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Keeping Chickens Around Your Pet Dog: Training the Kelpie x Coolie, Cattle x Mastiff and Shitzu Cross to Live With Chickens!

Dogs and chickens. At first thought, they may not seem like the ideal companions, but contrary to popular belief you can in fact keep both of these marvellous creatures and have a harmonious backyard. They not only make great friends, they can even protect each other from harm! “Yes, yes – but this won’t be the case with my dog” we hear you say. “My dog is different, and will definitely eat the chickens!” Well, from Jack Russells to German Shepherds, we’ve seen the proof that any dog of all shapes and sizes can get along with a backyard flock of chickens – take it from some of our thousands of followers, readers, subscribers and customers who have kindly sent us in their stories and photos, and shared with us their tips and advice when it comes to keeping dogs and chickens together in the same household. It’s doable, we’ve done it ourselves!

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Kate Green: Proud owner of Molly (Kelpie x Coolie), Roxy (Cattle x Mastiff) and 3 chickens.

Kate has two large dogs who she’s not only trained to get along with her chickens, but has in fact trained them to protect her precious flock. Dogs are commonly used to keep flocks of chickens safe, and now Kate has an egg-stra piece of mind when it comes to the welfare of her feathered friends!

1. The first introduction

Kate started things off slowly and in a controlled environment, so the two sets of animals could become familiar with one another. “We trained them slowly to make it their responsibility to look after the chickens. We started by keeping them on a lead and taking them outside with the chickens in slow bursts, rewarding them with praise when they did the right thing.”

2. Training the dogs to become protectors

After the two animals became acquainted with each other, Kate then gently started to train the dogs to have protective behaviours towards the chickens. “That slowly progressed to off lead but still with our supervision, and then short periods without our supervision. Now, they associate the word ‘chickens’ with looking after and looking out for.”

3. It’s not just chickens they look after!

Kate has managed to create a protective instinct associated with the word ‘chickens’ so strong, that it can be applied to other animals that are in need of assistance. “We recently looked after my dad’s conure parrot while he was in hospital. When we introduced the dogs, we told them ‘chickens’ and they were totally fine. If he squawked, they would go running to make sure he was ok.” How amazing!

Top tips from Kate’s story:

  • Slow and steady wins the race – start with leash on supervised, then supervised, then short unsupervised visits to forge the relationship. Your patience will pay off!
  • Positive reinforcement is key – make sure your dog is rewarded for good behaviour, whether its with their favourite treat or a good scratch behind the ears.

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Kate Nangle: Proud owner of Boof (Shitzu cross) and Rhode Island Red x New Hampshire chickens.

Kate Nangle’s situation is slightly different – her shih tzu cross is quite meek and, in Kate’s word’s, “a bit of a coward, on the best of days”.

1. The first introduction

Kate went with the tried and tested method of introducing the animals via an enclosure – until Boof had other ideas…”we did initially have the chooks fenced off. For the first thirty minutes, we let Boof watch.” Kate, knowing the temperament of her dog, decided to speed up the introduction whilst supervising. “Then, we let Boof in. The chickens all ran to different corners [of the coop]!”

2. An unexpected surprise

It seems Boof hadn’t had enough of the chickens, as “that night, after the girls had been put away in their pen, Boof snuck into the coop and slept next to them.” Thankfully, no harm came to the chickens and both had a peaceful nights sleep – we’re sure Kate was quite shocked to see the new bed buddies!

3. Best friends forever

Now, Boof and the chickens are best pals – with Boof not minding the girls invading his personal space now and again. The two roam with the fence down happily and unsupervised. “Now the fence is down, Boof sits in his box and watches the girls help themselves to his food, his water and roost on his box!”

Top tips from Kate’s story:

  • You know your dogs best, so if they have a timid temperament or are not a risk to your chickens, you may be able to speed up the introduction process.
  • Keep in mind your dogs might be more afraid of the chickens then they are of your dog!

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Dogs and chickens can certainly co-exist peacefully and become great friends – if you need more help or are curious about the topic, check out our other articles on dogs and chickens on our Learning Centre. If you’re currently training your dog to get along with your backyard flock, please email through photos and share your stories – we love telling our followers about friendships between all animals – furry, feathered and fuzzy!

Sources and further reading