Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by TitiBebbs, Oct 7, 2007.

  1. TitiBebbs

    TitiBebbs Songster

    Mar 26, 2007
    I need a way to break my dogs from chickennapping. Please help!

    My dogs (supposedly American Bull, but . . .) and Austrailian Cattle Dog (or Blue Heeler) have been "playing" with our chickens. First, we found our lovely, possibly male young turkey gutted. Though it was an outside predator so we chalked it up to mistake of not plugging in the fence.

    We had to move the girls and some of the younger roos to the former dog pen, a 5' high chain link fence - very large area- because the BA roos have become so aggressive that we were beginning to have injuries. First day of the move, one of my EE babies (3-4 mos.) got out and the BH dog got it (her i think). I immediately put up the dog trolley (@ 9 PM)and chained him. A few days later, I found one of the BA girls pretty much gutted in the front yard AND the same baby (Sticky) hiding under my car. I wouldn't have even found it if ds hadn't forgotten his lunch and we had to go back up the driveway. I chained Boots and all was well.

    We've had the boys chained, letting them off to run and play often, until the BH ran into a car on the highway - he's fine. Yesterday, we let them run and I saw them come home to eat and drink. Something - I don't know what yet - made me look outside and there they were halfway down the quarter mile driveway with Goldie, my (I think) red sex-link. Boots (Bell mix) had Goldie in his mouth while Steel followed I saw him shake and I screamed. Immediately he let go and they moved away. Goldie is good, no injuries except lost feathers on the neck, but . . .

    How can I or even CAN I break this? We'll be eating the roosters but since there are so many it will take a while and until then, the girls and the few roos must stay where they are. Part of the problem is that they roost on the fence/gate because in the rush of everything, their coop consists of 2 old dog pens covered with a tarp and a ladder with a cover meant for roosting and protection of food.

  2. dlhunicorn

    dlhunicorn Human Encyclopedia

    Jan 11, 2007
    How can I or even CAN I break this?

    In my honest opinion NO you can not. You will simply have to find a better solution for protecting your birds than the one you have now.​
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2007
  3. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    I completely agree with Diana on this one.
  4. BirdBrain

    BirdBrain Prefers Frozen Tail Feathers

    May 7, 2007
    Can you rig up some low saw horses for them to roost on? You can get the metal hinge brackets at Lowes and all you do is cut your wood to length and screw them on to the metal hinges and put the cross member on. It is way easy. You have to make the top of the fence as undesirable as possible and give them something else to roost on.

    I am afraid your dogs are going to be opportunistic and have dinner when ever the opportunity presents itself. I doubt you will be able to break them of this. It is too deeply ingrained in them to eat or play with small critters that they can chase down. Unfortunately it is your birds. Finding a better way to keep your birds safe is the only way to fix this. Lots of people have dogs and chickens and it is really hard when the predator is your own dog. I think it is still very doable for you to have both dogs and chickens safely but it makes your job all the more difficult.

    Chin up!! You will find a way!
  5. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    I think that predators got the turkey and the other bird who was gutted. The dogs are more likely to play with them to death, like what you saw them doing.

    You need to make the pens predator proof if you want to have any birds left.
  6. So, here's my little dog training ideas ...

    We have a new puppy (Molly who’s a Brittany, 6 mon.) who is starting chicken training. I hope to periodically update you all as to the progress.

    We only have three chickens and duck, but will be expanding. We had more birds but the fox and bobcat relieved us of them. The birds are strictly for home use and the birds are free range.

    We have four dogs (2 Labs, 1 Retriever mix, 1 Great Pyrenees), all of whom are good with the birds. We got the Pyr as a puppy and it is her training that we are using as a model for the new puppy. The other dogs we got at a much older age. We never had a problem with them, but they are pretty obedient.

    Our training method is similar to how a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) is trained. The difference is we are training to guard chickens not sheep. So, the demands of this training are a bit easier. All we need the dogs to do is guard a fenced area and to not eat or chase the chickens. Simple right?

    Well, as one might imagine, puppies like to chase feathery objects that make interesting sounds, run, flap wings and fly a mere three feet off the ground; what fun. A key factor in the training is to break the association of chicken with fun. It is a sort of socialization process. Here’s how it goes:

    Level 1
    1. Once house broken, the puppy sleeps in a crate in the chicken coop.
    2. The puppy eats meals near the chickens. We do this by feeding the dog next to the chicken coop with the birds near.
    3. Chicken chores are done with the puppy tethered to you.
    4. No playing is allowed. All other dogs or playmates (children, etc) are not allowed in the area when the puppy is “working” with the chickens.
    5. The puppy is not allowed to chase the chickens. Any attempts are corrected with a snap of the leash and a bark-like “NO”.
    6. Closely watched bird introductions are done. With the puppy on a leash, we hold a bird and allow the puppy to calmly sniff the bird. Excited attempts to “play” with the bird are reprimanded. We are trying to desensitize the dog to the birds, so this is done a several times.

    Once Level 1 is working well – this can take a few weeks - we move to Level 2:

    Level 2
    Most of Level 1 still applies, except now we try some limited “off leash” interaction with the puppy and birds. All contact must be closely supervised. It is important that the dog is responding to your commands to not pursue the birds. Commands like “NO” and “Leave It” should be understood by the dog. We believe obedience from the dog is the critical factor.

    If a chase does begin, one technique used to show your disapproval is to bark a “NO”, take the dog by the scruff of the neck and roll the dog on its side, now glare at the dog. This is similar to how an adult dog reprimands a puppy. As you might notice, for this to work you must be close and watchful of the dog.

