Good dog vs. Bad dog - can chickens distinguish between the two?


Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!
14 Years
Nov 9, 2007
SW Arkansas
Both of my flocks have grown quite comfortable around our german shepherds since the dogs ignore the chickens and don't threaten them in any way.

However, due to the fact that I free range, I would like for the chickens to retain their instinctive fear of dogs. Stray dogs are rare here, but they do happen. Our dogs have to go out during the time the chickens are out, so there's no way to keep the two species completely seperate. I take the dogs out on a leash, but they walk around amongst the chickens and one of the chickens is quite curious about the dogs and comes running up to them.

So is it the shape, smell and size of a dog that causes chickens fear or is it the dogs actions - running/chasing, barking, etc. that cause the fear?
For chickens that have never seen a dog just seeing a dog would scare them, but for chickens that are used to dogs (mine are in the same boat as yours as my dog stays out back with them most days) I think they would have to be chased/barked at to be frightened- which a stray dog would likely be doing.
Don't know if it's true about dogs, but my chickens have always been able to tell the difference between the usual cats and strange cats. They get nervous, huddled together and start alerting when a strange cat comes into the yard. Even if it's the same color as one of mine.

My chickens are completely comfortable around my two dogs but have a fit when a strange dog comes anywhere near them. I found this out a couple of months ago when we adopted our new dog - they acted completely different than around our old dog. They have become used to her now but last week I dog-sat my neighbors two doxies for two days and the chickens went nuts every time I let them out to potty. So yes, I think they definitely can tell a difference.
My fenced backyard is maybe 25' from the coops. The chickens free range right up to the fence and mostly ignore the dogs. Lily the dog thinks it is a great game to let them get right up to the fence and then charge at them barking. They do squawk and flap away (much to Lily's delight), but for the most part they just ignore the dogs.
About a year ago a friend dropped by unannounced and brought her dog with her. I was behind the coops cleaning and didn't realize she was here until every single chicken went NUTS! They were frantically flinging themselves against the wire and screaming their heads off. I thought a hawk had grabbed one of them! When she realized what was happened she immediately took her dog back to her car and the chickens all settled back down. Clearly they did not like her dog!

I have seen them do that three times. Once with her dog, once with a puppy some guy had on the road that decided it wanted to come roam my yard and once when the neighbor's stupid jack russell got loose and come to charge around my yard. All three times the chickens went nuts. And yet, they walk within inches of my two pups with no problems. I think they know who belongs in the yard and who does not.
Yes! They do know the difference! My hens were raised with my dog from day one. They spend lots of time together, and even try to chase down the dog, who ignores them, when they're feeling sassy. However, when we brought over a lab to puppy-sit that they didn't know or trust, they flipped. First they froze. Then ran and hid, squawking, behind "their" dog. They know our dog is apart of the flock, and everything else is a preditor. It really impressed me.

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