Growing numbers of people are deciding to keep chickens in their back yards and gardens, but with that comes a lot of responsibility. One aspect that is often overlooked though, is just how well dogs get on with chickens and whether they can live together in harmony.
Of course, some dogs can be friends with chickens, but you’re still dealing with animal instincts to hunt prey and eat meat… meaning it’s not always as simple as letting both animals live in close proximity to each other.
In this helpful guide I aim to explain to you whether dogs get along with chickens, what breeds are best, and how to take steps to ensure that your dog does not kill your birds.
Can chickens and dogs live together?
You can keep chickens if you have a dog, and in fact it’s extremely popular and plenty of people do it. Having said that, I would not recommend you have dogs running free when chickens are walking about free range, as this increase the risk of a problem.
But to press the point home; have you ever known of a farm that doesn’t have a dog and chickens in it? No, exactly, so humankind has been keeping chickens and dogs together since the beginning of time.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy and there won’t be a chance of your dog killing your chickens and other problems arising.
Will my dog kill my chickens?
The bottom line is, any dog has the potential to kill your chickens. Dogs that are poorly trained or have behavioral issues can quickly turn, and certain breeds are more prone to having a high prey drive compared to others (more on those breeds lower down).
But even a dog that has been trained to look after chickens or one that has no history of aggression or chasing can kill without warning. You can never trust any dog to not show aggression, even the most well-mannered ones.
Now the thing is, most dogs won’t actually try and kill your chickens. A death of one of your birds will typically happen due to the chase, as chickens can break their necks trying to escape.
Some will even die of heart attacks during a dog chase… and they won’t always die at the time. Often the dog chase will affect the chicken or hen so badly that it will be days until the ramifications become clear.
Ultimately though, all dogs are different and have varying temperaments so there’s no hard and fast rule on why dogs kill chickens and how safe your birds will be.
Handy Hint: I’ve also written a guide which explains how you train your dog to stop attacking chickens and killing them.
Why do dogs kill chickens?
As touched on already, dogs can kill chickens completely by accident during the thrill and excitement of the chase. But others will kill chickens by biting them, and possibly even eating them.
Having said, it’s quite rare for dogs to eat chickens after a chase or kill, as the majority of dogs kill chickens during the process of having fun.
It’s important to remember that the prey chasing instinct is something that your dog can’t help. Because of this, it’s completely down to you to make sure that your chickens are safe from your dog – more on how to do that lower down the page.
Handy Hint: Did you know that dogs can actually get sick from being in close contact with live chickens? It’s not common, but there are ways you can reduce the risk of sickness.
What dog breeds are good with chickens?
Certain dog breeds are said to better at being friends with chickens. Below are the dog breeds that are good with chickens according to various websites I’ve read.
The common denominator with these chicken-friendly breeds is that they are all said to have low prey drives.
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Bichon Frise
- Boxer Dog
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Japanese Chin
- Great Pyrenees
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Old English Sheepdog
- Pyrenean Mastiff
- Tibetan Mastiff
The ones I have highlighted in bold above are also said to be good livestock guard dogs, so will help to protect your chickens from predators such as coyotes, foxes, rodents, and snakes.
What dog breeds don’t get along with chickens?
Then there are the dogs that are more likely to kill chickens and would certainly make unlikely friends with your pet poultry. The breeds listed below have high prey drives and are known to have deep hunting instincts.
- Italian Greyhound
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Rat Terrier
- Siberian Husky
- West Highland Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
How do I introduce my dog to my chickens?
If you do decide to get chickens, you should be really careful about the introductions. Dogs do get on with chickens, but the boundaries need to be set – most of which will be helped by the way you get them used to each other.
Handy Hint: You should make sure you keep the area clean at all times, as chicken poop can be bad for dogs when eaten if you have sick birds.
Here are some quick tips on introducing a dog to chickens:
- Take it very slowly: Don’t rush and choose the time perfectly. Ideally you should do it after your dog has had exercise and a meal, as this could put them in a more relaxed state.
- Keep them apart: Your dog should be on a leash and your chickens should be in their coop, pen or run with a physical barrier between each animal. They need to be able to see each other but not touch each other.
- Walk your dog around the fence: Let your dog get used to the movement and smell of the chickens.
- Watch your dog’s body language: Dogs will often give little clues if they are going to chase. Look for changes in stance, fixed stare, hackles, and stiffening of the body.
How to keep chickens safe from dogs
There are many different reasons why dogs will chase and ultimately kill chickens. Some of it as I’ve explained is down to wanting to have fun and chasing as a natural instinct. Here’s ways you can curb your dog’s in-built behaviors, reduce risk, and increase the chances of your dog and chickens getting along.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended with chickens and off the leash.
- Keep your dog fed on a routine so he doesn’t get hungry and want to eat a chicken.
- Keep your dog entertained and exercised so he doesn’t get bored and chase the chickens. This will also help to reduce your dog’s prey drive.
- Practice and use obedience training such as “leave it”. It’s also useful to have a distraction method such as a high-pitched whistle or fun toy they love.
- Use buried or apron fencing on your chicken coop as dogs can dig under barriers and wire.
- Use heavy gauge hardware cloth instead of chicken wire as it’s harder for dogs to tear through.
- Make sure the fencing is high enough for your dog to not jump over to gain access to the chicken run.
- Don’t let chickens wander free range when your dog is also out.
- Keep your chickens in their area, as this can also stop the spread of disease between the two species.
Some dogs do get on with chickens, but the reality is that no dog should ever be left unattended and unleashed in the company of poultry. The chickens should always be in their coop, run, or pen when dogs are around, as you cannot legislate for natural instincts.
If you are planning on buying chickens, reduce the chance of your dog killing and eating them by erecting strong and secure fences and keeping an eye on your dog at all times.
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I’ve written extensively about the way in which dogs react in certain situations regarding other animals and insects. Here’s a short selection you might enjoy reading.