My Yellow Lab & Chickens?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Chopaka81, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. Chopaka81

    Chopaka81 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 18, 2011
    #1) I am a complete newbie, never owned a chicken, never even built a coop. Construction on the coop begins this weekend.
    #2) I have a high octane field trial yellow lab and I am concerned about her and chickens. She is a outstanding duck and pheasant dog.

    With #1 & #2 above in mind, I am looking for recomendations on how to introduce my Lab to the chicken and keep the feathers where the belong - on the chickens. Reba (my lab) is a hunting dog and her kingdom is about to have some new residents. Soft mouth that she has, I am very concerned about the safety of my birds.

    The only plus I see to this, is that my lab will keep other predators away.

    Looking for some advise on introducing my lab to the chickens.

    Thanks, Chopaka
  2. s914934

    s914934 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 11, 2011
    Cheyenne, WY
    I am also a newbie, with a big yellow lab. I wasn't thinking however and went and introduced one of the chicks to Willy. I found myself talking to him just like I had done the kids. I kept saying, "Be nice, be nice, be nice." Willy, when excited shows his toothy smile. He was showing it a lot as he got closer and closer with his muzzle. Then I realized that when I give him a treat, I always say, "Take it nice, take it nice." I decided that was enough chick and pup socializing for now. He hasn't been all that interested in the chicks but I'm sure when they are a little larger, he'll be a little more interested.
    When you find out how to introduce them without inviting your yellow lab to eat a chick, let me know. [​IMG]
  3. spiritdance

    spiritdance Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 13, 2010
    I don't want to be a naysayer here, but your best bet is a good, stout fence. You have a dog that not only has hunting instincts, but has had those instincts honed by training. Even if you succeed in teaching her to leave your chickens alone, what will that do to her training? Don't get me wrong, I know how intelligent dogs are, especially the hunting breeds (I'm a Golden Retrieve devotee myself), but some things are just asking too much. If she were not a hunting dog you might get her to the point you could totally trust her, and you will likely at least get her to the point that she will leave them alone when you're around, but when you aren't, I wouldn't want to bet the farm that she could resist an "easy retrieve." I know my girl Zoey couldn't, no matter how good her intentions are ...
  4. SunnyCalifornia

    SunnyCalifornia Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2010
    Escondido CA
    Maybe I'm just fortunate, but I have a pit bull, and pit bull/lab mix. Honestly, I couldn't tell you what I did to make them "accept" the chickens. The dogs were first, the chickens just arrived, and were present, took over, and were off limits. [​IMG] No fences, except for their coop. But they free range daily with the dogs present.

    I do use a "leave it" command with my dogs, and that means they have to pretty much ignore that particular thing. I learned that command in a puppy training class, and used it primarily when we'd go for walks, and encounter other walkers and their dogs. Having pit bulls, I have to make sure my dogs are well behaved. The breed always seems to be guilty until proven innocent! Now my dogs watch over my flock for me when I'm not outside with all the birds.

    Its a lot easier if you've taken a leadership role from the beginning with your dog. But a good dog will learn what is "family" and what is not, just with some training. Some dogs do have too strong a prey drive, and may never be safe, but other times, it just makes for a good excuse for a lazy owner.

    I'm sure neither of you are like that!! Or you wouldn't be asking!! [​IMG]

    Liz Palika (google her name) has some good dog training books. One of my former dogs went through her training courses. I've applied the same techniques to my two current dogs,
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2011
  5. spiritdance

    spiritdance Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 13, 2010
    A strong prey drive is one thing, but when it's reinforced by training, doing something that seems to counter that training can confuse a dog, especially if it's coming from the dog's alpha. In my dog's case, she will do as I tell her ... and yes, she knows "leave it," along with "all out," "come around," and a dozen other hunting AND herding commands the average pet doesn't know ... but I KNOW when I'm not there to tell her anything, instincts AND her training come into play. Hunting/Retriever training (and in my case herding as well) is very specialized and absolutely does hone and focus their prey drive. A "lazy owner" does NOT end up with a retriever with a "soft mouth" like the OP has! It takes a tremendous amount of time, patience, and dedication to achieve that. It's not a question of learning or not learning what is "family," but rather an issue of NOT undoing the hard work that goes into a good hunting dog by confusing it. It's not that hard to make sure the dog is not left alone with the chickens. Mine goes into the pen with me to collect eggs, follows me into the incubator/brooder room, and lounges around with us in the yard while they free range, but when I come inside, she comes with me or she's closed into her "yard," where I KNOW she's not doing anything we both might regret ...
  6. Hhoky

