Raising chickens in close proximity to dogs will come with some challenges. Many dogs, and specific breeds in particular, will try to attack chickens. It is not uncommon for family dogs to attack and kill chickens from time to time – sometimes by accidents, or even deliberately.
Thankfully, regardless of whether you are thinking about buying chickens or are the current owner of a brood, training your dog to leave the chickens alone can be achieved; sometimes.
You will need patience, hours of practice, and a willingness to try various methods to prevent your dog attacking the chickens, rather than just trying to make behavioral changes.
How to stop a dog from killing chickens
Having spoken to owners of both animals, I believe the following is the best way to stop a dog from killing chickens.
If you are introducing your dogs to chickens for the first time, make sure to securely leash them to a post or fence in your yard. From here, you can pick up a chicken (make sure you are holding it firmly) and take it over towards your dog.
If your dog begins to frantically pull and jump towards you, trying to attack the chicken, back away a few steps, and wait for them to calm down. Once they are more relaxed, approach them again and bring the chicken a little closer.
Before we continue, it is important to note that you should stop if this method is stressful for both your dog and the chicken and try again later.
However, if all goes well, begin repeating the command “leave it” and gently push your pooch away whenever they show too much interest in the chicken. Likewise, reward your pooch with treats when their attention is on you instead of the hen.
Over several days, you can try this method several times, gradually bringing the bird a little closer and continuing to repeat the command “leave it” if your pup shows too much interest in the bird.
In time, this could mean that you have managed to stop your dog from attacking the chickens. It isn’t foolproof… dogs have an in-built prey drive (some high, some low).
But this method is a great way to get new dogs and puppies familiarized with chickens and after some time you can try allowing your dog to roam in an area of the yard on a long leash.
After leashing your dog, make sure the chickens have enough room to escape and encourage them to run – this will likely trigger your dog’s instinct to chase.
If your dog tries to chase, remain patient, approach or cut off your pup’s flight, and take them back to their original spot, gently but firmly rebuking them with a “leave it” command.
Repeat this exercise several times over a few weeks and reward them when they no longer give chase or when they listen and respond to your command “leave it”.
Finally, if you feel confident in your dog’s new-found ability to stop attacking and trying to kill the chickens, try walking them on a long leash around your chickens.
If you notice that they do not react or show any interest, allow them off the lead (always ensuring the chickens have a place they can escape to).
Stay close to your dog and watch them for any signs of aggression or chase instinct. If they begin running, do not punish or scold them, instead put them back on the leash. With time, they should lose interest in the chickens entirely and be trusted enough to roam around the yard without any incidents.
In the case of dogs who have already killed multiple chickens, teaching them the stop and pull method can go a long way in curbing their behavior.
Similar to the previous method, you will have to put your dog on a leash first, preferably using a harness if you have one available. Next, check that your chickens are locked up in their coop safely, and then approach it slowly with your dog still on the leash.
If your dog tries to lunge or pull you towards the chickens or begins to growl or snarl, firmly shout “NO” and turn your dog away from the coop and walk briskly away.
Keep practicing this on a daily basis until your dog associates his behavior with negative ramifications.
After several weeks (or months, depending on the dog), your pooch should begin to behave normally around the brood.
From this point, you can try introducing them to birds around the yard whilst on the lead.
As mentioned, this isn’t a foolproof way to stop your dog killing chickens but can work with many dogs. If all else fails, you will need to keep them very separate and make adjustments to how they live.
Prevent your dog attacking chickens with different methods
There are many different reasons why dogs will kill chickens. Some of it is down to wanting to have fun and chasing as a natural instinct.
Here’s are some other ways you can try to stop your dog killing chickens by curbing your dog’s in-built behaviors, reducing risk, and increase the chances of your dog attacking chickens.
- 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.
Another way you can prevent a dog attacking chickens is to better understand why they have this desire to kill chickens in the first place. I’ve previously written at length how dogs and chickens can get along, but below is some more detail on that.
Why do dogs kill chickens?
When it comes to working dogs, the desire to chase and potentially kill chickens is very strong. You might wonder how big a part that plays when considering why your dog kills chickens… well, it’s all about the breed.
These breeds, bred for tasks such as sheep herding and chasing down vermin, have hundreds of years of instincts to try and overcome. Unfortunately, for many dogs, these instincts can prove too tempting, and they will give chase to chickens regardless of the commands you frantically shout at them.
For some dogs, typically those of a sheep-herding breed, chasing does not necessarily lead to the death of birds. For example, Border Collies will very rarely kill chickens, instead preferring to round them up or chase them into a confined area. However, this experience can still be terrifying for chickens who are not used to this behavior and the situation can quickly turn sour if not dealt with promptly.
On the other hand, when it comes to breeds with a long history of rat-hunting, rabbit-chasing, and other forms of hunting (like West Highland White Terriers, Greyhounds, or Jack Russel Terriers) the pursuit of chickens regularly turns bloody and violent.
Circling back to the exact reason why dogs kill chickens, it is important to remember that canines are predatory animals. Although your dog may love cuddles, toys, treats, bones, belly rubs, and blankets, deep down they are still an ancestor of the wolf with partial amounts of their instincts still kicking around in them.
Likewise, despite your dog (and almost all dogs on the planet) no longer needing to hunt to survive, the desire to hunt and kill can sometimes arise within them. This is often triggered by their instinct to chase, which can happen when they see a small animal, bird, or the aforementioned chicken scuttling away in fear.
Which dog breeds kill chickens the most?
Understanding which breeds are the most at risk of killing chickens can help you to plan ahead before purchasing a brood. As previously mentioned, hunting breeds are often the biggest culprits when it comes to killing chickens.
However, other types of dogs do still prey on chickens from time to time. Below, you will find a list of some of the dog breeds most prone for doing this.
- Siberian Husky
- English Springer Spaniel
- Basset Hound
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- Wire Hair Terrier
- Bull Terrier
Living or spending time in the countryside is one of life’s greatest pleasures. For those of us who crave a little more solitude and an escape from the busy and bustling pace of cities, visiting the countryside can provide a release, and for some, moving there permanently can seem the next best step.
From here, owning chickens or other farmyard animals becomes natural, and according to the accounts of many first-time chicken owners, raising these eccentric birds is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding experience.
But throw dogs into the mix and things get a little different.
Dogs can cause havoc with terrified hens. This can quickly become a serious ongoing problem if not dealt with immediately and can lead to feelings of frustration between you and your pooch, as well as further behavioral issues for your pup down the line.
But it is possible to stop your dog attacking and killing chickens, sometimes it’s best to simply place barriers.
Teaching a young dog or puppy to refrain from harassing or chasing chickens can prove futile without the proper knowledge of how to deal with this problem. Unfortunately, this can cause a lot of stress for even the most patient and understanding of owners, and for some, these issues are enough to convince them to give up owning chickens for good.
Hopefully, with this information close at hand, you will be able to create an environment in which your dog and hens thrive together in close proximity without attacks and kills.
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More guidance on living with dogs and chickens below.
Image in header licensed from Storyblocks.com.