‘Turkey dogs’ help round up Christmas poultry

'Flo' the turkey dog rounding up turkeys at Great Grove Poultry, in Caston. Pic by Maurice Gray

'Flo' the turkey dog rounding up turkeys at Great Grove Poultry, in Caston. Pic by Maurice Gray

Copyright Maurice Gray

It’s not quite their usual flock... but two border collies have instinctively done their bit for Norfolk’s Christmas dinners by taking on seasonal jobs as “turkey dogs”.

Nine-year-old Flo and six-year-old rescue dog Meg have become an integral part of the winter workforce at Great Grove Poultry in Caston, near Watton.

The family-run farm produces about 9,000 free-range turkeys, which are prepared and sold to meet the Christmas demand from butchers and private customers.

Owner Steve Childerhouse said the job of rounding-up the birds from the fields in time to meet their festive destiny has been made much easier with the help of his two loyal sheepdogs.

“The collies have that instinct to round things up,” he said. “It is just in their nature, and they would never hurt anything. When we walk the turkeys down the yard to be slaughtered, the dogs treat them like sheep. It is quite funny. They do it with the geese too, and after Christmas they don’t know what to do with themselves.

“They are trained for sheep and they are so loyal to you, so they try to help.

“We bring the birds down in groups of 150 or 200, and having the dogs is like having an extra two people. It is probably a two or three-person job, but with the dogs I can do it on my own, so it does save on labour. I don’t know anyone else who uses collies like this, but they are really good for the job.”

Mr Childerhouse said the farm’s poultry is raised outdoors “the traditional way” and grown to full maturity before the birds are processed and packed with the help of a 40-strong team of workers, due to arrive on Saturday.

“They have all got to be oven-ready in a week, so it is quite a busy period for us,” he said. “There is this big and very definite deadline, so we’re under a lot of pressure.”

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