Introducing Chickens to a Dog
Both chickens and dogs make great pets, but sometimes they don't see each other as family. To a dog, chickens are small, fluffy meals with an inconvenient tendency to run away. Depending on your dog's prey-drive, you can at the very least prevent him from ripping your hens to pieces, and at best teach him that the chickens are to be protected like family. So how can you stop your dog from chasing chickens?
Introducing New Chicks to a Dog
If you get baby chicks and already have a dog, introduce them early. Leash your dog and keep a firm hold on him at all times. Then have a friend or family member hold a chick a few feet away from the dog. Keep it at that for now. Over the next few weeks, always leashed and supervised, acclimate your dog to the new family members. If you feel your dog is trustworthy, allow him to sniff a chick (have one person holding him by the leash and another holding the chick.) Always monitor your dog's body language. If you let your chicks run around a room, assuming they are indoors, let your dog watch them. Basically, you are teaching the dog that the chicks are boring and not worth getting worked up over. Always remain calm, and let the dog see you being affectionate toward the chickens. Reward good behavior from the dog, say 'NO' and restrain the dog if he lunges for the birds.
Once the chickens have been moved outdoors, things get a little easier. They should have their own fenced run, but if for some reason your dog and the hens share a yard, you will need to supervise all interactions. No matter how comfortable the hens and the dog look, things can go south in a hurry. A determined dog CAN get through chicken wire. If your dog has been properly introduced to the chickens, he may at this point be allowed to interact with them off leash.
Introducing a New Dog to Chickens
This scenario has the same basic idea, but with a few tweaks. The easiest way to introduce a dog to chickens is if the dog is just a puppy. Most puppies below six months haven't had their 'drive' kick in. That's why it is so important to socialize a pup around small animals at this age. If your chickens are still chicks, introduce the puppy in the same manner as above. If they are adults, leash the puppy and let him explore the chickens at his own will.
If your new dog is an adult, you will first need to determine his reactivity toward the chickens. I would generally recommend that an adopted dog be kept on leash around chickens longer than the above scenarios. Until you are completely familiar with your new family member, be wary and take introducing chickens slowly.
Given the right introduction, dogs and chickens can coexist in harmony. If you simply cannot overcome your dog's prey drive, keep your dog leashed around the chickens, even if they are in a run. Remember to err on the side of caution, as one mistake could mean disaster for your flock! With these steps, hopefully whatever transition you are going through will proceed smoothly and with minimal ruffled feathers.