Insert my chickens into the story. Yikes! They are unable to defend themselves against our dogs, so we’ve had to take some necessary steps in order to make our property safe for both the chickens and the dogs.
There are some breeds that are actually great guardians and protectors for your flock! Great Pyrenees or the Anatolian Shepherd, were made specifically to be flock guardians. Their prey drive is little to nonexistent while they are very protective of whatever herd or flock they were meant to look after. Many people add these gentle giants to their family and everyone does fine altogether.
As I stated above, we needed to design our coop and kennels so that everyone can be happy and safe. Our dogs are in large kennels in our shop and have plenty of penned in outdoor space. We run our dogs daily and they get lots of cuddles and play time as well! This keeps them happy, for the most part, and out of trouble!
Labs have a lot of energy and need to be able to burn it off. We don’t allow them to run all over the place unless we’re outside with them. This way, we can keep an eye on them for their safety as well as the safety of our chickens. Our chickens have a large coop with a very spacious fenced in run. We live along a riverbed with multiple natural predators. Throw in 5 Labradors, and it would be a disaster to free range our flock. They are happy and less stressed with their boundaries and so am I! Haha!
If you’re going to introduce your family dog to chickens, you need to do it slowly. Make sure your chickens are fenced in and have your dog on a leash to begin with. Allow the dogs to observe from a distance. See how they react to the flock and how the flock reacts to them. If your dog gets super jumpy and excited, you know they’re not ready. Try doing some tricks for treats with the dog’s back facing the chickens. If the dog can’t focus and is easily distracted by the chickens, they’re not ready. Slowly work with your dog near the chicken run. Eventually, you can introduce them a bit more by allowing the dogs to sniff and smell the chickens. Make sure you are holding onto your dog and encouraging them to be gentle. Some dogs may not want to kill the chickens, but they will want to play. Chickens won’t like that and can get very stressed or even injured with a well-meaning dog.
When you feel both of your flock and your dog are relaxed around each other, allow your chickens to free range a bit with your dog on a leash. If this goes okay, you will eventually get to the point (hopefully!) where your dogs and chickens can live happily together. It will take a lot of patience and time, but people do it all the time.
While you’re introducing your pets, I’d put a little Flock Fixer™ in your chickens’ water. Flock Fixer is a great additive in times of stress! It will equip your chickens with the nutrients they need to maintain their health in this stressful time.
Raising family pets has just always been part of our life here at the Wing home. We want our kids to experience a lot of different things and having pets is a great opportunity! We love our chickens and our dogs. For us, it’s impossible to integrate them because of our dogs’ drive for bird hunting. But, if you’re looking to get a breed that is gentle and a flock guardian, you will have one big happy family!
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady