Friday, April 20, 2012

Dogs and Chickens

When making the decision to buy and raise chickens, not once did I take into consideration what Beckman's "opinion" might be of the whole situation.  From the first day we brought home our chicks, we made it very clear to him that they were part of our family, or in his case pack, and that they were in no way, shape or form here for his consumption. So when I posted the pictures of Beckman having his first official face to face with the chicks, I was surprised by how many people were interested in knowing more about how he acted, some even expressing concerns about their own dogs interactions, many ending in the death of one or more of their chickens.  I realized that maybe we weren't the norm here and then wondered how many people struggled with their chickens and dogs coexisting.  While I am not a dog trainer or an expert in chicken-dog socialization, I thought I would share some helpful hints that I found on that may help some achieve harmony in their animal world.

    • 1

      Create a safe home for your hens.

      Build a secure coop and an enclosed outdoor run for the chickens, which is important before you introduce your family dog to them. Simple chicken coop plans are available online at You can also purchase a coop from a feed store or the website Henspa (See Resources below).
    • 2
      Make it clear to the dog that you like the chickens and they are part of the family; this is key to training a dog to live with chickens. On the first day of the introduction, release your chickens into their secure run. Then, put your dog on a short lead and walk him over to the run area. Allow your dog to sniff around the coop and enclosed run and to investigate the chickens through the fencing. If your dog lunges or barks at the chicken, reprimand him with a firm "No." Repeat this step twice a day for three to five days.
    • 3

      Doggie TV

      Allow the dog to investigate the chickens (still safely enclosed in their run) off leash. Supervise the dog closely and do not allow her to bark, growl or lunge at the birds. Praise the dog profusely when she acts calmly around the birds and give her a treat (or two). Repeat this step twice a day for an additional three to five days, or until the dog displays consistent calm behavior around the chickens.
    • 4
      After a week to ten days of separated introduction, it is time to allow your dog to get up close and personal with your chickens. Invite a spouse, family member or neighbor to help with this step. Put your dog on a short lead and take him out to the coop. Have another person hold the dog while you pick up a chicken. Pet and talk to the chicken in calm, gentle tones for a few minutes while your dog observes.
    • 5
      Using a calm voice, invite your leashed dog to approach the chicken and sniff the bird while you are holding it. Again, do not allow the dog to act aggressively towards the chicken (and be prepared to move if he does so). Heap praise on your dog and give him a treat if he investigates the bird gently. Then, walk a few feet away from the dog, put the chicken down and let your dog observe the bird wander around the yard for 5 minutes or so. Repeat this leashed interaction twice a day for 5 days or until the dog displays consistent calm behavior around the chickens.
    • 6

      Once you feel confident that your dog understands you love the chickens (and her), you can try letting the dog interact with the chickens off leash. Stay close to your dog and keep a leash handy. Praise the dog for interacting positively with the chickens and pet her occasionally so she doesn't feel jealous. If the dog aggressively approaches or barks at a chicken, reprimand her with a firm "No." Repeat these supervised encounters daily until you feel comfortable leaving the dog and chickens out together unattended.

Read more: How to Introduce a Dog to Pet Chickens |

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