Can you Keep Chickens with Dogs?

Dogs have been said to be man’s best friend and chickens are the cheapest provider of proteins to humanity. Dogs will offer companionship, protect people and their properties. Chickens are not only great companions but also provide eggs and meat. Can you keep chickens with dogs? 

We have heard horrifying encounters between dogs and chickens. A neighbors dog enters a property and kills as many chickens as it can. It does not eat them, just kill and move to the next one. As if doing it for fun. 

You might also leave the pet dog that you have had for years with the chickens. As you focus on other tasks in your yard, you hear noises. You rush to the chicken run. Your dog has broken through the fence and has killed several chickens. Why did the dog attach the chickens?

Can you keep chickens with dogs? While dogs can attack chickens leaving them with wounds that need surgery or even killing them, dogs can coexist. It all boils down to dog breed selection and training. Some dog breeds cannot live with chickens. Dog breeds that can be kept with chickens. They will not only be good companions but herd the chickens and protect them from predators. 

How dogs behave around other animals

The first thing is to understand how dogs behave around other animals. Dog are relatives to wild dogs, hyenas, foxes, and wolves. In the wild, these animals perceive other animals as either prey or fellow predator. However domesticated dogs perceive animals differently. 

Domesticated dogs perceive human beings differently. They will perceive their owners as friends and masters. After all, they get their daily meal from their keepers. Dogs perceive strangers as a threat. If they have been trained to attack they will. At least they will bark. 

Dogs also perceive other animals differently from their wild cousins. Dogs and their wild relatives have what is called prey drive. It is the instinct to chase, kill and capture animals they think are prey. Dogs have been bred over the ages to deal with prey drive differently. Some dog breeds have higher prey drives than others. 

Dogs with high prey drives were bred for hunting and attacking intruders. If you keep these ones around chickens, they will definitely attack and kill them. 

Some dogs breeds with high prey drive might behave well around for a while around your chickens, but rest assured that their natural instinct will overwhelm them someday. They will attack your chickens. They can’t just help it. It is who they are. 

Why do dogs attack and kill chickens?

Dogs will attack chickens because of their natural prey instincts. But why not attack donkeys or horses? Chickens are smaller than most dog breeds. Dogs are wise and will only attack animals they think they can overpower. Unfortunately, chickens are candidates for domestic dog attacks. 

Some dogs will not attack chickens so as to kill them. They will just want to play. A little chase and run won’t hurt. But chickens are fragile and as they run away scared, they might be fatally injured or experience a heart attack. 

Dogs will also kill chickens for sport. They will attack chickens, not to have them as a meal, but just to kill them for the sake of it. When the chicken stops moving, they stop and move on to the next one.  In such situations, you will find many chickens dead from dog bites. The chickens will have all their body parts intact. 

It is not all doom and gloom when it comes to chickens and dogs. Carefully selected and trained dogs can live amicably with chickens. The first task when deciding to get a dog to stay alongside your chickens is breed selection.

Can you keep chickens with dogs?
Dog Watching Over Chickens

Picking a dog breed for your chickens. 

The first task when deciding to get a dog to stay alongside your chickens is breed selection. 

Dog Breeds that will kill your chickens. 

Some dog breeds cannot help but attack your chickens or any smaller animal around them. These have higher predator instincts. It is intuitive that these dogs cannot be let freely near your chickens. Apart from killing your chickens, they will scare them. Scared chickens are not that productive. 

The dog breeds that will definitely kill your chickens include:-  

  1. Greyhounds
  2. Huskies
  3. Weimaraners
  4. Jack Russell Terriers
  5. Pitbull
  6. German Shephard
  7. Rottweiler
  8. Border Collie
  9. Whippet
  10. Yorkshire Terrier

Dog Breeds that won’t kill your chickens. 

Not all dogs kill chickens Dog breeds that will not kill your chickens have low prey drives. They have been bred to stay around livestock. They will not only be friendly to your chickens but will also hear and protect them. 

