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Keeping Dogs and Chickens - Tips for a Harmonious Introduction.

post #1 of 109
Thread Starter 

by Tiffany Towne, Nutrena® Poultry Expert


Just like the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When you are bringing baby chicks home or adding adult birds to your backyard, the first impression is important. It’s crucial to know that a period of adjustment and acclimation is normal. Everything may not go smoothly the first day – but that’s okay. The key in the process is to make sure that your birds are protected at all times.


Introducing dogs to chickens can be a touchy situation and is something best handled when you have some help. Having a dog that is trained and obedient to at least a “stay” command and to recall on command is very helpful in this situation. The main thing is to use common sense – dogs will likely be tempted by chickens if they’ve never been around them before. Do not leave dogs and chickens alone together until you’re sure the dog can be trusted.


How do I keep each species safe?

To start introductions, begin slowly. The first step is to allow the dog near the birds while they are securely enclosed in their run or a cage. Give the animals some time to see and smell each other and grow accustomed to the noises, motions and actions of the other. Do this repeatedly until the animals are calm. After that step is successful, try holding your chickens while your dog is secured, either by a helper or in a kennel and again gauge everyone’s reactions.


When you feel comfortable, you can try letting your birds free range in your yard or garden area with the dog on a leash. Again, gage the situation and reactions. Every animal is different and their response to this situation will vary. Once the dog is used to the chickens being in and around the area and is not negatively responding, you can try a supervised instance of everyone mixing together. This introduction will take time, so don’t rush things and make sure you are patient with your dog; this is a big adjustment to their normal way of life.


Keep in mind, however, that some dogs simply do not mix well with chickens. For example, some breeds of dogs are bred specifically to hunt and capture birds. In these dogs, the prey drive may be extremely hard to overcome.  Signs a dog is exhibiting prey drive can include intense staring, ignores owner or other distractions, refuses to move, body tenses, motionless, crouching, rigid movements, lunging, lips twitching, pupils dilated.


If issues persist, you may want to look into professional dog training or you may need to come to the realization that free ranging your chickens with your dog is simply not an option.


What if my dog eats my chicken’s food?

 When keeping dogs and chickens it is important that you don’t give the dog free run of the coop or main housing area. This is mainly due to the fact that ingesting some germs that may be present in your bird’s droppings (think salmonella) could make them sick.


The unmedicated food that you feed your chickens likely won’t cause any harm to your dog unless they eat a huge amount of it. If you are using a medicated food for your chickens, the medication is not approved for use for dogs. The tougher chore will be to keep your birds away from your dog’s food. This food is high in protein and often becomes a flock favorite once they discover where the food bowl is kept!  


Best practice is to keep dogs and birds water and feeding stations separate to help reduce the spread of germs as much as possible and keep diets (both the dogs and the birds) as balanced as possible.


What about disease?

All animals can carry disease, and birds and dogs are no different. The main diseases that can be passed on to dogs may be prevented by keeping the dog and birds in separate enclosures; many types of germs are borne in the fecal matter/dust of birds and contracted when inhaled by the dog. One of the top concerns of bird to dog transfer is salmonella. These bacteria are shed in the feces, so a dog that has access to the chicken coop may be more susceptible. Keep the coop and run area closed to the dog, even if birds are out ranging. Coccidiosis, while present in both birds and dogs, is species specific. This means the strains carried by poultry cannot be passed to dogs and vice versa.


By taking the right steps and practicing patience, your dogs and chickens have the best chance of becoming backyard friends.


To find a Nutrena dealer near you, visit Also sign up for Flock Minder at to receive timely tips delivered directly to your inbox.

post #2 of 109

Good article, thanks!

Calling all home bakers!


"I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health."  ~ Voltaire


Formerly NorthFLChick...but still Debby!



Calling all home bakers!


"I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health."  ~ Voltaire


Formerly NorthFLChick...but still Debby!


post #3 of 109
I second that, well written and thought out. Very helpful information.
post #4 of 109
Great article. Our dogs were introduced to our chicks from the beginning knowing we were planning to free range. They are now the "roosters" of the flock and take protecting our girls seriously. Fun to watch the interaction too.
post #5 of 109

Thank you for this!  I have a rescue rottie that we have had for years and she evidently was a farm dog in her prior life.  She is EXCELLENT around my girls and my roo and they do fine together.  She even guards them, following them around and lying within a few yards of where they are (mine are free range).  She has been that way from day one but she is getting way up in years and we are facing the sad reality that we need to start looking for another dog and let her retire and live out her final years in lazy luxury doing what she pleases as long as she continues to feel well.   The plan is to hunt another adult rescue dog that does not have prey tendencies and hopefully Sasha can help the new one learn the ropes and they can work together for awhile.  This information in this article will surely help us make a smooth transition as we introduce the new dog to our flock!  THANKS! 

