I have been researching like crazy on how to introduce dogs and chickens to create a harmonious existence. You know, just like these pictures we see on Instagram of a dog with a chicken perched on his head!
As we all know, dogs have a natural prey drive, certain breeds more than others. Did you also know that the way we raise our dogs can either encourage or discourage that stalk, chase, capture behaviour? Look at what a simple game of ball encourages.
That is a huge stretch and expectation for even the most best-behaved dog. So I am going to first begin with being realistic and aim for co-existence.
The Sniff Test:
When the hens arrive place them into their new house and let them settle in for a few hours. After this time this is when you can allow your dog to sniff, at a distance at first and move in closer slowly, on leash and safely on the outside of the coup. We are looking to encourage a positive interaction.
Keep each sniff time short, just a second to minutes.
Cooped Up Time:
Keep your chickens within their enclosure for at least a week. The idea of this is they start to recognise this as their place and they “don’t fly the coup” when it is time to let them out.
During this cooped up time, you can safely get familiarise your dog with their existence. Your dog should never have access to the chicken’s enclosure unsupervised. Especially at night, your dog could be harassing the hens by pawing the pen or circling it while they are trying to sleep.
The time has come for your hens to free range. This is the most dangerous time for chickens when dogs are around. Always keep your dog away from the hens and on lead, speak gently and calmly while your dog is being calm.
As the days or even weeks go past you will still need to continue monitoring your dogs’ signs, is he relaxed and no longer bothered about the hens or he still up for the chase?
I keep telling myself this is going to take all my patience.
Finally, your dog no longer cares that the chickens are swanning around “their” yard. This is where becoming complacent can be dangerous. Sometimes dogs that raised around hens all their life can suddenly give chase. Why do they do this? It could be for various reasons, the dog may have been startled and thought it was something else (that actually has happened to someone I know!), they may have been eating and a curious hen wanted to get in on it, an older dog with hearing or sight that may be changing.
At the end of the day your dog still has that natural prey drive within them, and they are doing their best to behave just how we ask them too.
When Friendships Do Not Happen:
I have read that this happens, often. I figure we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it and never blame the dog. In our busy lives we do expect so much of our beloved pooches and they do try their best navigating their way around all our changing expectations.
I mean we tell them it is o.k to chase the ball but not the chicken – how confusing is that right!
I have also read it is a simple as making some small adjustments so that both pooch and chickens are happy. This can be as basic as separating dog time and chicken time in the yard, when the chickens are free ranging take your dog for a nice long scent stroll. Adding a larger run for your hens so that free ranging daily is not essential. Divide the yard with appropriate fencing to keep everyone safe, and so on.
Okayyyy, with all this information on board, that makes it seem kinda easy enough right…lets’ see what really happens when my dogs meet their new feathered residents….coming soon!!!!
Author Bio: Nikki is pack leader at Pressplay Pets, a blog for the modern age pet parent interested in health & care, news, reviews & personal accounts of unconditional love & at times heartfelt pain of pet parenting. She is also proud mum to cute and cheeky Papillons ‘Amber’ and ‘Indy’!
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Good luck, but do be forgiving as they do have spaniel in the genes
Its going to be a slow process…they LOVEEEEE chasing magpies around the yard!! Amber is very much a mummy’s girl…so making sure she doesn’t get jealous is the 1st step. Indy on the other hand is much more relentless at chasing birds. Fingers and toes crossed.