You might be thinking about getting a flock of chickens to keep in the backyard, but how will man’s best friend get along with the newfound friends – or foes? Can you keep chickens with a dog or cat? Or maybe you are looking to get a furry friend and already have chickens.
Yes, you can keep chickens with a dog or cat. Chickens can be kept with a variety of other animals. This can be anything from cats, and dogs, to horses to even other species of birds. There are however some very important points you need to take into consideration when keeping chickens with other animals.
Before you approach the challenge of teaching your dog or cat that the chickens are not their dinner, read on to learn some tips and tricks I have found useful.
Can Dogs And Chickens Coexist?
Suppose you are passionate about your backyard chickens, but your heart yearns for a puppy or dog. You most certainly can keep the two together in harmony. The quest is up to you to complete – either keep your chickens in a “predator-safe” chicken coop or train your dog to accept the chickens as their fellow backyard tenants.
Unfortunately, it isn’t an easy task, as chickens are something a dog can see as prey and vice versa. You will have to consider many aspects of dogs and decide if you are up for the challenge.
What To Consider Before You Keep A Dog With Chickens
Teaching your dog to accept chickens might be a frightening thought, but it doesn’t have to be. Most dogs are easily trainable, and if you invest time and effort into teaching them and keep being consistent, you might have dog and chickens graze the backyard together.
Chickens are pretty straightforward. Most breeds are the same size, look the same, and have the same temperament. They have the skills to do anything to protect themselves from predators, and you might know precisely how they will respond when they feel endangered.
The multiple factors to consider come with the dog/ dogs you have or want to get. Dogs come in different sizes and temperaments and have various personalities that might influence how they will get along with chickens.
The Temperament Of The Dog
Dog breeds differ in how they exist and for what purpose breeders breed them. You get your watchdog, dogs that look after livestock, hunting dogs, and many more. Each dog breed has its primary instincts and traits, and these are the things that might be troublesome to some when it comes to dogs living with chickens.
The hunting dogs’ senses to hunt and chase anything smaller than they are, is overpowering and might come in the way of having a civilized relationship with chickens. This instinct is called “prey drive.” Most dogs have it; some have a high prey drive and others have a low prey drive.
I used to keep American Brittany’s and they had a very high prey drive. I was too cautious to even keep a cat and they were very good at killing squirrels so I never let my chickens out unless the dogs were put away.
Your Dog’s Personality Can Play A Role
Your dog might be a breed that is not supposed to have a higher prey drive, but its personality might be. “But how?” you might wonder. Let’s take a Border Collie, for example.
They are a dog breed that looks after livestock, so the chance you can teach them to get along with your chickens is relatively high. But now you have Jack, who is playful and always up for a chase. He might want to play with the chickens, and they think he is attacking, reacting by pulling out their best flapping and cocking performance. In return, Jack feels threatened, and the prey drive kicks in.
You might have a hunting dog with a soft heart and not bothered by anything else. Chicken owners can train these dogs to live with chickens, even though their traits and nature suggest something else.
The best would be to evaluate your dog based on its breed’s traits and then consider his personality to decide whether it is safe to introduce him to the chickens or keep them separate.
Training Your Dog To Obey
Training can be crucial when you want to keep dogs and chickens in the same backyard. It will be easier to make your dog understand that the chickens are not a danger (or food) if you know they listen to your demands.
You, the human, are the dog’s alpha, and training them will help you in the long run with many things besides keeping them with your chickens. If they know the queues and clearly understand when they should do what, the possibility of them accepting the chickens is greater.
How To Introduce Your Dog To The Chickens
You evaluated your dog and knew what the breed traits are and your dog’s personality. You are optimistic your dog will listen to you if given demand, and you are ready to introduce it to the chickens. There are a few steps to follow with your dog to get the best outcome:
Step 1: Start with little exposure and work your way up. First, you can walk your dog around the fence on a leash and let them sniff it. Watch your dog’s reaction. If he sniffs and doesn’t do anything else, you are closer to the end than most others trying the same.
Step 2: The reaction of the dog will indicate your next move. If their ears rise and they look like they want to attack as soon as they see the chickens, stop the introduction for the day and try the following day again. You don’t want to stress the chickens or give them a reason to “fight back.”
