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Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cami, Sep 29, 2010.
what is the best breed of dog to have with a flock of chickens in your experience?
There have been a number of similar questions recently on BYCF. Lots of folks have given their opinions.
Here's mine; avoid small dogs whose original purpose was to go after and kill vermin. Schnauzers, terriers, dachshunds, chihuahuas... all the little lap dogs we adore generally have very strong instincts to chase, grab, and shake to death critters they consider prey. Also, sight hounds or dogs like greyhounds and whippets will chase chickens--that's what's used on the dog racing tracks for the dogs to follow.
Most of the bigger herding dogs or soft-mouthed hunting dogs are good with chickens. They either herd, guard, or ignore your chickens.
If you acquire a dog as a puppy the adult chickens will teach the pup to stay away or be pecked.
I have a Rottweiler who completely ignores my chickens except to roll in their poop if she gets in their yard. However, my inlaws have a mini dachshund who has raced after and grabbed out tail feathers. She quivers with anticipation and drive to kill whenever she sees my girls. I don't trust her one bit.
I think it depends on the temperament of the dog. Our Jack Russel LOVES to chase things but for some reason, she leaves the chickens alone. She was around them when they were babies so maybe that helped. Our lab puppy also has learned from the Jack Russel and tolerates the chickens. I think it also helped that I have some very spirited roosters. I have an OEG bantam (I think that's what he is...) who thinks he is HUGE. He approaches the dogs with a swagger and a look that says "You wanna piece of me?" and the dogs always back down....from the smallest bird in the flock!!
Here's a pic of my tough guy... Maybe it's because his orange feathers on top of his head make it look like he's got a mullet and the dogs know you don't mess with a dude with a mullet.
I would say it varies a lot depending on the specific dog more than the breed. I have a lab and a lab/great dane mix.
The lab/dane mix has always been very curious of the chickens, but I have no idea what she would do if given access to them. As curious as she is, she is a very good guard dog. Maybe she thinks she's just protecting her "toys", but it works.
The lab doesn't seem to care much they are around, but it a better hunter and I'd put money on him eating them if he could.
It did take a good amount of training at first to get they to stop pawing at the fench when we put the chickens outside. Granted both dogs were 1 yr. or older when we got chickens so things may have been different if introduced as puppies.
On a side note, the chickens couldn't care less that the dogs were around. They will even come up and peck their tails through the fence if given the chance. And I have seen a couple chickens eat greens off of my lab/dane's paws through the fence.
German Shepherds get my vote - hands down.
Rex - our oldest GSD - took to those first four chicks right away - eventually 4 chicks grew to a farm and 400 chickens, plus goats, peafowl, ducks, etc. etc, all who freerange the farm. He loves to watch the sky for hawks and will bark and chase at them. He will "guard" anything in a pen or kennel:
Scarlett - we got her as a puppy to learn from Rex. She has instincts I could not teach. She works the coop and keeps the peace amongst all the birds returning at dusk. She will follow the baby chicks around the farm and pull roosters off a screaming hen and sit with the hen between her legs. She will herd the goats or follow them wherever they go on the farm:
I have two Great Pyrenees and they are good for roaming the thousands of acres of woods and keeping the coyotes away at night but they don't really compare to my German Shepherds who show a true love for the animals and a natural instinctive protection of them. Most of our birds don't sleep in the coop, they sleep on the ground, in the bushes, under the carport and in the dogs' beds. Never had anything get anything in my yard and no one, except breeder birds are ever kept in cages/pens - every animal has free roam of the farm during the day.
I have an Aussie who is absolutely wonderful with the chickens. They have free-ranged together for the 3 years I have had chickens. The only problems are when there are chicks in the yard. She thinks she should be their mom. Unfortunately, the mother hens don't agree and many times Ruby has gone running with a sore nose! The other thing she does is knock a rooster off a hen if he is too rough and makes the hen complain.
This last weekend we expanded our family and adopted Rusty, a 9-month-old Aussie. He decided to chase the chickens, not hurting them, but herding them. When he pinned our young roo, Danny in a corner. I went out and tried to calm the roo down. I talked to Rusty, telling him that chickens are members of the family and are not to be chased. I held Danny up to him, and Danny screamed. The dog jumped like he was shot and ran - he hasn't chased anybody since!
I vote for mixed-breed dogs. My shepard mix Princess and chihuahua-pug mix Tink, love our chickens. They think they are the "chicken mamas" and are really upset now that all the babies are grown and ignore them.
I agree with ohhhdear's assessment of some of the breeds. A dog with a high prey drive will never be safe with a flock. The breed will tell you the basic instinct of the dog. It will tell you what the dog was bred to do. Up until the last 150 or so years dogs were not kept as pets. If they didn't do their job they were either killed or left feral. The little dogs were bred to hunt vermin for the most part. I have Yorkies and I don't trust the Yorkies with the chickens. Now that doesn't mean that all the Yorkies are the same. I have 2 that are reasonably safe with the birds, and two that I will never trust. The other one is somewhere in between. I have 2 parents, and three siblings. I also have a Komondor. I would trust him with my life, and that of the birds lives. I had to teach him that though. He got one rather sharp lesson on don't mess with the birds, and 11 years later he is still bird proof. I have also had mutts, best dog we ever had was a Chow mix. She was bomb proof, and the best mouser I have ever met. I think some of choosing a breed or a dog is to figure out what traits you can live with, and what you hate. I have a very strong preference for long haired dogs, a lot of people don't. I don't care much for hunting breeds, most people seem to like them. I wouldn't own a Lab if I was paid to. I prefer extremes in sizes, and temperaments.
So those are some of the things you need to think about and answer for yourself first. The next is "Do you need the dog to be pure breed dog or not?" Do you want a shelter dog, or one from a breeder? Will the breeder take the dog back? Can you test drive the dog? I agree with ruth that not all LDGs are going to be warm and loving to the birds. Herding dogs on the other hand can be very nippy with animals that it herds. So you can't trust any dog just because of it's breed alone. It is a case of breed plus individual animal.
By the way I like the German Shepherds that ruth has. They look better bred than most. I was told a story about how years ago there was a AKC judge that liked the slanted lines on the breed. It almost destroyed the breed with all the hip problems. Okay I like the house too.
Well, I have a golden retriever, Pepper, and we have never had a problem. She will herd the chickens around when we let them out of the run, and she just sits and stares at them for hours. I would vote for a golden.
I have a Britney spaniel and she quivers with the thought of chickens- have lost at least 10 to her deathly wishes. And I have a lab/retriever mix and he was thought to be OK with the chickens and was being low key and I trusted him by running into the house to get something and when I came out he did not know I was in the coop- I watched him go commando on me. So my advice Don't trust them!
I am sure that case by case they prove themselves but my two have proven that they can't be trusted around the birds and as such will be in lock down when I let the birds out and the birds will be in lock down when the dogs can be let out.