As a new chicken owner, you may wonder if your dog can be taught to get along with your pet chickens or if you are going to spend your days worrying about what might happen if they were to meet. It takes time and effort, but it can be done.
You will need to introduce your chickens to your dogs in a safe environment where the animals can see and inspect one another without being in danger. You can place your chickens in a coop and your dog in a kennel beside them to allow them to see and smell one another. Allow them to interact while separated until both your dogs and your chickens are calm around each other and accept one another as a part of the general environment. Your dog's personality will play a large part in determining how long it will take for him to get used to the chickens. Some dogs will accept a chicken as something that is of little to no interest within hours, while others may take weeks to lose interest.
Once your dog has accepted your chickens as a part of his environment, you can try allowing the dog to run loose around the chickens under your supervision. If your dog is friendly, then he may sniff or attempt to play with the chickens. Reprimand your dog if he behaves aggressively towards your chickens. Aggressive behavior includes growling, snapping, biting or chasing. Correct rough playful behavior with a firm reprimand so that your dog does not harm your chickens. Separate the dog from the chickens if you see any sign the birds could be at risk.
If your dog is well-behaved while you are supervising his interactions with your chickens, then you can try leaving him with the chickens while unsupervised. Start by leaving for short periods of time and gradually start extending the length of time you leave your animals alone together. Some dogs will accept chickens easily and will not attempt to harm them; others may never be trustworthy and will always need to be supervised. You should only allow your dog in with your chickens under supervision unless you are absolutely certain he will not harm them.
Your dog is naturally a predator, with the instinct to chase and even kill prey animals. Depending on his breed, your dog may have anywhere from a very mild urge to chase the chickens to an extremely strong drive to chase and kill them. Your chickens should naturally be inclined to view your dog as a predator rather than a friend. It is possible your rooster or hens may behave as if they are threatened or frightened when your dog is around. Dogs with very strong prey drives may be difficult or impossible to train to get along with chickens.
Keeping separate housing and living areas for your pets can help you avoid potential problems or uncontrolled interactions. It is absolutely essential that you keep your animals separated if you are not 100 percent positive that they get along or are not able to supervise them adequately enough to keep all your animals safe. Your chickens will benefit from living in a controlled environment, such as a chicken coop, and your dog many be best off inside his kennel if your chickens are outside their coop.
Your dog will do best with chickens if he is introduced to them starting from a very early age. In most circumstances, puppies are easier to train to get along with chickens than adult dogs. Puppies are also less likely to be able to seriously injure your chickens if something does happen between them. If your dog is taught to respect the chickens and leave them alone, he is probably going to get along well with the chickens as he ages.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.