In my last post about our pet chickens I encouraged others to raise some backyard chickens of their own, but didn't give any further advice. I am relatively new to raising chickens, so I am posting an article from someone who has more experience - Dr. Susan Wright, DVM.
As a veterinarian, Dr. Wright is also an expert on a topic that I know nothing about - dogs. Since many dog owners are afraid to try their hand at raising chickens, this article is perfect. Thank you Dr. Wright!
Chicken Friendly Dogs, Yes it is Possible!
Almost overnight backyard chickens have become a trend. Eager fans of organic living and those seeking to homestead their urban and suburban homes flock to local farms to purchase chicks or layers, build or order dollhouse looking coops and find ways to conceal their farming operations pending changes to their city code.
Backyard chickens will help with managing garden pests, will fertilize your turf for free and will give you endless hours of entertainment with their antics and friendly disposition. After twenty or so weeks of patiently waiting you will be rewarded with daily eggs with minimal ongoing investment.
The most common question I receive from novice and potential backyard chicken farmers relates to the training and adaptation of dogs to avoid prey-driven and play-driven injuries or fatalities. If you are getting ready to embark on this adventure we have a few suggestions to help you in creating a shared Nirvana for your pup and chicks.
Selecting Your Chicken Breed
Most often than not the chicks will come after the dog. To improve the chances of harmonious living select a breed that is tame with minimal tendencies toward aggression or territorial behavior.
If You Are a Novice, Avoid babies
Chicks are delicate, squirmy, quick to move and more likely to awaken the pray instinct of our dogs. If you are new to backyard chicken farming consider introducing an older layer. We recommend 20 to 30 weeks old animals.
Facilitate Meet & Greet
The first encounter should be highly controlled. Utilize the fence approach by placing the chicken in a contained area and allowing the dog to sniff. Praise friendly behavior and quickly correct growling, pawing and other prey or play roughness. Avoid using a leash to reduce stress on the dog.
Divide & Conquer
Position a wireless invisible fence with a perimeter that separates the play area for the dog from the free-ranging area for the chickens.
If your dog has a highly developed retriever instinct, it is also very likely to have a very soft mouth. During the first few weeks consider the usage of a Kevlar saddle for your chicken. If the dog does decide to pick up the chicken the saddle will protect it from injuries
Harmony is achieved when the dog owner is consistent in love and discipline. The dog must understand that the chickens are members of the pack and you are the Alpha to all. Chickens are not toys and finally chickens have exclusive territory.
Article by Dr. Susan Wright DVM, author of numerous dog care articles and lead expert at Dog Fence DIY the dog containment system experts. Susan has over ten years of experience in veterinary practice and is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America.