    Hhoky Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 16, 2011
    I don't have a lab, I actually have a Black lab/Basset hound mix. Talk about the ugly cute that grows on you! He looks just like a midget lab cept for the bow legged front. Anyway, we also have a Pembroke welsh Corgi, and a some terrier/possibly Chi mixed thing. (My DD's) Of all our dogs, the only one I was worried about was Guinness (the lab/basset) because of the double hunting dog "Instincts" and we got him as a rescue, so He was the one I worked with first.
    I guess it might have helped that all the dogs could see the chicks and bunnies from the beginning. First in the 55 gal fish tank up on the table, then on the floor in a small chicken wire pen. (We raised our bunnies and chicks together and they share the same mini barn.)
    We built a pen outside, really just a bunch of 2 foot high boards leaned against each other and bricks, for the babies to play in. For the first week of taking the babies outside, only Guinness was allowed out during play times. The first day he was allowed to run around the outside of the pen as much as he wanted, but had to come/sit/stay as demanded. Day two we both sat inside the play pen area but he had to sit/stay the entire hour. Day 3 same as the first, by now tho the chickies were completely unafraid of him and even hopped up on his back to scratch or nap. [​IMG] I kept my hand on his neck next to his collar the whole time and just talked calmly. If he got too excited (as is normal..omg new stuff to smell/see/lick etc) I would tell him to lie down and let him back up a min later, to sit/stay. Day 4 we both sat in there, but I would only give him the sit stay command for the first 5 min, then released him. Man was I nervous. But I think so was he. He smelled each chick, and bunny ate some poop [​IMG], drank some water, came back to me and flopped down. The rest of the week was just the same. (The Bunnies never got too friendly with the dogs, as was expected of course, and Guinness is the only one allowed inside the mini barn with them ever. They tolerate him and after a few thumps our buck will sniff his face, and one of our does will actually play fight with him a bit, before deciding hes boring and goes off to eat.)
    I did use a command that was new to him and the little dog, but not to our Corgie, which is "Baby", "Be easy with the baby" And "My Baby". In my house Baby is really anything that is mine, that they need to be nice to, first was my children, parrots, turtles, the lizard, kittens, etc. Although I do use body language and throat growling/teeth bearing as well as verbal commands, kinda habit. We have added a few dogs and lost a few dogs over all the years, but they all learned real quick what "Baby" meant. Thank goodness, it comes in very handy.
    Anyway, Im rambling again. . . Chickies are all asleep I got nothing to do. . .
    Guinness became "mommy" to the flock of 9+3 buns. During playtime he was their watcher, around the other dogs he was the boss, and even now he is their guardian. (Side note if it matters, hes low man on the totem pole as far as the dog pack goes, Corgie first, lil brat she demon, then the big goof ball Guinness, but when the Girls are out, both other dogs differ to him, neatest thing I have ever seen. Even when she demon jumped over the 2 foot barrier to the mini barn, Guinness charged it barking, when she popped out again all scared looking, he actually dragged her across the porch by her tail. Man I laughed good and hard, she never jumped in there again tho.)
    FYI training with the Corgie went fine, he "herded them around and around, ate all the poop [​IMG] then got bored with em. For Zumi the mixed she demon. . all I can say is Ugg! Her training ended quickly. Luckily now the girls are bigger than her, and the one Doe bit her in the butt during her training, so she pretty much ignores them all.
    Its really funny to watch him and the not-so-little babies now, they all say good morning to him, My fave hen hops up on his back every now and then still and rides "her" dog around [​IMG]. Oh btw he does the doggy grin too its so cute, but the chickens love to peck at his teeth every time he does! They learn quickly too, with 3 dogs, someone is always bound to bark over something, but the girls will flatten or run for the coop if Guinness barks, and they only look around and become alert if the others bark.
    Blah blah blah, as it is I doubt any of this was helpful in any way, except if your like me and cant sleep so you keep reading around Backyardchickens maybe It was entertaining.
    Personal note, I do however have the up most respect for people and their working dogs, be it working or sport! I hope you find a great middle ground that works for you.
    I know how lucky I am that I seem to get animals that get along. Hmm Maybe I should tell the story of my mama duck and my cat that shared egg sitting duties, naw maybe next time.
    Ps sorry..this got really long, I promise Ill go off to bed now! >.> After I read that last other post.
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j True BYC Addict

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    We've had labs and chickens for years. The lab we currently have is also a duck and phesant dog. Loves to hunt. He was introduced to chickens when he was 8 weeks old. I've never had a problem with him chasing my birds. He will, sometimes, wait until they're minding their own business in the driveway and run through the flock to scatter them (then turn around and look like,
    "Huh, who did that?"), and he runs over to investigate and break up squabbles but he's never tried to put his mouth on one. He's 8 years old. We have had labs, however, that did like to retrieve the chickens. The one before this one hadn't been introduced (or trained - totally my fault!) and was about 10 mo. old when we let the chickens out for the first time. It was Sunday, ended up going to town for dinner, visiting with family, and when we got back he had all 10 of my pullets laying dead on the doorstep. They were all slobbery and by the looks of things, had been retrieved and carried around till they quit moving and he'd get another one. Another lab we had discovered that if you run around the chicken pen enough times, the silly birds panic and fly out and you can catch them in the air - much more fun than a frisbee! I guess what I'm trying to say is, it all depends on the dog and how much time you're willing to spend on the training of the dog. To begin with, I'd have a good strong fence between the two, and a cover on your run!
  8. texasgal

    texasgal Brood with an Attitude

    Apr 18, 2009
    Quote:Our Lucy is 8 and exactly as you describe above .. Our motto is dog and chickens are NEVER out at the same time. Lucy is leashed *PERIOD* when the chickens are out.

    Even sometimes when we have her leashed and we are on the front porch and the chickens come around. She'll watch intently but seem calm and DH will remark that she would probably be ok. About that time some little thing like: rooster decides to breed a hen .. or hen decides to chase a bug .. and she can't control herself.. lol.

    We just have to be very careful..

    Good luck!
  9. Chopaka81

    Chopaka81 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 18, 2011
    Thanks for the quick responses and good advise. I will proceed with caution, sounds like some have been successful, other's with gaurded success (a short leash), and other's just have not gone there.
    Thanks again!
  10. TaylorHobbyFarms

    TaylorHobbyFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 2, 2010
    We have a lab that we got as an adult dog and we later introduced chickens to her. She does fine around them unless we try to catch the chickens. We always put her in a kennel when we need to move or catch chickens for any reason. Our biggest problem is that sometimes she wants to go in their pens when we let them out and eat their food.

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