Treblesinger: Musical mom of 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 6 chickens
Treblesinger: Musical mom of 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 6 chickens
post #6 of 109
My dog used to bark and stare at the chickens through the window and door (they are in the backyard) but then he stsrted ignoring them. He also used to bark the few times we let them free range, not sure if it's prey drive or like "Mom! They're not supposed to be out!" And then he stopped barking but barked when they got brave and moved to a new part of the yard they had never been. But now he recognizes that they can be out. Heck, yesterday we had a hawk attack (thankfully everyone is fine, just shook up. One lost a ton of feathers, evident by a large pile of feathers near the woods, but I can't tell which one and see no injuries. But he didn't even know anything was going on!!! Only reason I knew was I saw the hawk in the tree and thank goodness! Maybe it wasn't so good teaching him to totally ignore them lol

But anyways, I never introduced him as chicks because I was scared he would hurt or kill them. They were inside until 3 weeks then in the garage until 7 then outside. He doesn't seem to care.

But the problem we are having is he is a TERROR when outside!!!!

I tried working with him for a day or two for only a few minutes, which really was no where near enough, and I got too close too soon and he dragged me to the pen. When we were on the side yard or corner a decent distance away he was doing very well and focusing but then I got much closer, next to the deck, because my dad and uncle were inside and had thought I should, which is when he dragged me to the pen because they flapped a bit.

And my brother has let him loose in the backyard once or twice, with a leash attached, and the first time he broke loose and was running laps around the pen!!! The terrified chickens were huddled in the corner, running corner to corner, we finally got a hold of him. Then another time my brother had his girlfriend over and told her to watch the dog, which she didn't, my brother went inside a few minutes, and he took advantage and took off and ran laps around the pen again.

Now whenever the chickens see him, even if he's at the corner, they start flapping around.

But twice my dad has let him out when they were free ranging and he didn't seem to react. But thankfully he is on a long rope when he goes outside since he runs away and the yard isn't fenced and so the rope doesn't go anywhere near there or even the corner so he could go around the front cormer hut couldn't get there. He didn't seem to react but I know he would kill them. I freaked out when I found out and ran out and brought him back inside.

I think I will have to start working with him again because I would like for him to get used to them or at least them to him.

I will have to work very very slowly with him though. He is smart and learns sometimes on the first try or first few tries but I will go incredibly slow anyways even if he seems to understand.

What I was doing was something called LAT which is look at that and I am going to apply it to his reactivity with certain dogs too. But basically it is you go a safe distance away where the dog does not react to the stimulus then you teach him to look at the scary thing then look back at you. The key is he has to look back at you. Then he gets a treat. (Or a toy, praise, whatever he's motivated by). But you have to teach him the game first which I did once last year and will need to retrain. It was suggested to get them to look at a piece of paper you hold up then hide behind your back and reward but he didn't care about papet so I used a favorite toy. He looks at it then at me he gets the reward then I hide it and do it again. He learned fast. Some dogs may take longer. I also use clicker or marker training for a lot of things, makes it easy. You gotta load the clicker first, click and treat for nothing so he knows the click means he did it right then when he starts perking his ears up or looking at you or whatever when he hears the click he's ready to use it for training. But it's great cause you can mark the exact moment when he does the correct behavior which makes training go much faster and smoother imo. So I click when he does what I want aka look at it then back at me. You can start just rewarding for looking at the object then later add you. I'm too slow or clumsy with an actual clicker so I just click my tongue. Anyway, I take him outside and have him look at the chickens then at me. In fact he was doing so well he didn't care at all about the chickens and it took effort to get him to look at them because all he wanted was food! That is good. I also made him sit or lay down, give paw, etc., some sorta trick. When he refused to look at me, take the food, or do tricks, I knew I was too close. There are also BAT and CAT. I don't really know how they differ from LAT besides that I think with one if the dog is good then the scary dog moves away and another if the dog is good then you allow him to move away from the scary thing. And one, it might be related to moving away, I think you look for calm behaviors in the dog and rewars for those instead of looking at you. A lot of people, from what I read, combine the 3 (there is even a 4th I can't recall) or find that one worked while another didn't. You can Google the difference and you will find charts, forums talking about the differences, articles, etc. etc. But of course I can't recall any of them now.

