence into our yard.

We made a quick run to the parent’s house, and found him in our yard and piles of feathers everywhere. It was horrible.

Now, we have a 6’ high fence all around to help protect our hens from future disasters. My recommendations:

  • High fences around the yard.
  • Bushes and other cover that chickens can run under if there are hawks or eagles in the area and they need to run and hide.
  • Good strong hardware fabric (a little different than chicken wire).  Make sure that when you use this in your runs and coops that you it can extend into the ground a bit to help keep chickens safe from digging predators.
  • High roosts for the chickens to fly and jump to so they can evade ground predators.

Supplemental Heat

I never even thought about this being a danger, but I have seen too many reports of people having their coops catch fire, and also their houses.

Supplemental heat is not needed. I have to admit that I was not fully believing everyone, but common sense took over. There are small birds all around the neighborhood all Winter long. They can survive. What convinced me, though, was picking up one of my chickens on a day when it was about 4 degrees F outside. My fingers felt the warmth in the down and feathers. It was pretty clear that she was not cold, at all. In the worst nights, they would just all huddle together, and they stayed plenty warm.

What really sold me on them not needing additional heat was that my Rhode Island Reds were still laying eggs in the bitter cold. Granted, it wasn’t every day, but we were still getting eggs every other day from them.

Air Ventilation

This really seemed counter-intuitive to me. What do you mean, they need good air ventilation? Won’t that mean heat loss?

Yes, ventilation means heat loss, but most importantly, it also means that the humidity from their poop has a place to go. The moisture in the air is more detrimental than any heat loss that they might have from the air transfer with the outside.

Please note, this does not mean that drafts are OK. Ventilation is very different than drafts.

Supplemental Light

Those that support supplemental light say that chickens will lay more during the short days in the Winter. This is, somewhat, true.

The other side of the argument is that chickens should be allowed the time to recover from the stresses of egg production every now and then, and nature provides that natural break with the Winter months. Another reason for allowing chickens to reduce production in the Winter is that chickens only have so many eggs in them when hatched, and by forcing them to produce more during the Winter only reduces their laying lifetime.

I chose to go with nature’s plan.

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So You Want to be a Backyard Chicken Rancher

Yes, when people ask me what I do, I say that I am a rancher. I used to say I am a carpenter, because I don’t like to try to explain to everyone what I really do for a living.

Anyway, last year, my wife, referred to as “The Wife,” decided she wanted chickens. Since she really didn’t know if she could commit to keeping chickens, she made a deal to lease them for the season. This post is all about what we have spent and what we have gotten back.

Initial Cost: $450, which included a coop, two chickens, a bag of feed, and a bag of wood shavings , a bag of oyster shell, and a bag of grit.

Status: Two chickens, about 4 dozen eggs a month.

Next Purchases: $150. We decided that we really liked chickens and bought another small coop and two more chickens.

Status: Four chickens, and about 8 dozen eggs a month.

Chickens

Buying out the Lease: $40. We decided that we liked the first two chickens and didn’t want to give them back, so we bought out the lease for them. We did have to return the original coop, though.

New, Larger Coop: $300. At this point, we had four chickens, and decided that we needed a larger coop, so off we went to Murdoch’s.

Winterization: $400 or so. We built up a nice run with a heated waterer, sand for the base, hardware fabric all around, plastic roof panels, and plastic sheeting to provide more snow and wind protection.

First Chicken Loss: We had one of birds killed by a friend’s dog. It was a tough time, but we just kept reminding ourselves that it was just a chicken, and we expected to lose one over the first year to area hawks, foxes, or raccoons.

Status: Three chickens, and really slow production for them of about 2 dozen a month.

New Chicks: $65. I decided that it was Winter, and that if we started some new chicks, they would be mature early in the Spring, and we would get full production from them. I ordered three Easter Egger pullets (sexed by the hatchery). Wow, it was fun and we learned a great deal. One ended up being a rooster, so he was sent off to the farm.

Second Chicken Loss: A neighborhood dog got into the back yard and killed one of my new EE girls and wounded two of my other three chickens.

