Chickens & Dogs together generally spells as a recipe for disaster. We have learned this lesson the hard way through the loss of 8 chickens and my favorite duck, Daffey. So how did we conquer this potentially tragic mix on our homestead?
When we lost our first 8 chickens we were honestly shocked! We were cautious about having our dogs around the chickens. The chickens were kept in their coop and the dogs had mini dog runs in the back yard. We never imagined there would be a problem – until their was!
Rottweilers have an incredible ability to jump! Ours has the capability to jump with 5 feet of air under her and that special talent is exactly what helped her escape her run. Without injuring herself she somehow broke the canvas top off her dog run, broke the top of the run, and jumped out. This by itself wouldn’t have been a true problem except our coop wasn’t extraordinarily strong. We live in the city so we weren’t too concerned about bears, or fox, or other wild animals getting to our chickens. (Our mistake) When Sadie escaped her kennel, after previously showing zero interest in the chickens, broke into their coop, chased them around the yard and killed off every single one! 8 birds of hard work that we raised from chicks were completely lost! I was devastated, mad, and honestly thought about getting rid of her in that moment. We overcame the loss, bought more birds (including 2 ducks) and moved on with our lives this time more prepared.
Our dogs were no longer allowed to stay in kennels in the backyard. We moved our pups to the front yard and put a dog run around the chicken coop as added protection. We called this the bird fortress. I felt like I could rest easy now knowing that my birds were safe from the jaws of my pet dogs. One rainy Friday afternoon changed all that when Saban, our bird dog, somehow managed to pull the kennel wire enough to shimmy himself into the coop. Our Rottie was inside with me (she’s wimpy and hates the rain) sat straight up from a dead sleep which made me to think of looking out the window to check on Saban. I was horrified by what I found!
Saban was inside the run, terrorizing my birds! We suffered only one casualty that day, my favorite duck, but that was the straw that broke it for me. The dogs we’re not allowed into the back yard with the birds anymore.
After much agonizing over the loss of my favorite feathered friend, we decided that dogs were no longer allowed in the back yard. Our dogs can play and run and do their business in the front yard but they are not allowed into the back. As I write this, it means I have to be more committed to doggy play time because our front yard isn’t fully fenced in. It means I have to be more intentional about taking them out to the bathroom and making sure they get enough exercise each day. Honestly, it’s more work. I’d much rather just put them in the back yard and not have to worry about it, but we’ve learned through the loss of our birds that we can’t do it. For our dogs and their prey drive it doesn’t work.
If you are currently considering getting a dog for your homestead I’d recommend getting a Livestock Guard Dog. They’re known to be good with chickens, birds, sheep, goats etc. But also fiercely protective against predators. We had our dogs before having our birds and while they might not all be compatible together, our dogs are part of the family, and we don’t anticipate getting rid of them anytime soon!