Early on I knew that I wanted to get my dogs comfortable with being around my chickens, but I also was well aware of their high prey drive. To most backyard flocks the number one predator is the domestic dog. Many experts will warn you that you can never fully trust your dog around your chickens. So how can you trust your dog not to kill your chickens?
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Historically, my dog Oscar had never been great around any type of small animal. When we lived in the city and took him for walks in the park he was always looking for something to chase. Rabbit, fox, it didn’t matter to him. In fact all three of my dogs ganged up together and killed a groundhog. Oscar was the worst out of them though. He once chased a deer, caught and tackled it to the ground! Luckily the deer got up and ran like the devil! So to say I was nervous about having my dogs around my chickens is an understatement.
During the late afternoon I usually let my girls out of the coop/run and put them in the large fenced in area I have for my dogs. The main reason for doing so was because I didn’t want the chickens wondering off into the road, my neighbors, etc. Honestly though the fencing is only four feet high and the birds can easily fly over, they have in fact many times.
Another issue we had was there had been a recent hawk attack on one of my birds when they were out in the fenced area. If I could acclimate my dogs to my chickens then it was quite possible the predators might not bother my girls with the dogs in sight.
The single most important step I did to start the dog/chicken relationship was to let my dogs be around my girls.
It’s almost like introducing a new chicken into your flock. While my girls were secure in the chicken run, my dogs were let out in the rear yard where they are located to get familiar with the them. It’s important to allow your dog to get to know the smells and sounds associated with the chickens. Although let me stop you here, if your dog lacks the basic training he or she should have you need to work on that first before introducing the dog to the chickens.
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If your dog starts to race back and forth along the fence of the chicken run, you need to stop this behavior. You don’t want your dog to become excited at any point when they are around your chickens. This is why having your dog be able to follow basic commands is important. You should be able to give your command word for the dog to stop.
After you feel as though your dog has been around the chickens through a fence and no longer seems interested in them, you can try to have the chickens and dogs out together while you have the dog leashed. Same routine as before, if the dog becomes excited and tries leaping at the chickens give your instruction to the dog to stop. Excitement can exist in different forms for different dogs so know what signals your dog is giving. A dog who is perfectly still and is intensely looking at the chickens is not something you want either.
Break the cycle of excitement.
The goal each time is to get your dog less excited about chickens. You want him/her to be bored with them. Eventually you’ll be able to move on and have your dog and chickens out together supervised. Sometimes your dog may need to be redirected and that’s o.k. Teaching your dog certain behaviors is not acceptable will lead to success in training him/her with chickens.
To this day I know that if my girls are out taking a dust bath on the ground, it excites my dog. I yell his name and say no and he listens, period. The relief I have in knowing my dogs and chickens can coexist makes it all worth it. Worrying about having your chickens and dogs in separate spaces creates unnecessary anxiety for yourself. I have enough predators to worry about killing my chickens, I don’t want my dogs to be one of them.
Read about on about raising guinea hens and chickens together…