Status: Four chickens, one not laying yet. Still cold weather. About 2 dozen a month.

Fencing: $400. Thanks to the neighborhood dog, we had to raise the fence where it jumped over.

New Hens: $40. We bought two more hens from another chicken keeper that are about a year and a half old, and are semi-laying. The weather is warming up, and so is production.

Status: Six chickens and about 10 dozen eggs a month.

SUMMARY

TOTAL COST: $2,090 or so (I added the cost of feed and other consumables to the other costs)

TOTAL EGGS: Approx 850

Cost per Egg About $2.45, Cost per dozen $29.40

In all fairness, there are some very unusual costs involved in our case, and now that everything is all built up for the six birds, the only real cost that we have now is feed and some other consumables, which I estimate to be about $15 a month, so our future expectations would be a cost per egg for this coming season of about $2.50 per dozen.

We have loved every minute of owning chickens, and are very glad that we did it.

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Writers of the Constitution and its Amendments did not Predict Semi-Automatic and Automatic Guns

The argument goes like this: The Founding Fathers did not know that we would have such powerful guns available to private citizens, and that means that they should be more highly regulated, or the Second Amendment should be changed.

It drives me crazy that people forget the whole purpose for the Second Amendment which is to ensure that the citizens of this country would not become subjects of a tyrannical Government and would have the ability to protect themselves from that Government.

I keep hearing absolutely ridiculous statements like:

  • The Second Amendment was about muskets. People should only be able to get muskets.
  • They had horses and carriages back then, and never envisioned a highway system with cars, and it is just like that with guns.
  • The Government would never trample our rights like what happens in many other nations.

The real gist of the argument is that times have changed, considerably, and the Second Amendment should be changed because it doesn’t apply anymore. Of course, that doesn’t work, but they are grasping at straws.

Of course, if you look at the different Amendments, particularly the Bill of Rights, it is easy to see how they have been valid even in changing times.

Some examples:

First Amendment: The authors didn’t think about social media and the ability of every citizen to be a journalist, yet, they are all still protected by the First Amendment.

Fourth Amendment: The authors didn’t think about the need to protect electronic data, yet that data is protected from unreasonable search and seizure under the fourth Amendment.

Sixth Amendment: The authors didn’t think about legal entities like corporations, yet those entities have similar rights when it comes to trials and legal counsel.

Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments: The authors didn’t think about LGBT rights, yet they are protected as well when it comes to the right to vote.

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Comparing Car and Gun Fatalities

A common statement lately is that guns cause as many deaths as cars. However, it is very misleading.

Think Progress, an incredibly biased organization (yes, both sides of the argument have biased sites) has made a big deal out of the statistics around these lost lives. Think Progress also put out a social media meme to try to make their point. They succeeded in that the vast majority of anti-gun rights advocates made it viral by posting it over and over again. The statistics came from the Violence Policy Center and their… ummm… lack of proper data. Smile

The gist of the discussion is that there are lots and lots of cars, and we see them all the time, and there are far fewer guns and we almost never see guns, yet they cause about the same number of deaths. They point out that there are more people that own cars than people that own guns, and that is right. However, they fail to note that half of US homes have guns.

For once, I actually applauded Mother Jones. They published three key stats for 2010:

  • Traffic Deaths: 32,885
  • All Gun Deaths: 31,672
  • Gun Suicides: 19,392 (this is one of the key stats that has been ignored way too often)

Of course, Mother Jones did not explain the stats very well, and they didn’t dig into them further. Nationally, about 2/3rds of gun deaths are suicides. That leaves about 12,280 non-suicides caused by guns.

There lots of stats that are missing, and they should also include how many of those gun deaths included:

  • 397: Number of people killed by guns used by Law Enforcement in 2010 ( to keep the stats in the same year)
  • 236: Number of justified homicides involving private citizens using guns in 2010
  • ???: Number of deaths involving gang violence. There are no solid stats on this number, but we have evidence from major cities that 30-80% of homicides are gang related.

Taking away those two numbers would give us 11,657. Of course, this number is a way off because other reporting factors around gang violence, but it gives us a better idea of the number of homicides. Notice that I said homicides.