Anyhow, sorry for rambling and ranting haha

I do think that this method takes longer but I think it is well worth it and is better in the end for the dog and the chickens. I think it would go faster and smoother too than just taking the dog next to the chickens and waiting for one to be calm rather than actively training. That could take forever or be never. However I do think this is a good article and I am sure they didn't mean just let em loose and did mean training but couldn't go into the specifics in this short and sweet article. I also think this works better than just using a very long pole to keep distance between the dog and chickens like some people do and imo definitely works better than corrections or only correcting simply because first of all, if the dog gets corrected near the chickens he's going to possibly associate them with negative things and behave worse around them and second of all, that tells him what he is not allowed to do but does not tell him what he IS allowed to do, thus creating a "behavioral vacuum". I like the idea of having him focus on something else instead of the chickens and slowly be able to work closer to them. That is good distraction training for the dog too. And the neat thing with this stuff is if he doesn't do what you want you can just simply withhold the reward which is powerful. I find sometimes, not so much near the chickens yet, if I don't reward my dog for something he will try anything to do get the reward and eventually offer the right behavior. Oh and another thing I did which I think helped is to play with him near the chickens. It creates positive associations but not even so much that for my boy, with him it just helped him ignore the chickens. He was so focused on playing and having fun that he wasn't focused on charging the chickens.

And speaking of that, I think exercise helps. They often say the same thing for meeting people or dogs or going to a pet store, a tired dog simply cannot react. Mine rarely gets exercised which causes all sorts of problems. we're going work on that though.

I am hoping with this method I can eventually get him close to the pen if not free ranging.

Besides running laps around them he would also briefly pause and lay down on the dirt real low and stare at them, tail low and going, and I think sometimes maybe play bow? Not sure if he wanted to play or if it was prey drive.

My boy is half Black Lab and half Great Pyrenees so I am hoping the Pyrenees can override the Lab. Especially since he acts a lot like a Pyrenees. He just turned 4 in March. The chickens we got in October and they are now 23 weeks old as of Monday. We should have introduced him sooner but I am hoping to still be able to train him. I doubt I could ever trust him to free range with the girls (though he is very lazy and just lays there guarding the property) but as long as we can get to where he doesn't charge their fence and terrify them even off leash I am fine with that.

Eventually I would love a second dog, preferably an English Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, another Lab or a Golden, or a true LGD. I know that a bird dog with them is a bad plan but those breeds are also gentle and nurturing and I'm hoping that if I started work as a puppy they could be trained to leave them alone at the least. But I would love an English Shepherd or LGD to place with them and genuinely protect them and/or protect them from our current dog even but 2 dogs isn't possible right now, both financially and in the amount of work (since I don't even exercise our dog now), plus Gator barks at everything and I just don't think an LGD is the right fit for a suburban life. But maybe an English Shepherd would be since they're more a general purpose dog. But I think a second dog will habe to wait until I have my own place, preferably in the country with a lot of land and my own little farm. And I would probably also get the dog forst and raise it up and/or train it before bring the current dog out.

Sorry for babbling haha neat article
Kelsey. Massachusetts. Have a 4 year old Black Lab/Great Pyrenees mix named Gator, a 6 year old kitty named Luna, and 8 hens hatched October 26th, 2015. 1 Barred Rock, 2 Black Australorps, 3 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Easter Eggers on about 3 acres. 5 more chicks coming this October
Kelsey. Massachusetts. Have a 4 year old Black Lab/Great Pyrenees mix named Gator, a 6 year old kitty named Luna, and 8 hens hatched October 26th, 2015. 1 Barred Rock, 2 Black Australorps, 3 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Easter Eggers on about 3 acres. 5 more chicks coming this October
post #7 of 109
I have a 5 month old great pyrenees that is great with the chickens. In fact, we have caught him trying to herd the chickens back to their pen, and he has already kept the coyotes away. The problem I have is that he makes his way to the nesting boxes inside (and the hole is already so small I can't believe that he fits inside) and eats the eggs. I tried mustard and tobacco on the shell this morning but he still ate them. How do I stop this behavior?
post #8 of 109

We are exceptionally lucky that our 11 year old Black Lab mix is great with our chickens. We introduced them to her as chicks, and she was a bit iffy. But as they got bigger she cared less and less about them. Now it's to the point where she'll lay in the yard while they wander around her. Occasionally she'll playfully "chase" one around the deck for a few steps but quickly bores of it. 


My wife and I joke that the reason she's good is that she gets a fresh egg on her food every few days, and she knows the eggs come from the chickens. :)


Occasionally she'll get territorial, like if one wanders up to the back sliding door and pecks the glass while we're sitting nearby. She'll kind of give her low-tone "woooof" at the bird, but I think it's more of a "hey this is my house" than anything else. 


Here she is, just sniffing around. Neither one cares about the other. 



We did worry that the chickens might not fear an actual predatory canine since ours is so chill, but that has not been the case. When they're in the run, and a strange dog ran up, they FREAKED OUT and went into the coop. But they just ignore Sarah. It's great. 

post #9 of 109
We did pretty much what the article said... We also used the Omlet temporary fence... We were able to have half of our yard for the dogs to be out and the other half for the birds to free range. This allowed everyone to be out together and become acclimated. Our new greyhound has done great! I think having a house chicken helped too....
post #10 of 109


I want more chickens. Stupid Chicken Math.
I want more chickens. Stupid Chicken Math.
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