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South of England blogger Elle Pugsley shares with us how to introduce chickens and dogs.
Chickens rescued from factory farms probably haven’t encountered many animals of a different species. If you have other animals, you will want to introduce them all slowly and safely.
Three dogs, three new chickens
I have three big dogs who love watching the chickens. If the birds are on the loose, the dogs are watching behind our back door. When the chickens are in their pen and the dogs have the garden run, they are always fascinated to watch the girls from outside the chicken coop. The dogs were very interested in the chickens after I saved the three new girls. But once they saw and sniffed the new birds and accepted them as new family members, the dogs returned to their normal mild interest.
Before having chickens, I wanted to evaluate the reaction of my dogs. Fortunately, the neighbor from whom I bought my original four dwarfs invited me to bring the dogs to her garden and get them used to the birds before I brought any home.
Free range chickens and your dogs
If you want to keep free-range chickens safely with your dogs, it will take some training. The dwarf hens were there before my third dog arrived, so he took them in wonderfully as a puppy, but I still didn’t want to leave him alone with them unsupervised. Even if you don’t plan on having your birds and dogs share the space simultaneously, it’s best to train the dogs to leave the hens alone in case of an accident, for example to properly lock the back door. Once that happened and the three dogs came out, saw the chickens, realized they weren’t supposed to go out with them, and turned to come straight back inside.
To get the dogs used to the birds, I used a large cage on the lawn to introduce the dogs to the idea of sharing space with the hens inside the cage. All three of my dogs know the command “leave” and respond to it for food, items like toys, and our pet rats when the rats walk around on the couch. I told them to leave the caged birds alone and continued for several days like this until they had little or no interest. I followed this by walking the dogs on leashes around the garden with the hens free range, first each dog separately, then in pairs, then all three together, telling them to leave the hens if they harassed them. They are allowed to sniff them but nothing more. Over time, I repeated this without a track. Keep in mind that none of my dogs are a breed of livestock meant to protect the chickens and are never left alone with the chickens, I did this training so the chickens would be safe if ever the dogs went out with them as I don’t have a huge garden and they have to share the space.
She Pugsley started growing his own food last year, and it went so well that the next natural step was to acquire chickens. Starting with four dwarf hens, she fell in love and quickly became a crazy chick. Now, she has opened her coop to three former free-range hens to rehabilitate them and give them forever homes.