Typically, if an untrained, hungry canine and a chicken come within a mile of each other, guess who’s for dinner?
But, that is not an option on our farm! We lost 9 out of 11 chickens from our very first flock to a no good stray dog. Very hard lesson learned. So, our dogs have since become chicken proof.
Here’s how we did it!
Our dog, Willie
Description: 75lb. Full German Shepherd, very smart, medium alpha-personality, medium-high prey drive, high energy, loves to play, & a wanna-be bird dog. If it runs, bounces, or waddles, he’s after it!
Chicken proofing tools–
Gracie & Pepsi, our other 2 chicken friendly dogs
A whole ‘lotta patience
So, let me first begin by saying that my hubby and I are not dog trainers. We’ve both been around dogs all of our lives, but this does not make us experts. We just used common sense about animal behavior, and really, most of the credit goes to our other dogs, who were already chicken proof! A big shout out to our chickens, too, who are pretty much dog proof. It takes a village, people!
Your dog may need more or less time then Willie. This is how we chicken proofed him.
The training with Willie started immediately after we adopted him, which began with on-leash training.
First, it is crucial that your dog respects you as the pack leader & follows your commands well. This was really important for Willie, because of his personality traits and medium-high prey drive.
If the chickens were free ranging, Tom & Willie (on a leash) would sit on the outskirts of the flock, just to get him used to seeing the birds. Talk about one excited pup! Our other two dogs were usually walking off leash in and around the flock, showing Willie how it’s done! If Willie started to get too excited, we would calmly talk to him. We sat at the edge of the flock with him for several days in a row until he finally got bored of watching them! Success #1! Go Willie!
On a leash, and as the chickens were free ranging, we walked Willie in and around the flock. Gracie & Pepsi were also walking around the chickens, minding their own business. Willie was being integrated into the flock, very calmly, but with firm reminders to keep his attention on us when he got excited. We did this for several days.
Off leash time. The true test! Willie leaps and bounds everywhere! There is nothing unenthusiastic about our crazy pup. Even if he had gotten over the novelty of the chickens, the hope of him calmly walking through and around them was only a dream, at this point. We let him off the leash, and leaping around the pasture he went. We spent a lot of time talking him down from his excitement, and redirecting his attention, but the day resulted in no birds being harmed!
Over the next few days, he spent mainly off leash around the chickens, but closely monitored by us. He got excited a couple times and chased a bird or two, but he also kept running after he leaped over the birds. After two weeks of on & off leash training, we could confidently say he was not a threat to our birds! Whew! Crisis averted!
Key points for you and your dog:
1- Start your training slowly. Let your dog observe the chickens, preferably on a leash, until he or she can remain consistently calm. This will help the chickens, too!
2-Give your dog positive reinforcement, remain calm, and firm.
3-If your dog continues to act overly-interested or aggressive to the chickens, or is not paying attention to you, your dog is not ready to be off leash around them. Safety first!
4-If possible, include another dog in your dogs training that is reliably chicken proof.
5-Keep an eye and a feel on your dog’s reaction to the birds during all phases of training.
5-Patience grasshopper! Give your dog time to adjust to this new way of being. If he or she is showing signs of positive progression, keep going!
6-There are some dogs that should not interact with chickens, including certain breeds of dogs. But, I think the make it or break it points are truly your dog’s personality & training. Dogs who lack basic obedience training and/or do not respect you, and particular personality traits (aggressive, overly possessive, poor listener) most likely will end up in a disastrous situation with another prey animal.
At first glance, Willie probably doesn’t look like a chicken friendly pup. But, with some time, patience, and firm training, he now “free ranges” the farm with the chickens, and we don’t have to worry.
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“Our dogs are our best reflections of our state of being. It isn’t until we can bring ourselves to where we need to be that we will ever get our dogs to follow. Turn off your mind and heart, listen to your instinct instead, and then you will become the Pack Leader that your dog needs you to be.” –Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer