Ask any farm or poultry breeder and he will tell you, without hesitation, that dogs and chickens don’t naturally mix. Unless trained to recognize the chickens in a barn, dogs are generally considered predators.
Dogs, whether domestic or feral, descended from gray wolves nearly 15,000 years back and are part of the Canidae family of mammals in the order Carnivora. They have about the same instinctive predatory traits of a fox, wolf, and raccoon. Dogs come in various breeds and sub-species with varying sizes, attributes, and abilities. But as predators and scavengers, they generally share the same powerful muscles and cardiovascular system that give them the agile sprinting ability to hunt their prey.
Stray dogs and pet dogs can be found nearly anywhere. Where there are human settlements, you will find dogs. Terriers, pointers, retrievers, and hounds, in particular, can present as a problem to your chickens especially if they are trained as game dogs and hunt for foxes and other animals. Guard dogs and small dogs cannot be trusted around fowl unless they are trained. When it comes to agility, chickens are often no match for a dog who is stalking them, except possibly the smallest breeds.
Method of kill
Considered as apex predators, which mean they are generally at the top of the food chain, dogs are carnivores who like to eat protein-rich food. They are known to attack roosters, hens, and their chicks leaving only a bloodied mess of feathers. Some dogs may not eat chickens, but will target chicks or their eggs. Other dogs are known to simply bark a lot, chase, scare, or “harass” your chickens. Chickens are easily frightened. They may even die from shock. Egg-laying hens, on the other hand, can be so traumatized by an encounter with a playful dog that they can lose their egg-laying abilities for months.
Prevention and Treatment
If you are near a neighbor who has a pet dog, you may want to do a friendly visit to advise the neighbor that you are nurturing chickens in your farm or backyard. If it strays and does damage to your fowl, you can agree on a form of compensation before it happens. Your own dog is also a potential predator, but could be trained to leave chickens alone. Failing that it should be kept away from the flock and the flock should be fenced in securely. Dogs can also be trained as livestock guardians who will protect your flock from predators, such as other dogs.
Worst case scenario, if you had a dog attack your chickens, it pays to know a competent vet near you whom you can trust to help you with maintaining the health of your chickens. (See a relevant thread on the subject.) It also helps to have a first aid kit handy in case of a dog attack or any other injury.
For more discussions on dogs as chicken predators and how to deal with them see the Predators and Pests section of the forum.