Dogs and poultry can be a match made in heaven or a nightmare, depending on a few factors. If you want to keep backyard poultry and dogs at the same time, here’s what you need to know!
Consider the Breed
Some dogs are better suited for poultry than others. Livestock guardian breeds like Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, and Maremma have a lower prey drive and can be very helpful when it comes to protecting your poultry.
We have two Great Pyrenees dogs on guard, and they are amazing at keeping away foxes, raccoons, and aerial predators like hawks and bald eagles as well. We had to lock our dogs up for a while at night because they kept running off and we lost more chickens to predators than we ever have before. After we were able to let the dogs back out, the losses mostly stopped.
On the other hand, Beagles, Terriers, Border Collies, Greyhounds, and other dogs with a high prey drive might not be such a great combination, particularly if your chickens free-range. These dogs like to chase, catch, and injure all types of animals, including poultry. There’s not much worse than losing a member of your flock due to your own dog, so do be on guard.
Carefully Introduce Dogs and Poultry
Regardless of what type of dog you have, be diligent and careful when first introducing them to your backyard birds. Keeping your dogs on a leash and your chickens in an enclosed area is very smart in the beginning as you assess how your dogs might behave around your flock. Take your time and make sure to watch your dog’s body language and behavior when taking them near the birds.
With work, some dogs can be trained to behave around poultry, but some can’t. And remember, just because a dog breed is known for being a livestock guardian, that doesn’t mean that those dogs will immediately behave around your flock.
Great Pyrenees are hard workers, but they are also notoriously stubborn and hard to train. We had to train both of our pyrs to behave around our chickens. It took time and persistence; it didn’t just happen overnight. You can read my Great Pyrenees training tips if you need some pointers! It was totally worth the effort though – they are amazing guardians now!
Other Considerations with Dogs & Poultry
It’s a good idea to never let you dogs in the chicken coop. Not only can this stress your poultry, but it is possible for dogs to get salmonella from eating chicken feces. Stressed chickens won’t lay eggs so it’s important to keep them calm.
It’s also a good idea to feed and water your dogs and poultry in separate areas. Dogs will eat chicken food and vice versa. It’s generally not a problem if you’re feeding your chickens unmedicated food, but medicated food is not good for dogs. Chickens often like dog food too and if we leave our garage doors open, they have showed up in the garage to eat dog food. We don’t enjoy the chicken poop in the garage, so we definitely want them to stay out and eat their own food.
Do you keep dogs and chickens? What’s been your biggest struggle?