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A farmer has found a crafty way to get his flock of 10,000 turkeys home safely each night – by teaching his sheep dogs to heard them

A farmer has found a crafty way to get his flock of 10,000 turkeys home safely each night – by teaching his sheepdogs to herd them.

Steve Childerhouse, 47, said his two border collies had a surprising “natural instinct” to round up the game birds, which are destined for British dinner tables this Christmas.

The ex-shepherd, who has worked in agriculture for 35 years, says canines Pip and Tilly can bring the feisty fowl to heel in 45 minutes at his award-winning Norfolk farm.

And despite the slightly unusual appearances, Steve says his well-trained sheepdogs view herding the festive birds as just another “job to do”.

He said: “We had the dogs for sheep, and obviously they’ve got that instinct to round up, so as soon as they see the turkeys, they do that as well.

“As they’re farm dogs, they know they’ve got a job to do.”

Steve said that when he began using rescue dogs Pip and Tilly, both five, to herd the turkeys at Whews Farm in Norfolk, they were initially a little “frightened”.

But after a few attempts, the hounds began to get to grips with the task of controlling the massive flock.

He said: “They were a bit intimidated by them, in a way.

“Tilly was a bit frightened of them. You sort of had to put a lead on her and drag her into them.

“But after a week or two, they got to know what they needed to do.”

The two border collies have their work cut out on Steve’s 35-acre estate as he uses “old-fashioned”, free-range methods to cultivate his birds.

During the day, the turkeys are allowed to roam through a mixture of woodland and grassland, where they enjoy a fairly “natural” existence.

But as evening draws in, Pip and Tilly have to guide the 10,000-strong flock into a large wooden barn where they’re safe from predators, under Steve’s watchful eye.

He said: “We’ve got a lot of woodlands, so they live naturally out there – as natural as we can have them, really – while keeping them secure from foxes.

“Previously, we had been shutting them in ourselves, but the border collies are very gentle at herding them.”

While his dogs can keep the large birds in check most of the time, Steve says there are occasions when the turkeys will gang up on Tilly and Pip.

He said: “There’s the odd time when you’ll be watching them, and the turkeys will be chasing the dog.

“It’s quite funny when you’re watching it. The older the turkeys get, the more they’ll stand up to them.

Though Steve’s methods may seem unorthodox, he says he’s not the only member of the farming community who has managed to train dogs to round up Turkeys.

He said: “We’re not the only people who use dogs – there are others. But for us, it’s just normal.”

It’s estimated that people across the UK will eat 10 million turkeys during the festive period.

The tradition of eating the large game birds, native to North America, is believed to stretch back to the reign of Henry VIII.

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