Are you contemplating adding a feathered friend to the family, but don't know how your furry friend will react? While it is possible for dogs and chickens to live together in one household, stories about harmony and cohesion are few and far between, and there are some difficulties to consider before taking the big step.
In most households, .the natural rule of law is that chickens fall below dogs on the food chain. While there are a number of ways to reduce any aggression that may come along with the addition of a feathered friend to the family, it will take patience and determination before your doggo and chicken are best buds. So, can your chicken and pet pup get along under one roof? Ultimately, the answer really depends on the breed of dog, in addition to the time and space you have to supervise interactions.
Signs Your Dog isn't Getting Along with Your Chicken
While your furry friend may eat kibble out of a dinner bowl (or stick its snout into treat bags while you're not watching), dogs were once natural predators in the wild. Because of this, your sweet pup's instincts may kick in and potentially view your chicken as food.
There are several behaviors you can observe in your dog to determine whether your pooch can successfully live with a chicken. Keep in mind that safety comes first, and it is important to observe your pup’s personality before making any drastic decisions.
Is your pup disinterested or curious, but easily distracted? What about distracted with some difficulty, but with no predatory responses? Or is your pup not easily distracted and/or shows predatory behaviors? If your dog doesn’t exhibit a predatory response or can be easily distracted from the chicken, then training may be possible!
It is critical to understand that some dogs may show little to no warning before pouncing in attack mode, so make sure you are active and attentive throughout the relationship-building process.
The History of Dogs Living with Chickens
Before domestication, dogs were natural predators. As descendants from wolves, dogs depended on hunting together in packs to fight for food. In the wild, parrots and other birds fall below dogs on the food chain. And while domesticated dogs have broken away from their ancestry for the love and care provided by humans, all domestic dogs continue to possess an innate prey drive to some extent.
Small animals, such as birds, are inherently prey. Some dog breeds, specifically those used for hunting or sporting, cannot be trusted with smaller animals. While more passive, companion breeds may be more compatible and less aggressive with small animals, they still possess the basic canine instinct to hunt.
The Science Behind Dogs Living with Chickens
The activation of a dog’s prey drive is complicated and multiple factors come together to generate your dog’s behavior:
- Breed - Some breeds are more highly motivated to chase prey than others, such as Pointers or Spaniels
- Experience - Prior success is a reward that will instill tasting memories in your pooch that will make them want to hunt again
- Opportunity - The freedom to act in a prey-containing environment fuels the natural instinct to hunt
- Motivation - This aspect of internal processing will propels an animal into action
- Social Facilitation - The presence or absence of other pack members may encourage your dog to act on their natural instinct
Training a Dog to Live with Chickens
When dog and chicken introductions are done properly, your pup may be able to interact safely with your bird and otherwise leave it alone. You want to start with the least amount of exposure between the two animals and slowly work your way up to direct contact. Continuously watch your dog’s body language as you go through this process
Steps to Introducing Dogs and Parrots:
1. Start off Slow! Because most dogs have a prey drive, it is very important to start slowly with introductions so that mistakes and accidents are avoided.The nose is the information gatherer for your dog, so let your pup sniff around first.
2. Use a Neutral Area! Dogs and birds are both territorial with their surroundings. It is important to find a neutral ground for both your dog and the chicken for each session. Keeping a distance, walk your dog or puppy on a leash around the chicken yard, coop, run or enclosure. Watch your dog's behavior to see how your pup reacts when it spots the chickens.
3. Keep your Dog Leashed and your Bird Caged! Your chicken should be secured in its cage at all times your dog is present, and your dog should always be leashed. It is important that these safety precautions are used when making introductions and until your pets are both comfortable with each other.
4. Reward your Pets for Good Behavior! Both birds and dogs love a good treat and are easily distracted and bribed with food. Rewarding your pets with treats for good behavior is a great way to encourage a friendly relationship throughout each meeting. Make sure you are heavily stocked with treats before each training session. A pooch that is this aggressively interested in chickens may need some professional training to become acquainted and trustworthy around your birds.
5. Do Not Leave Them Together Unsupervised! After a couple of introductions, your pets will begin to grow accustomed to one another. It is okay to eventually take your dog off-leash, but continue to observe your dog’s behavior for predatory signs. By giving your dog lots of attention with walks and games throughout the day, they will be more relaxed and passive at home with the chickens.
By Olivia Gerth
Published: 04/19/2018, edited: 04/06/2020