Breaking an apparently high-prey dog from chasing/eating chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ssledoux, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. ssledoux

    ssledoux Songster

    Mar 14, 2007
    I have a boxer that is WAAAY too interested in my chickens. Lately, I've been locking my 3 big dogs in a large pen during the day while the hens are out, and letting them out in the evening when the hens go to roost. However, with 5 acres and the hens in an acre pasture, I'd rather not lock the dogs up.

    Trouble is, as soon as the first hen flies the coop (aka over the fence), I know Brody is going to be all over it like white on rice.

    What can I do to train this dog BEFORE he kills a chicken? He's about a year old, recently neutered, and sweet as he can be, but I KNOW he'd do a chicken in in a heartbeat.

    I've been taking him out there on a short lead just to let him get familiar and so I could pop him and/or fuss at him if he snapped at them. He hasn't done that (I probably haven't let him close enough), but he did chase after one when we were in there one day and he wasn't on the lead. We whipped him and locked him out of the pasture while the other dogs were in there with us. He just sat there so sad.

    I want my chickens safe, and I want my dog to behave and be happy. What do I do?
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2009
  2. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    My guess is that you'll have to keep them separated. There are many people on here whose dogs suddenly attacked their chickens even though they seemed ok with them earlier. It's just in the dog's nature.
    Sorry, maybe someone else can advise you better.
  3. ninjapoodles

    ninjapoodles Sees What You Did There

    May 24, 2008
    Central Arkansas
    You'll get responses telling you about how people have tied dead chickens around the dog's neck, beat them savagely with a board (to create an "aversion" to chickens--that's an actual "tip" I've read on this subject here on BYC), and all kinds of things like that, but at the end of the day, I agree with chickenannie. Keep them separated at all times.

    We actually fenced a backyard on our property after we got chickens, just for this reason--so that the chickens could roam, and our dogs could still go out and play. We fortified the chainlink fence with one strand of hotwire on the dogs' side, so that they don't climb the fence. The chickens seem to be pretty savvy about not going into the dogs' yard, but we have lost one turkey hen who flew into the yard, got rushed by the dogs, and panicked to the extent that she just ran around, instead of flying back out.
  4. Terri

    Terri Songster

    Dec 1, 2008
    Level Cross, NC
    i would suggest desensitizing. take him to coop on a lead reward for good behavior, redirect attention for bad
  5. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I would certainly work with them as Terri suggested. I have taught all 4 of my dogs to leave my free-ranging chickens alone. They do not guard the chickens, but they don't bother them either, and the predator attacks have stopped since the dogs started roaming freely. I supervised the dogs around the chickens for a while, just telling them "NO" as needed. Two of the dogs each caught a chicken once. I said the "NO" and they dropped the unharmed birds. No recurrence.

    I don't think punishment teaches a dog anything but fear.
  6. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    You can train a dog to listen well enough not to attack something while your around and you can get a dog used to an animal so they are less likely to attack it but in the end you should never leave them together unsupervised. The only times it works the person just gets lucky and has a dog that never wants to harm the other animal even accidentally. For training I've done some extremely long posts on various other threads and I don't feel like retyping it. Try actually using the search cause this topic comes up nearly weekly. Mostly it comes down to major obedience training. The dog should sit or down no matter what and stay there. If you can't accomplish that I suggest signing up for some obedience classes. Chickens are a major distraction and most people don't have enough knowledge or experience to train a high prey drive dog to ignore that kind of distraction. When all else fails a properly used shock collar can help but an improperly used shock collar just makes things worse and borders on being inhumane.
  7. MoodyChicken

    MoodyChicken Songster

    Feb 15, 2009
    Northern California
    It's hard to train an adult dog not to attack chickens. With puppies, I put my meanest roo and the puppy in a cage for 10 minutes. My dog never goes near the birds now, and she's a lab, a bird dog! Terri and Akane had some good advice though. Perhaps you could introduce the dog to the chickens so he realizes that they're not as exciting as he thought. Good luck though!
  8. FarmerDenise

