Originally Posted by Oregon Blues
Every breed of dog will kill chickens. They must be trained to leave the chickens alone.
It's easier to train people oriented breeds to leave the chickens alone, simply because they are easier to train to do anything.
It's a little unfair on a dog to expect it to put up with the abuse from 4 kids under the age of 6. I hope you intend to train the children to treat the dog with respect and don't expect the dog to tolerate pain and abuse from the children.
If you want protection from predators, you need a great big dog. Coyotes can and will kill medium sized dogs. Coyotes attacked my neighbor's Rottweiler, so it has to be a very large dog to protect from coyotes.
I suggest you choose a large breed that has a reputation for tolerating children well and then whatever breed it is, then train it to leave the chickens alone. I think your children are your issue; not your chickens.
Forget about getting a dog that doesn't shed. Not going to happen.
Generally when you are looking for dogs to protect animals, they need to be integrated into the animals lives and have more of a relationship with the animals than they do the humans. Guardian dogs live with the animals and basically become one with the animals they protect. If you are wanting a dog to be a housepet - it is not realistic to expect them to be guarding your chickens also.
It takes a LOT of work to get a dog not to go after prey, especially if you are really wanting a guardian dog. I honestly can't imagine that you have that much time to devote to that, with 4 young'uns under foot and the responsibilities that go along with living in the country as opposed to city life.
I would recommend that you get a family pet. The pet can let you know when there is an intruder on the property, but YOU can then do the protecting of your flock - think shotgun.
Probably not what you wanted to hear, but as a dog training instructor and the wife of a veterinarian, I see too many people with unrealistic expectations of dog behavior and unrealistic expectations of the time necessary to train a dog to do basic things like "heel" and "come" - and that's not even asking the dog to be nice to kids and to fight to the death with a chicken predator while not eating the chickens.
If you are really set on an animal to guard your flock, you might consider a donkey for predator protection. They are good protectors and don't require a lot of your time training them - plus they don't eat chickens.