There is one homesteading animal that tends to be forgotten among the cows, chickens, and goats.
For centuries, dogs, aka “man’s best friend” has been a part of the homesteading lifestyle by protecting, herding, and providing company. Some dog breeds are specifically bred and raised to protect and/or herd other homesteading animals. However, it’s super important to realize that all dogs need some form of training to show them the way.
One thing that all dogs are born with is the instinct to chase anything that runs. This can be somewhat problematic considering that most other homestead animals have a strong flight response. So a very common concern that arises when it comes to our canine friends on the homestead is “Can you train your dog to not chase chickens?”.
Yes, you can train your dog to co-exist with your chickens and other animals, but it will require training, patience, and a lot of practice. To help get you started, I have gathered some in-depth tips to help you, your chickens, and your dog.
Tips For Training Your Dog to Be Chicken-Friendly
Tip #1: Identify Why Your Dog is Chasing Chickens
As I already mentioned, dogs have an instinct to chase prey animals, but there are a few other factors that can contribute to a dog’s need to chase.
- Consider What Dog Breed You are Training
There are different classifications of dog breeds, and some will have an easier time adjusting to chickens than others. For example, Jack -Russel Terriers were once bred to chase small animals, while Great Pyrenees are bred to protect animals. A Jack-Russell Terrier might have a harder time fighting their natural instincts. Note: The breed of dog doesn’t always make a difference; it is just important to understand where this instinct may be coming from.
- Consider Your Dogs Individual Personality
Like people, all dogs have their own unique personalities. A playful dog will chase a chicken for fun, and a dog with a protective personality may be chasing chickens away from their area. For example, we’ve raised many dogs on our homestead over the years, and one of our quirkiest (and more challenging dogs to train on our homestead) dogs is Jed. I even created a highlight stories section on Instagram dedicated solely to Jed‘s homestead adventures.
- Think about the Age of Your Dog
Your dog’s age can be the reason for chasing and also help you determine how you will be training your dog to be chicken friendly. A young dog or puppy is very curious and playing is what they do. If you are starting with a young dog, then chasing can be easily taken care of from the start. No matter what age your dog is, training them to not chase will take time and patience.
- Did your Chickens Create the Situation?
I know this seems like an odd thing to consider, but the chicken may have provoked the chasing. Some chickens can be aggressive, especially if you have a rooster or broody hen. It is not unheard of for an overprotective chicken to nip or jump at a dog.
Tip #2: Start Training Your Dog to Be Chicken Friendly with Basic Obedience
You will have difficulty training your dog to be chicken friendly if it hasn’t been taught the basics like sit, stay, or leave it. Basic obedience teaches your dog to respect you and what you ask it to do. There are a few steps that can help make this basic obedience tip go easier for you and your dog.
- Provide a distraction-free work area. No distractions mean your dog will be able to focus and give you their undivided attention.
- Limit training to 15-minute sessions a day in the beginning. Young dogs or dogs with no previous training can have a hard time staying focused. Expecting them to hold their focus for an extended period of time can become stressful for you and your dog.
- Teach them one command at a time. Don’t try and teach all the commands to your dog at once, this will confuse them. Start with ‘sit’, and once they have perfected it and seem to understand it, add ‘stay’. And then once stay is understood, move on to ‘leave it’. Move at your dog’s pace and continue to practice.
- Practice and be consistent. You will want to be consistent with your commands and practice them daily. By the end of basic training, the ideal result is a focused dog that you should only have to be given a command once.
- Make training a positive experience. Let your dog know that they are doing a great job by reinforcing their good behavior with treats and positive attention. This will encourage your dog to do as you ask.
Note: If you have a difficult dog or this is your first-time training, there are people and places that can train you to train your dog. Start by asking your vet office for basic obedience referrals.
Tip #3: Slowly Introduce Your Dog and Chickens
This tip is about introducing your dog to your chicks or chickens in a controlled situation. You do not want their first meeting to be by chance and turn into complete chaos. To help both your chickens and your dog have a good experience, there are a few things you can do.
- Exercise your dog before the introduction. Take your dog for a walk or play fetch for a while in order to help burn off some of that extra energy. This will help your dog focus on your commands and not react to your chickens.
- Start with a barrier between chickens and dogs. You can use the chicken run (like this one) or place a chicken or two in a wire dog kennel. This will prevent runaway chickens and your dog will be able to see them.
- Keep your dog on a short leash a few feet away from the caged chickens. You want your dog to be able to see the chickens while you have complete control and are giving commands. This is teaching your dog to respond to your commands with the distraction of having live chickens nearby. Also, it is allowing your chickens time to get used to the dog.
- Close the distance between your dog and the caged chicken. As your dog progresses in training, you should be able to walk your dog closer to the caged chickens without too much excitement. Walk him around the cage and ask him to sit and stay. This allows an up-close look at the chicken and your chickens can get a look at a calm dog.
- Continue Practicing and Be Positive. Just like with the obedience training, you will want to have timed sessions. This will help reduce the amount of stress on you, your dog, and your chickens. Also, you will want to continue to use positive reinforcement and always end on a good note.
Our dog observing the chickens in their chicken tractor. Learn more about our chicken tractor here.
Tip #4: Monitor Chicken and Dog Interaction
This tip is for when the barrier separating your dog from the chickens has been removed and your dog also knows basic obedience. Allowing your chickens to free-range around your dog makes them a moving distraction. There are things that you can do to help prevent your dog from chasing while your chickens are free ranging.
- Burn Extra Energy First. Like before, you will want to exercise your dog by going for a long walk or playing fetch for a while before starting their chicken training.
- Take Your Dog to the Chickens on a Leash. Start with your dog on a short leash and walk it to where your chickens are wandering the yard.
- Focus and Basic Commands. Keep the dog’s focus and start giving him basic commands like sit, stay, and leave it. At this point, the chicken’s movement should only be a small distraction.
Note: If your dog refuses to focus and appears overly excited, use the command ‘leave it’, then make your dog sit, and then remove him from the situation.
- Move on to a Long Leash. If your dog listens to your commands and the chickens have become less of a distraction, you can move on to a longer leash. This is the ultimate test when it comes to dog and chicken interaction. The long leash will allow your dog to move freely among the wandering chickens, while still allowing you some control.
With practice and time, your dog will no longer need a leash or direct supervision when everyone is enjoying the outdoors together. Until your dog completely understands that chickens are not toys, supervision will be necessary to keep everyone safe and stress free.
Have You Trained Your Dog to Be Chicken Friendly?
Your dog and chickens can live peacefully alongside one another, but it usually doesn’t just happen immediately without training. Most dogs enjoy a good chicken chase and will require your help understanding that this isn’t a desirable activity for the homestead. It will take time, patience, and a lot of practice to remove your dog’s natural instinct. However, it’s totally possible and afterwards, you’ll be able to sit and smile as you watch your dogs calmly interact with your chickens.
Have you had success training your dog to be chicken friendly?
More About Chickens:
- Herbs for Chicken Nesting Boxes
- Save Time by Using Chicken Power on Your Homestead
- Ultimate Guide to Broody Hens
- 5 Easy DIY Chick Brooders You Can Make
- Should I Vaccinate My Chicks?
One of my Pyrs ate two hens the first month I had rescued/fostered him. I was consistent with telling him what was not okay, and praising him when he didn’t grab one by the a**. Now the hens roam among both my Great Pyrenees and my Lab. All is good. It takes a while, but consistency, strict & quick correction, and praise worked.