    FarmerDenise Songster

    Apr 21, 2007
    Sonoma County
    We got our dog to stop going after the chickens...most of the time.
    For starters we did not let her "practice" her bad behavior. We kept the chickens locked up. We then crated a small passage that the chickens would have to walk through to get from the chicken house to the chicken yard. We used a short piece of plastic chicken fencing we had laying around. Then I had a squirt bottle of water with me, while I let the chickens go from one space to the other on their side of the fence and the dog on the other. The second the dog made a move toward the chickens I said a sharp "no". If she continued her move she got squirted in the face. If she behaved properly by lying down, looking away or eventually walking away, I praised her. I repeated this for about a week.
    When we finally felt comfortable to let the chickens and the dog out at the same time, we did it in the evening and while both of us were out with them. The minute our dog made an inappropriate move, we said "no", if she continued she got squirted and put in her pen.
    Eventually she was able to restrain herself a lot of the time. But we could not let the chickens out with the dog, unless one of us was out also. A running chicken was just too much temptation for our young dog.
    She mauled several of our chickens at different times, when we just ran into the house for something and forgot to come out right away (Oops)
    Since we bring injured or sick chickens in the house to nurse them back to health, our dog got to be quite close to them. I often have the chicken sit on my lap while watching TV. The dog naturally comes up to check what's going on. I let her sniff, but stop her when she gets too rough. I noticed that whatever chicken had been inside the house and around the dog wasn't so scared of her, and the dog did not chase her anymore. So I brought each chicken into the house, one by one. Even the chicken that had been attacked by her (she was in the house for two weeks recuperating) was not afraid of the dog anymore.
    Now we can let the dog in the yard with the chickens. She protects them. They eat from the same bowl. The chickens will walk right up to the dog and our dog will be sleeping in the middle of our little flock. If a chicken makes a distressed noise, our dog will run right up and stop the fight that might be going on between two hens.

    I think our dog never meant to kill the chickens. She just saw them as an interesting toy to get the squeaker out of. And to pull the feather off. Just as she does with her doggie toys.
    She now discriminates between something that is ok to tear apart and things that are not. Chickens are family - do not tear it apart. Stuffed bear on mom's bed - not a dog toy - do not tear it apart.
    She wont even go after a new stuffed toy that is sitting on the floor until I tell her it is ok. We didn't train her for this. It just happened along with the chicken training.
    We got our dog when she was 8 weeks old and she is now 1 1/2 year old. It is only in the past month or so that we have noticed her complete non-chalance around the chickens. So this has been a long training process. And only one chicken died from injuries inflicted by our dog (The second one that she tried to get the stuffing out)
  9. ssledoux

    ssledoux Songster

    Mar 14, 2007
    Well I would never BEAT my dog. I have heard the tying the dead chicken around the neck thing, though I think it's gross.

    I had a lab/golden mix that killed a chicken once. I picked it up, yelled BAD DOG at her and whacked her on the behind with the dead chicken (not really hard). Til the day Missy died she could lay beside the chickens and they could literally WALK on her back and she wouldn't so much as sniff them (GOSH I MISS THAT DOG!!).

    My Aussie doesn't bother the chickens at all, and neither does our young mutt puppy (looks to be some type of lab mix), but this boxer is something else. I'm going to do my best to work with this guy and see what he does. I bring him in at night on a short lead and let him check everything out, and this morning I brought him in and carried a stick (not a big stick) so I could just tap his butt and say NO if I had to. He listened pretty well. I only had to tap his butt once and he was okay most of the rest of the time. He did NOT want to leave the pen though!!

    I know he's mostly curious, and I feel like he will do okay with me, but I know if they ever get out or get to flapping and flying around it'll be more than he can take - he'll definitely go after them. I'm just going to have to do my best to make sure that doesn't happen.
  10. ninjapoodles

    ninjapoodles Sees What You Did There

    May 24, 2008
    Central Arkansas
    Quote:That's how it is with mine, with maybe one exception. Supervised, they're fine--I don't own a dog without a good recall. But on their own? Yeah. Chicken dinners.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: