Introducing a chicken to the family can be an exciting and nervous time for you and the other pets that inhabit your house and garden –dogs, cats, and other chickens. Sometimes a little care and planning may be required to ensure a smooth transition.
While chickens are a fairly low maintenance pet there are some things that you should keep in mind when purchasing them and bringing them home.
Chickens and Dogs
Even the most placid of dogs can still have a prey drive so it’s important to first introduce chickens to dogs in a controlled and safe environment before introducing the dogs to a moving bird/s outside. A chicken running and flapping its wings is too much of a temptation for even a usually calm dog.
You should make sure your dog and chickens have a positive experience, reward your dog with treats for calm and gentle behaviour. It’s important to remain calm yourself, animals can sense when you are tense or anxious and this may affect how they react.
Dogs may react in a number of ways to the introduction to new chickens. They may be excited, nervous, aggressive, calm, passive, anxious, frightened or a combination of these.
The introduction process
Most likely your dog will be extremely excited around the new and interesting feathered creatures so proper introduction over a period of time needs to take place to ensure they are calm around the new additions.
Introduce them first through a fence or a physical barrier. Reward your dog every time they are calm and relaxed around the chickens. This helps your dog get used to the sound, smell, sight and movements of the chickens.
Repeat these sessions, if you are satisfied that your dog can be calm and passive around the chickens you can then move into having the dog around the chickens without the barrier, still with you present and with you controlling the dog with a harness and lead.
Repeat this scenario over a series of sessions (may be over a few weeks), you may lead the dog through the chickens and reward them with their favourite treat when they ignore the chickens and are calm around the chickens.
Once satisfied that your dog is not overly interested in chasing the chickens and is calm around the chickens you may then consider letting the dog be around your chickens without having them on a lead –but still with your supervision.
Some Dog breeds may be more Appropriate
All dogs will react differently, let’s not forget that different breeds have been bred for different purposes, many have been bred for hunting and still have a high prey drive. This means you just have to take extra care to make your dog will get on with your chickens, and don’t leave them unsupervised if you have any doubts about their compatibility.
Some dog breeds maybe better suited to life around chickens, however remember that any dog breed has the potential to be dangerous around chickens, all dog breeds require caution when being introduced to smaller animals.
Dogs can actually end up being a good flock guard and ward off predators. Many egg producers still use dogs as flock guards to protect their chickens from foxes, birds and other predators. Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds such as the Maremma are a popular choice; they have been selectively bred over hundreds of years to naturally bond with livestock (such as chickens) and protect them.
Hunting, herding or other working breeds may be more inclined to chase or attack smaller prey animals such as chickens. Traditionally gun dogs such as Setters, Retrievers, Pointers etc., have been bred to help hunt and retrieve game birds for their human owners. So they’re natural instinct may not necessarily be to get along with feathered friends. Though with the right introduction they may be fine, just take care when introducing them.
Herding breeds such as border collies, healers, kelpies etc. have been bred to herd livestock, so while they may not necessarily attack the birds they may stress them out by herding them around the backyard. So keep an eye out for any herding behaviour that may stress the birds.
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