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Dogs and Chickens

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Large dog watching over chickens in yard

Everyone has heard the timeless questions: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” and “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” But what about the question, “Can dogs and chickens live together?”

For dog parents considering getting some chickens, this is just the tip of the iceberg for important questions needing answering. Although adding some chickens to the family is slightly different than adopting a cat or dog, there are still many considerations to keep in mind, including how you’ll introduce your dogs and chickens and how you can keep them safe around one another.

Can Chickens and Dogs Coexist?

Whether you live on a farm and have dozens of chickens (among many other types of farm animals) or live in a more urban area and are getting only a few chickens, it’s essential to consider how your canine may get along with them. Chickens and dogs living together can work out perfectly well in many situations. In fact, the two animals may even form a friendship.

How well your dog and chickens get along will depend on your dog’s genetics, history, and temperament, among other items. Many canines’ instinct is to chase, hunt, or herd certain animals, including birds. With some additional training and a few precautions put in place, you may be able to teach your dog how to interact with the chickens in a more appropriate way.

How To Introduce Chickens and Dogs

A fantastic place to start with helping your chickens and dog form a good relationship is at the very beginning—their introductions. First and foremost, it is significantly more helpful if your dog already understands basic cues, including being able to recall on command (or come when called). This will be useful in ensuring that your pup is on their best behavior when they are eventually allowed around their new bird friends.

The first few times you introduce your dogs and backyard chickens, it is recommended that your chickens are safely secure in their run or pen and your dog is outside the enclosure on a leash and well-fitted collar or harness. By keeping the animals separate, you are allowing them to see and smell one another without getting too close and possibly causing stress, or an injury. Let your dog observe the chickens from a distance and give them a tasty treat each time they sniff or watch calmly. If they start pulling, barking, or lunging towards the chickens, take five steps backwards and see if they can become calm again at this distance. Give them lots of praise and small pieces of treats any time they’re exhibiting that nice, calm behavior.

Continue this pattern of allowing the animals to slowly be closer to each other while remaining calm so that they can become more comfortable with the other’s presence. This may be a slower process for some, but it’s crucial never to rush the introductions of animals meeting each other. Remember to keep training sessions short so your dog can stay focused and engaged—no more than 15 or 20 minutes.

If both parties appear calm around the other, you can then try introducing one chicken. You may need two people for this step. Keeping your dog on leash, have a friend gently carry one chicken over and show the chicken to the dog from a few feet away. When your friend shows the chicken, feed your dog a few tasty treats. Then have your friend walk away with the chicken, out of the dog’s sight. If your dog is too excited and cannot remain calm, they’re not quite ready to be around the chickens outside of the coop yet, so return to the previous step.

If your dog can remain calm, repeat this a few times. Your friend can give the chicken some yummy snacks in between as well, such as cheerios or chicken grubs. This way both animals are building a positive association with the other, and your dog is learning how to remain calm around the birds. Don’t forget to always wash your hands after handling the chickens, feeding them, or cleaning out their coop—this could help keep the germs away.

After a few sessions like this, you can try setting the chicken down on the ground and letting her roam while your dog is on leash in the same space. Practice randomly recalling your dog in this environment, and reward them for calm behavior, ignoring the chicken, or even looking at the chicken and then looking away. Slowly allow your dog to meander closer to the chicken, continuing to reward them for showing appropriate behaviors and for coming back to you when called. If this goes well, slowly add more free-roaming chickens to the equation.

When you feel both parties are comfortable, you can let your chickens roam in your yard or garden while supervising your dog or letting him drag his leash (in case you need to pick it up fast). Try walking with your dog around the space, allowing them to roam with you and get used to seeing the chickens out in the open. This also helps show the chickens that the dog is nothing to fear. This is also a fantastic time to work on your dog’s recall cue once again—be sure to reward them for listening.

Having chickens and dogs loose in the same area may mean that you need to keep an even closer eye on all the animals, ensuring that there are no negative interactions. Even with normally well-behaved canines, their natural prey drive may kick in around birds, and it could prove difficult for them to not chase the chickens. Signs your pup may be feeling their hunting instincts could include:

  • Ignoring your cues or calls
  • Intense staring
  • A tall stiff posture with a high tail
  • Crouching or lowering their head while watching the chickens
  • Slow or rigid movements
  • Lunging
  • Lips twitching

Upon noticing any of these behaviors, it’s essential that you remove your dog from the situation immediately. If you’re having trouble getting your dog to exhibit calm behaviors around chickens or, if at any point, you notice your dog displaying concerning behaviors such as the ones listed above, reach out to a qualified trainer for assistance. You may reference the ASPCA’s Finding Professional Help resource to locate one of these qualified professionals in your area.

dog watching chickens through a fence

Keeping Dogs and Chickens: Importance of Separate Spaces

With dogs and chickens living on your property, the ultimate goal is that they can live harmoniously. Even if they form a bond or friendship of sorts, it’s still important that the chickens and dog have separate spaces. This can help if an instance arises where they need to be distanced from one another. Whenever letting your birds in and out of their coop, always secure the door to ensure your dog cannot access their space.

Having their own areas is also key for safety reasons. If your chickens can easily access your dog’s food, they will most likely be tempted to help themselves to the free meal, which may not be the best for their digestive system. Not to mention, they could also dirty your dog’s water dish.

Similarly, your dog should not have access to the chicken feed or their coop. Depending on the feed your chickens receive, it could cause stomach or digestive issues for your pup, especially if they eat a large amount of it. Plus, if dogs consume bird droppings, they could pick up unwanted germs and health conditions such as salmonella.

Salmonella in Dogs

It is entirely possible for your dog to be a carrier of this bacteria without showing signs, but many other canines could be more affected. Common symptoms to watch for include,

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal tenderness or pain

Visit your veterinarian if your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms to help determine the best course of treatment. It can take a few weeks for the bacteria to pass out of your dog’s system, during which time you should try to keep them separate from their fellow animal siblings, as they could accidentally pass along their germs. You, and anyone helping care for your dog, should also use a bit of precaution during your pup’s time of recovery as dogs could pass their germs to people. To help protect yourself from salmonella, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands any time you pick up after your dog, feed, or handle them.

Other Backyard Birds

If your canine pal seems to get along well with their chicken cohorts, you may be interested in including other birds on your backyard farm. Ducks, for instance, could make for a nice addition. The process of introducing your dog to ducks is nearly the same as the steps of introducing them to chickens. Keep the two parties separate at first, allowing them to slowly get closer to one another in a controlled and calm setting.

As long as their interactions continue to be positive, you can let your dog and ducks spend more time together in a less restrictive setting, though it’s crucial that you never leave them unsupervised.

Some people have also tried having their dogs befriend other birds, such as turkeys. Though the same steps may be taken to introduce your canine companion to their new pal, it is best not to force the two to be around one another if they don’t appear to be getting along the best.

Owning chickens and dogs can be a fun adventure that makes for an exciting addition to your family and property. Depending on your dog’s temperament and how well they get along with your birds, you may find that your pup takes on the natural role of helping watch over and guard their flock. Who knows, an unlikely friendship may form between your canines and birds.

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An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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