Some friendships come naturally and other friendships take work, even for your pets. For a dog, forming friendships with new backyard chickens takes work. However, putting in more work doesn’t mean that it is not possible, or won’t be just as rewarding. If you take the right steps and precautions, you can help foster a peaceful friendship between your dog and your backyard chickens.
Choosing the Right Breed
Chickens and More writes there are many considerations when choosing the right breed of chicken to keep. Price, climate tolerance, and space requirements are all important, but personality should be a deciding factor if you want them to coexist with your dog. Birds that are flighty or aggressive will not get along with your dog, so consider choosing one of these docile, friendly breeds:
- Rhode Island Reds
While these birds have different care requirements, they are all great beginner breeds for both people and dogs who are unfamiliar with chickens.
Respect their Space
Chickens: Once you have researched and chosen a breed of chickens, you should learn how your flock responds to physical touch. Just like dogs, some breeds of chickens enjoy being pet or held. If your chickens do enjoy being touched they will feel affirmed and protected by it, and it will make the introduction go more smoothly. If they don’t, it will make them stressed or hostile and they could take out their frustration on your dog. So, you should learn their preferences before introducing them to your dog.
Dogs: Sharing a yard with chickens is a big change for your dog. If he feels overwhelmed or unsafe around your chickens, he will need some space to be alone and away from the chickens. Be prepared to bring him to a different area of the yard, or let him into the house where the chickens are out of sight and out of mind.
Do a Check-Up
Bringing your pets to a veterinarian is an essential step before introductions can begin. Health concerns like lice, worms, or parasites can be easily transferred, so you should make sure that both your dog and your chickens are in good health and are up-to-date on their vaccinations prior to meeting. If any of your chickens have injuries, they should be completely healed before they meet your dog so that they do not feel vulnerable.
Smaller is Better
Bigger is not better when it comes to introducing your dog to your chickens. During the interaction, you should use a small number of animals and a small area or pen. Too many animals in too large of a space will not only overstimulate your pets, but it will also make it harder for you to control them. Here are a few pointers:
- Introduce a few chickens at a time. You can rotate which chickens are interacting with your dog, or you can set up multiple meetings with multiple groups of chickens. Either method can work well, but if your pets are becoming stressed or hostile you should plan for multiple meetings so that they can take a break.
- If you are introducing multiple dogs, introduce them to your chickens separately.
Once you are ready to let all of your animals hang out together in a larger area, be sure to supervise carefully.
Praise Your Pup
Positive feedback promotes positive behavior, and praising your dog will make him more confident around your chickens. As your dog is interacting with the chickens, you can affirm his good behavior by patting him on the head, petting him, giving him a treat, or telling him “good boy!” These may seem like simple no-brainers, but attention and encouragement speak volumes to your dog. Not only will it promote good behavior, but it will also affirm your dog that the chickens are not stealing all of your attention away from him.
If your dog exhibits negative behavior, you can simply separate him from the chickens or use a noise-maker. This way, you can maintain a positive experience without ignoring hostility.
Take Your Time
Even if the first interaction doesn’t go as planned, it does not mean that your dog will never get along with your chickens. Consider what went wrong in the first meeting, and take precautions accordingly.
If the first interaction did go well, you should still plan for multiple meetings. Consider letting your dog interact with more chickens at one time, or making the space larger, or supervising from afar instead of guiding the interaction directly.
With so many things to consider, it may seem intimidating to introduce your dog to your chickens. But, as long as you prepare properly and watch closely, there’s no need to fear--you will be ready for whatever comes your way!