The dog breeds that will not kill your chickens and are safe to keep around chickens include:-

  1. Collies
  2. Great Pyrenees
  3. Komondors
  4. Anatolian Shepherds
  5. Kuvasz
  6. Japanese Chin
  7. Maltese
  8. Pyrenean mastiff
  9. Maremma sheepdog
  10. Akbash
  11. Old English Sheepdog
  12. Kangal

How to introduce dogs and chickens

Introducing dogs to chickens involves three parties, the keeper, the dog, and the chickens. The dogs and chickens are complete strangers. They only trust their keeper, you, to keep them safe and do right by them. 

Selecting a dog breed that will get along with your chickens is not enough. The do needs to be trained to obey the keeper. It should obey simple commands like stop and sit. The dog should have been trained to respond to praises and reprimands. Good dog, bad dog. 

The keeper, who is introducing the dog to the chickens should be patient. This is not a blind date. The chickens and dog will not kick it off after the first encounter. It is a process that involves carefully observing the dog and chickens. How they respond to each other. Introducing dogs to chickens will take weeks. 

Dogs interact with the outside world through smell. They have a strong sense of smell. This is how they are able to differentiate their keeper and close family members from strangers. It will be the same for chickens. 

Please note that the initial interactions should be short. Each step should be done for several days until you are sure the dog and chickens have comfortably met the objectives of that step. 

Another important point to note is that the dog should have been fed before the sessions. A hungry dog will not focus on the sessions, but hunger pangs. It is possible if it is hungry it might make a meal of your chickens. 

The steps for introducing chickens to dogs include:-

  1. Familiarization with chickens in the coop
  2. Familiarization with chickens in the run
  3. Dog on leash interacting with a few chickens
  4. Dog on leash interacting with all the chickens
  5. Unleashed dog, interacting with chickens with supervision
  6. Unleashed dog interacting with chickens without supervision. 

Step 1: Familiarization with chickens in the coop.

The first step when introducing a dog to chickens is getting it near the coop, with the chickens inside. 

The coop does not need to be open for the dog to know there is something inside. Chickens can detect threats without having to see them, hence they will know that there is something that they are not used to close by. 

If the dog shows aggressiveness, command it to stop and sit. If it behaves, shower it with praises and if possible give it treats. Listen also to the chickens. If they make predator warning noises, then they are scared. The chickens will get used to the presence of the do with time. 

Repeat this process the dog behaves well near the coop and the chickens don’t seem to be bothered. 

Step 2: Familiarization with chickens in the run.

After the introduction outside the coop, it is time to introduce the chickens and dogs where they can see each other. This is not to be able to tell if it is love at first but to see the reaction of your dog to moving chickens. Most dogs like chasing anything that moves. 

This will also be an opportunity to see how your chickens react when they see the dog. 

This should be done first from a distance. The first day it should be from around 100 feet. If they seem to be comfortable, then reduce the distance each day by 30 feet. 

If the dog shows aggressiveness or the urge to chase, command it to stop and sit. If it seems okay, then give it a treat and tell it how awesome it is. 

Step 3: Dog on leash interacting with a few chickens.

Step 3 of introducing the dog to chickens is the face-to-face meeting. It is recommended to introduce the dog to a few chickens first. While the dog is still on leash and probably muzzled, let it get close to the chickens. 

Hold one of the chickens. The dog will see that the human it trusts is trusted by the chickens and the chickens trust them. The chickens will also notice the trust between the dog and the human. Talk of transfer of trust. 

Remember to repeat the reward and reprimand activities, depending on the outcome of this interaction. This time give the treats not just to the dogs, but also to the chickens. 

Step 4: Dog on leash interacting with all the chickens.

If all is well up to this point, the next step is having the dog, on leash and unmuzzled to interact with all the chickens. This way you will notice how the dog will behave with many chickens, as an increase in the number of chickens can be stressful. 

Again, repeat the reprimand and reward system. 

Step 5: Unleashed dog, interacting with chickens with supervision.

The next step is unleashing the dog to the chickens albeit with supervision. Observe the interactions. Reward and reprimand where applicable. 

Step 6: Unleashed dog interacting with chickens without supervision.

If step 5 above has been successful, it is time for the rubber to meet the road. I mean the dog to be with the chickens, unsupervised.

This step should start with short unsupervised sessions per day. The dog with chicken sessions should be increased as days go by and as they meet the objectives of amicably staying together.

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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