Want to get turkeys but we have a dog


9 Years
May 23, 2010
Webster City, IA
We've had so much fun raising chickens for eggs & meat that we decided we want to try some heritage turkeys for meat, and maybe keep a few for breeding. My main concern is our Springer Spaniel who has killed several of our chickens when they escaped from our fence. We are investing in some electric poultry netting so the girls can safely free range this summer but I am not sure it would be enough to keep turkeys confined. Do I have to keep the turkeys confined in housing to save them from our dog?
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Yes, or get rid of the dog! I can't have a dog here that kills my stock. I have had to rehome some great dogs due to them killing birds.
Electric poultry netting will keep the turkeys confined. They will not fly over it directly from the ground. If there are tree branches or other roosting places above in your turkey yard then they will fly up to those and then fly over the netting from there. What I would do with the dog though, is get a shock collar. Allow the turkeys to free range near the dog. Watch the dog closely and every time he makes a move for the turkeys, zap him. Don't say anything, just zap him. He will associate his own action of going after the turkeys with the unpleasant reaction. You can have him trained very quickly to stay clear of the birds as long as you don't neglect to watch him closely during the training period and he ends up getting his reward for going after them.
When my heritage turkeys get spooked (bored, curious, just feeling silly, etc.), they fly directly from the ground over our both our 4' tall electric netting and our 8' tall deer fencing. Then they wander back and forth outside it wondering how to get back in.
I've also seen them launch from the ground and land in the top of a 50' tree - makes 'em look like creaky buzzards, silhouetted against the sunset! If I were serious about keeping them in, I'd cover their area overhead with bird netting.

My very prey oriented dog killed one of my first pullets almost 2 years ago. I spent a good amount of time training her, and she doesn't go after any of my birds anymore, in fact she helps me herd them back in sometimes. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it for my style of husbandry (semi-free range with mix of species).
I am really not sure that a shock collar will deter a dog... quills on a porcupine won't stop them from going after a porcupine again.

As far as electric poultry netting goes, I don't know if birds actually get shocked with it. Last year was my first year using it and I had it hooked up to a solar charger. Our ground stayed wet all summer which was unusual and should have helped. Repeated testing of the fence showed it had 7000 volts on it (I believe 2000v is the minimum required). I watched the chickens and turkeys walk along the fence line and they would actually 'walk up' the fence when I approached and that would push the lower part of the netting to the ground where they would be standing on it and they didn't seem to notice. They would also start flapping their wings and flap/climb the fence to escape (and once they leave the ground they aren't grounded anymore anyhow). I think the netting works better to keep predators out than to keep poultry in. I did see tracks after the first snow that showed a coyote was checking them out, but it never went in so I think it worked there. Some chickens stayed in, others I couldn't keep in even with clipped wings. If you are getting the netting from premier, a single roll is 164' so enough for a pen about 40' x 40'. Will you have a shelter in there for the birds? My birds also like to fly from the top of their portable shelter and land on the outside of the fence.

Bottom line, poultry netting will only keep your poultry safe if they stay in, and they might not do that. They either need a covered run (a portable hoop house works too) or pen the dog in a covered run until you can train him. There are folks here that know how to do that, and a search might get you some information. Basically, your dog needs to be trained that YOU are the alpha and that those are YOUR birds.
Agree, it it might take quite a bit of work but I am sure the dog can be put in it's place such it won't dare touch a bird.

A shock collar could be a tool used in the training, but on it's own it's not likely going to work unless there is change in the way the dog sees it's position in the relationship with you and livestock.
I agree that the electro-netting is to keep the predators out, not to train the turkeys to keep away from it. It is great though even without the charger if you want to periodically move the fence because it just pokes into the ground. I use 47" tall field fencing (like RedBrand) permanently installed with medium grade t-posts. It keeps both the turkeys and sheep in. My experience is with Royal Palms, Narragansetts, Black Spanish, and Bourbon Reds. They do not fly directly over it. When they are energetic and want to air it out they fly low and close to the ground, avoiding the fence. When they can see a perching place like a tree branch above, that's when they will make the effort to gain altitude. They will carefully guage the branch and only fly up if they are sure they can make it. (Mine roost high up in Ponderosa Pine trees every night starting from a low branch and then working their way up high from branch to branch.) So, if they can reach a branch that's either inside or outside the fence line, they'll do it. That's how they get out. A fence with a perchable top will get jumped this way too, but not a fence with a wire for a top. Other breeds may behave differently; my experience is as above.

As to the dog, I've easily trained 2 dogs to leave the chickens and turkeys alone using the shock collar. One is a Standard Poodle genetically programmed to pursue birds. Non-birding dogs are even easier to train because they are not trying to suppress such instincts. It's quick and easy to do. It's a total stimulus-response issue for dogs. Yes, the dog should understand who the pack leader is (you), but when it comes to going after a bird, the dog should believe that the pain of a shock is independent of anything other than it's own action of going after a bird. So you have to be diligent during the training process and not allow the dog to go after a bird without you being ready to zap him. In fact, you should let the dog go after the birds just to get this aversion-training accomplished. Don't scold the dog, just give the dog praise when it runs back to you for protection from that powerful bird.

I agree on the training. it takes a mild correction to discourage behavior BEFORE it has been completely engaged. But a MUCH stronger correction to stop an attack in progress. Once the adrenaline kicks in, they stop feeling pain unless it is severe.

It is a bird dog that has already killed chickens! I hope you can train it but I really doubt you can. Your best bet if you want turkeys is to build a big pen that is covered or rehome the dog. be ready to loose some birds in the training. I have had a few non hunting dogs that I thought were broke. They would even go to feed with me and walk through the birds without even looking at them. I thought it was great for a few weeks. Then when I wasn't there, dead turkeys!

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