How to Stop a Dog from Killing Chickens
Raising chickens is extremely rewarding. First-time chicken farmers tackle the hobby with vigor and enthusiasm not anticipating some of the unforeseen problems. An extremely unfortunate experience for some chicken owners is when they send the flock merrily on their way to free-range only to have their chickens attacked by the family dog.
If you have a puppy, it’s fairly simple to train your dog not to attack your chickens. If you have an older dog that experiences a kill, it’s going to be much more difficult to break that habit. However, it is possible of course. It’s just going to require a little patience and consistency. And to help aid you in the process, I came up with these 7 proven tips on how to stop a dog from killing your chickens.
7 Ways to Keep a Dog from Killing Chickens
1. Restraint and Contain
If you have an older dog who has a strong prey instinct, the safest way to have free-range chickens and this type of dog live together is to either keep the chickens in a coop or the dog chained or inside when the chickens are ranging. There are some marriages that are not made in heaven and a prey dog and chickens running in the same yard is not one of them.
2. Socializing Your Puppy
If you’re fortunate to have a puppy, socializing a puppy with chickens is fairly easy. If you have a non-aggressive breed (like the ones listed at the bottom of this post) this may be as simple as letting the puppy hang out with the chickens from an early age. Familiarity will encourage the puppy to accept the chickens as a natural part of his environment. As long as the chickens are not running away and behaving naturally around the puppy, the dog should not show any signs of aggression toward them.
If you feel your puppy needs more formal training, here is a YouTube video that goes through the steps on How To Train A Puppy Not to Kill Chickens.
3. Stop and Pull Method
For dogs who are a bit older and not in the puppy stage anymore, training your dog to not attack the chickens will require obedience training. One common method of training is the Stop and Pull Method. Here’s a basic overview of the Stop and Pull Method:
The first step is to secure your dog to a leash, preferably with a harness. Begin the training with the chickens safe in the coop. Head over to the chickens with the dog on the leash. Slowly pproach the chickens. As soon as the dog lunges toward them, tell him to “Stop” in a loud and commanding tone.
Turn in the opposite direction and walk away from the coop. Be sure to turn away the moment you give the “Stop” command so the dog associates his aggressive behavior with his actions. You need to repeat these steps every day until you can approach the chickens without any signs of aggression from the dog.
This type of training may take a week, or even up to several weeks to complete. It may be a slow process, but if you’re patient, it will eventually work. Once your dog does not show any signs of aggression toward the chickens in the coop, he’s ready to be introduced to the flock outside the coop. Keep him on the leash until you are confident the training was successful and the dog has earned your trust.
4. The Drop Method
The Drop Method involves treats and positive reinforcement. The premise is that the dog responds to your command to stop and lay down when he is around the chickens.
Start this training in your home. Have a treat in hand and teach your dog to lay down immediately when you give him the “Drop” command. Give him the treat the moment he drops so he associated the command with the reward. Practice the command every day until he will drop without the promise of a treat. When he responds 100% of the time, you are ready for the next step.
Bring treats with you the first time you approach the coop. Have your dog on a leash. If the dog shows any sign of excitement or aggression, practice the “Drop” command and reward with a treat and lots of praise as positive reinforcement. Continue this training until your dog is comfortable around the chickens.
As the dog becomes comfortable with the chickens, you can reduce the need for treats and eventually remove the leash.
5. Restrain and Reward
This is another method for training dogs around livestock. For the Restrain and Reward Method, you will have your dog on a leash and approach the chickens. Praise the dog as long as he is demonstrating good behavior and reward with treats. You are reinforcing good behavior.
If the dog begins to show any signs of negative behavior, force him to stand still until he is calm again. Reward him with verbal praise and treats when he changes his behavior from aggressive back to passive. Don’t permit him to move any closer to the chickens until he shows good behavior.
Repeat this process every day. Even if you only get a few feet closer, he is making progress. The concept is that you are building a connection between the chickens and controlled behavior.
Continue the positive reinforcement. When you can finally approach the chickens with no signs of aggression you can take him off the leash.
Don’t forget to continue verbal praise when your dog behaves appropriately around the chickens.
6. Hire A Trainer
If your dog has committed the mortal sin of killing a chicken, you may need to seek out a professional dog trainer. Professionals experienced in using electronic collars may be successful in avoidance training for chickens.
It’s not recommended that you try using a shock collar to keep your dog away from the chickens unless you have experience using the device. If you make a mistake and your dog is successful in attacking a chicken you will end up doing more harm than good.
7. Carcass Punishment
When a dog has killed a chicken, there is one extreme training method that has been used by dog owners. After the dog has killed the chicken, the dog must be scolded and placed on a leash or in a kennel. Place the carcass in close proximity to the dog and scold him if he approaches the carcass. Most dogs will not attempt to eat a dead chicken after being scolded for killing it.
Leave the dog in the proximity of the chicken for 24 hours to 3 days depending on his reaction. The only attention the dog should receive during the punishment phase is food, water, and potty breaks. Ignore any crying or whining. The dog should not have any other interaction during this time-out.
Supervise your dog carefully when reintroducing him to the chickens. If a week passes and he makes no attempt to attack another chicken, you have more than likely solved the problem.
Which Dog Breeds Are Known For Killing Chickens?
There are certain breeds of dogs with extremely strong chicken killing instincts. If you own one of these breeds and chickens, you may need to either confine your chickens or keep your dog on a leash. Greyhound, Weimaraner, Jack Russell, Siberian Husky are the most common canine criminals guilty of chicken attacks.
Dog Breeds That Get Along With Chickens
Livestock herding dogs are specifically bred not to harm livestock. They have a low prey drive and will most likely be a safe choice to have around your chickens. Who knows? They may even come in handy by learning to keep your chickens out of the garden and off the porch.
There are breeds of dogs specifically developed for use on the farm. They range from herding dogs to livestock guard dogs. According to Petxu.com, here is a list of the top ten breeds of dogs that are best suited to be safe around chickens.
- English or Maremma Sheepdog
- Pyrenean Mastiff
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Japanese Chin
Every breed has exceptions. Even if you own a dog with a high prey instinct, it’s possible to train him not to kill your chickens. Conversely, you could have a dog with a low prey instinct that develops a taste for fresh chicken. Let’s take a look at what the experts say about teaching dogs to respect the dog/chicken boundaries.
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