Dogs and Poultry Part 1 - Dog Meets Chicken

I've kept chickens for 4 years and, up until recently, also kept turkeys. These days I have a small flock of 8 chickens. The following shares my experiences with introducing your dog to poultry. If you are raising poultry from eggs or chicks and haven't yet established how trustworthy your dog is around young poultry, I recommend keeping the brooder in a room that your dog does not have access to. Young poultry smell amazing, are small, fluffy and make peeping/squeaking sounds that closely resemble a lot of dog toys. For the first time anyway, I recommend making the introduction once the birds are big enough to be outside in the coop.

 

Part 1 - Dog Meets Chicken

Introducing your dog to your chickens (or other poultry) can be a peaceful, or nail-biting event. I've had one of each. When Teddy joined the family, I'd already kept chickens for a year. I completely lucked out - he had no interest in them whatsoever! As a result, the chickens wandered freely around the property in tandem with Teddy. As far as he was concerned they were boring and wanted nothing to do with them. 

Then D'Art joined the family and it was the first time I'd ever seen a dog 'point' in real life (not just in a photo of a British country living magazine). By this time, the birds had a dedicated poultry yard (I got fed up of them pooping on the deck), so no intermingling occurred. Nevertheless D'Art wanted to spend his waking hours pointing through the fence, drool dripping down his jowls. It was very clear what would happen if the two were to cross paths!

This leads me to the first suggestion - introduce your dog to poultry with the dog on a leash and the poultry behind a secure fence. Do this a few times, even if the dog shows no interest on the first go. Sometimes the dog shows no interest but as soon as a chicken runs/squawks/flies, the dog changes its tune. Practice introducing with leash and fence a few times before letting the dog outside unobserved around the poultry. If, like D'Art, your dog displays prey drive, then you'll have a bit more work to do.
 
Because D'Art displayed prey drive, he and I 'introduced' him to the poultry many, many times while he was on leash. I wouldn't let him outside unobserved, because he would just stand at the fence and undo any positive training we had worked on prior. 

The training basically consisted of two goals:
#1. Get the dog to refocus his energy on the human, rather than the poultry.
#2. Teach the dog that the poultry are a resource that belongs to the human, not the dog.

Addressing goal#1 consisted of rewarding D'Art for giving me his attention, even when we were standing right beside a delicious looking chicken. Every time he would look at me, or complete a command I asked of him, he was rewarded. Over time, I got all his attention and the chickens got none. Eventually, I let the poultry out of their yard, keeping D'Art on leash and allowing him in closer proximity while continuing the training exercises. The last step, once I was really confident that he'd behave himself, was to let everyone intermingle unleashed/unfenced (but not unobserved).

Meanwhile....addressing goal #2 consisted of me demonstrating that the chickens were my resource. I would hold a chicken and hand feed her in front of D'Art. If he advanced towards her, I would use a verbal command to indicate that the chicken was mine and not his, similar to how you would train a dog not to help himself to your breakfast. In tandem with this I demonstrated that I cared for the chicken, the chicken was a "good girl" and seemingly part of the family.

We worked religiously on this for a few months and I'm happy to say he can now be trusted to leave them alone, even when they escape their yard and I'm not outside to watch over everyone.




Of course, I feel obligated to add that if your dog never really gets over his/her prey drive and cannot be completely trusted around poultry then don't take any chances. Having your chicken killed by your dog is an upsetting experience on multiple levels and should be prevented if at all possible. If this is the case, then I recommend keeping your birds well away from the dog's territory so he/she doesn't spend all day stalking them through the fence.

How about you? Do you have any tips for introducing dogs to poultry?

Comments

  1. Sounds like your doing a great job with the introductions. I fear that if I tried that with my dog it would not work out so well.

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  2. I have only seen baby chicks at the store. Everyone knows that I love chickyum and are shocked when they know that I have walked around a farm with a lot of chickens. I like chickens. They walk funny. BOL!

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