The Real Numbers

If we are talking about accidental deaths and comparing cars to guns, then the numbers are really 35,369 to 505 for 2013.

Guns do not come close to cars when it comes to accidental deaths. Sorry, those are the facts.

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Striker vs. Hammer

Yet, another great question regarding which is better, a hammer or striker fired gun. In most cases, we are talking about hand guns.

Hammer

Hammer fired guns can be either:

  • Single Action Only
  • Double Action Only
  • Double Action/Single Action

When discussing single and double action, with hammer fired guns, we are talking about the actions of cocking the hammer and releasing the hammer. In a single action, the hammer must be cocked first, then the trigger is used to release the hammer. A 1911 is a perfect example of a single action hand gun. In a double action, the trigger is used to cock the hammer and release the hammer all in one trigger pull. This means that a double action has a longer trigger pull and it usually requires more strength to pull the trigger. There are many guns that use a double action/single action (DA/SA)

Hammer

Pro

  • The hammer is a very reliable way to drive the firing pin into the bullet’s primer and ignite it. It is a time-proven method.
  • Usually have thumb safety devices that must be manually enabled and disabled. This makes them safer, in some minds, than other guns that do not have a manual safety device.
  • A single action gun will usually have a much lighter and shorter trigger pull.

Con

  • Single action hammer fired guns must be cocked before they can be fired, and to be effective as defensive guns, they must be carried in a cocked and locked position.
  • Usually have safety devices that must be manually enabled and disabled. The step of disabling the thumb safety can be challenging in a defensive situation when adrenaline is involved.
  • Double action guns usually have much heavier and longer trigger pulls.
  • DA/SA have two different trigger pulls, which requires the user to master two different trigger pulls if they want to be effective in its use.

Striker

Pro

  • Can include an external thumb safety.
  • Can include a grip safety.
  • Are available with trigger based safeties that do not require additional steps to use the gun in a defensive situation.
  • Triggers are are usually lighter and shorter than double action hammer fired guns.

Con

  • The triggers are usually heavier and longer than single action hammer fired guns.
  • The striker is not as reliable when it comes to igniting some bullets that have hard primers.
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Which 9mm Conceal Carry Gun Should I Buy?

This is another common question that I hear on a regular basis that doesn’t have a good answer. Everyone will have different needs and wants when it comes to a 9mm for personal defense. This quick discussion is just to cover conceal carry 9mm guns, not anything else.

 

So, here goes…

 

Step 1: Rent all of the different guns that you can so you can:

·         See how it fits your hand.

·         Test its trigger to see if you like it.

·         Test out its safety features.

·         Shoot it and see how you like its recoil and accuracy.

Step 2: Research the many different reviews done by professionals. By this, I mean, don’t just watch a bunch of YouTube videos and listen to every person that posts a video. Read the review by the reputable magazines and writers.

Step 3: Ask your friends if they have any input. It is amazing how many friends will tell you their opinions that are based on nothing but what they have heard via 3-10th hand, but you will get the occasional great bit of feedback.

Step 4: Weigh the costs/benefits of each. This is the fun part. You will likely find a couple of good options, and will need to make a tough decision. If you lots of money, then it isn’t an issue, but most of us have limited budgets.

Step 5: Buy it, and train with it on a regular basis.

 

The top contenders usually include the following:

 

Semi-Automatics

1911 – There are way too many smaller 9mm carry options to mention here.

CZ P07, 2075 Rami, Compact SDP

FN FNS-9 Compact

Glock 19, 26, 43

H&K P30SK, P200SK

Kahr CM9, CW9, MK9, P9, PM9

Kel-Tec P-11, PF-9

Ruger LC9, LCP

Sig Sauer P224, P250 Compact, P290RS, P320 Carry, P938

Smith & Wesson M&P9c, M&P Shield, SDe VDE

Springfield Arms XD, XDm, XDs

Taurus 809, PT111, 24/7

Walther CCP, P99c

 

Revolvers

Charter Arms Pitbull

Ruger LCR, SP101

Smith & Wesson 929

Taurus 905

 

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