Step 3: Repeat the sequence every day. It is essential to be consistent. Start the same way and move a step closer each time you get the promised outcome – your dog being agreeable with the chickens. You have to be with them the whole time. Remove a barrier daily (if possible) until it is only you, the dog, and the chickens.
Step 4: Remove the leash and make sure you are close to prevent accidents. Once they are more accustomed to each other, leave your dog for small bouts alone with the chickens.
Step 5: Extend the time you leave the dog alone with the chickens when you feel comfortable until you see no more warning signs. Congratulations, you have a dog and chickens that can live together.
The secret to any training or, in this case, introduction to an unknown species is to stay consistent and keep going until you make progress. Keep at your plan, and soon you will see results. Dogs are clever, and they see you as their alpha.
Are Dogs Guaranteed To Live Peacefully With Chickens?
Unfortunately, even after extensive training, consistency in introducing them to the chickens, and much scolding, you might have to admit that your dog was not born to live with chickens.
Some pet dogs won’t ever get along with chickens, and you will have to accept this. There are breeds of dogs that are known to not get along with chickens:
· Siberian Husky – Their history includes pulling sleds all day and protecting the family against wild wolves and bears. A chicken will not scare them and instead taunt them.
· Jack Russel – These small, hyperactive, prey-driven dogs chase things into their holes, and a chicken that moves around will tempt them to activate their senses.
· Weimaraner – With a history of hunting and a height of about 26 inches, these sleek dogs with big jaws will try their luck with your chickens.
· Greyhound – Races lure these dogs to chase rabbits when racing for competitions, so you can imagine what joy they would find in chasing chickens around, and at their top speed of 39 miles per hour, the chickens would be dinner sooner rather than later.
dogs good with chickens
Some dog breeds are better suited to living with pet chickens than others. Breeds that were originally bred for hunting or herding may have a strong prey drive, which means they’re more likely to see chickens as potential targets (see above). Conversely, breeds that were originally bred for jobs like guarding or companion animals are generally more good-natured and less likely to view chickens as prey.
Some of the best dog breeds for chicken-keepers include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Basset Hound. These breeds are all known for their gentle dispositions and love of people – qualities that make them ideal candidates for living peacefully with chickens.
Toy dog breeds also usually fine with chickens – after all – the chickens are bigger than them! Toy breeds to consider are chihuahua, miniature schnauzer, bichon frisee, yorkies and maltese terriers.
dogs that protect chickens
There are also dogs that have been bred to be livestock guardian dogs. Dog breeds that protect chickens include:
- Maremma sheepdog
- The great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Old English Sheepdogs
So if you’re looking for a furry friend to help you care for your flock, consider adopting one of these chicken-friendly dog breeds.
Keeping chickens with cats
Since there is a minimal size difference between cats and chickens, the chance of any conflict occurring between the two animals is relatively low. Cats will probably be weary of the chickens, and it is more likely that the chickens will be chasing the cat rather than the other way round!
Tips for keeping cats and hens together:
- Slow introduction between the coop fence
- Keep each animal on the other side of the fence
- Allow the hens and cat time to get comfortable in front of each other
- Close supervision once you let the hens out of the coop
Besides, chickens are very good at looking after themselves and will be able to handle themselves around cats. We’ve got plenty of cats in our neighborhood and we’re yet to see one even try to go inside the coop!
If you have both of these animals, it’s best to slowly introduce them to each other. Take your cat to the fence of your coop where it can see the hens and make sure that they become familiar with each other. If you have hens in a run/enclosure, this is really all you have to do. Your cat may hiss and try to run away if it’s shy, but cats are curious creatures so introducing it to your hens is important.
Keeping free-range chickens and cats together without restrictions is a bit more challenging. If they are slowly introduced in the garden and closely supervised they can become very good friends but time and patience are key.
If you are wondering about chickens and rabbits living together generally the answer is no. Check out my article here on it.
You might have your eye on a Husky, and it feels like an unreachable dream because you already have chickens. Get a puppy and introduce them as early as possible, get training, and maybe you can get your dog and chickens to live together in harmony; many people have done it.
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.