    Level 2 progresses with more time with the dog with the birds. The goal is for the dog to ignore the birds. No stalking, no excited lunges as birds dart around or fly to a roost, no staring imagining how tasty they might be, nothing. By the end, the dog shouldn’t even look at the birds and it she does she should be reprimanded, LEAVE IT!

    So, that’s it. That’s the plan. I think if one can train their dogs along these lines, the dogs can be expect to behave whether the birds are fenced off or free range with the dogs.

    How did we do? Well, Fluffy, our Great Pyrenees puppy is now 2.5 years old. Our chickens run free with the four dogs in a fenced in acre of yard. At some point after our little program, she apparently attacked a chicken. We expressed our displeasure. After which we have never had a problem. As testament to the breed, we have never had a predator loss with Fluffy on guard duty. She barks a bit, but keeps the fox and bobcat away. It is not as if she watches over the chickens, but they happen to be in her territory which she keeps rather secure. The Labs on the other hand have been rather useless in guarding the flock.

    We have had the new puppy Molly for two weeks and she is already into Level 2 with our first off leash session today. She has improved greatly. Molly assists me with letting the girls out in the morning and in at night. We had some following of the duck into the coop and some nervous chickens, but no all out chasing of the birds. We hope this good progress will continue.

  7. TitiBebbs

    TitiBebbs Songster

    Mar 26, 2007
    Thank you Jim for this advice. I have printed it out and intend to start trying immediately with the younger (1 y/o Boots) dog. The older one (2 y/o Steele) is more headstrong and smart enough to trick me into thinking he cares about being trained. He's funny like that. He'll pretend to be a good boy and do everything commanded when worked with. But as soon as he has a chance, he's off to playing it his way. We had tried something similar to train him NOT to chase cars, but NOOOO. A few weeks ago, he followed my dad to a neighbor's and when he tried to chase a car, he ran smack into the side of it. He bounced off and walked away. Dad called for me to check on him and he was out front smiling at me . . . That is, until a car went by on the road out front. He took off again. Luckily, it is about 1/4 mile to the road and he gives up before getting there most times. He's a funny one.

    Thank you I'll let you know how things go.

  8. PurpleChicken

    PurpleChicken Tolerated.....Mostly

    Apr 6, 2007
    I usually take the position you can train a dog not to harm chickens. In this case
    I'm with Diane and Cynthia.

    The breeds you have are difficult to retrain. Plus you have two so they have a pack
    mentality. Dogs act COMPLETELY different when with other dogs.

    If you decide to attempt to train them then do a search here on dogs. There is a lot
    of good advice here. Jim instructions are extremely good. The animal must see
    the birds as equals and pack members, not prey.

    As for the gutting I agree with SpottedCrow. I can't imagine a dog gutting a bird unless
    it was starving. Most dogs will stop once the animal is dead or in shock.

    Good luck.
  9. SandraChick

    SandraChick Songster

    I'm on the fence on this one.

    Typically I say they're trainable and my instructions are very similar to Jims.....

    If you just had the cattle dog....I'd say you'd have some luck. They're actually really smart and VERY trainable. The American Bull is not known to be great at training per se...but my thoughts are it always depends on the individual dog.

    The biggest teller of probable success of course is YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Serious time and training will be required with 100% consistancy.

    My advice is that if you're serious---you ask the aid of a professional. They can help with the car chasing as well.'s split up the yard with fencing and know that you will forever have a chicken yard and a dog yard.

    Last edited: Oct 20, 2007
  10. Beth,

    I will admit it will be hard to train an older dog to except the chickens. But, I firmly believe it’s possible. It will take time and patience, but the payoff will be great. I for one love the freedom of letting the girls (chickens) out in the morning before I rush off to work, knowing that they are safe with the dogs. After hearing all of the problems everyone has had with other predator, I can’t help to think what a wonderful solution it is to have dependable flock guardians.

    I agree with the other posts that your breed of dogs may make this tough, but a big part of a dogs behavior is nurture/training. I have three BIRD dogs, hell they’re breed to hunt down the very thing I’ve asked them to ignore. One of our dogs, Nutmeg, had a very extreme prey response. I thought for sure she would attack our birds. But, what Nutmeg valued most was her people. All we needed to do was socialize her with the birds and us. Once she understood that the birds were something we cared about, all was good.

    I suggest that you start from square one. As you have noted, your dogs have some other issues. Obedience is key. Start training your dogs with the basics. Go to the library and check out every book on obedience training, your cattle dog should love this. Your goal is to have dogs that can complete in an obedience trial (I believe in setting lofty goals and then fall somewhat short). Your mission then is to have dogs that look to you as the center of their world. If you love your dogs (and your chickens) you will take charge of your dogs.

    Since, we got the little six month old puppy (Brittanys are great BIRD dogs) I literally walk around with a bag of dog treats on me(I use their dog food kiddle). There are numerous times during the day that I give commands to the dogs. The dogs must WAIT before crossing a doorway, as commanded. SIT before getting food. I reward generously, hence the bag of treats.

    The puppy, Molly, was watching the birds today. This is not expectable at her stage of training. I gave her a HEY or NO while she was doing this. Once she broke her stare, I gave her a reward. Eventually she will learn that it’s better to ignore the birds (we get treats). But, all of this takes time. I believe it’s better to reward than to punish, it just make a more dependable dog.

    Until then, I agree with the others that you need to separate the birds and dogs. I currently will not allow the puppy to be outside with the birds unsupervised. All of my training will go down the tubes if she finds out that the chickens are not only fun to chase, but tasty. Hence, for the next several months the chickens go into the Chicken Tractor to allow the puppy to romp and be a puppy. The chickens come out for a couple of hours of rooming. At that point the puppy is either watched outside or is inside. As I stated before, the puppy sleeps and eats with the birds.

    I’m sure you can tackle this. Be strict, but kind. Good luck.


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