Which Dog Breeds Are Good with Chickens?
Chickens! There are many advantages to keeping a small flock. In addition to the pure enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from bringing a slice of rural living to your backyard, there is the benefit of fresh eggs for your family and friends. But there are a lot of things to consider before bringing chickens home, like—will they get along with your dog?
Any dog has the potential to be a threat to your chickens. Proper training is very important, but breed traits also play a role. While every dog has an individual personality, it's no secret that each breed exhibits specific traits that make it unique. And it's these traits that may be able to help you judge ahead of time whether or not your dog will get along with your Little Red Hen(s).
Dog Breeds that May be Good with Chickens
We've divided our list into three sections. First up: dog breeds that tend to be "cool" with chickens being around, and shouldn't get too excited about the whole thing. In other words, these are dogs with low prey drives.
A particular dog's attitude towards chickens will always depend on the individual dog. The dog's breed is influential, but personality still plays a part. An excellent place to start might be with Livestock Guardian Dogs, or LGDs. Prized throughout the agricultural world for their loyalty and protection instincts, these dogs are often used to protect sheep, cattle, goats, pigs . . . and poultry. Keep in mind these breeds are sized for the job and tend to be very large dogs. A partial list of these breeds includes:
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Anatolian Shepherd1
- Great Pyrenees
Dog Breeds that May Bother Chickens
On the other hand, some dog breeds may be natural "no-nos" when it comes to creating a blended canine/chicken family2. These tend to be dogs with built-in hunting instincts—a trait not necessarily conducive to life with small birds. This might include breeds like:
- Sighthounds—Whippets, Greyhounds, Borzois, Italian Greyhounds, Salukis, etc. These dogs are attracted to moving animals and have a deep hunting or chasing instinct. They may not intentionally harm your chickens, but the results of chasing and catching may be the same.
- Terriers—Yorkies, Jack Russells, Rat Terriers, Airedales, Westies, etc. Terriers have a strong hunting instinct for small animals (such as chickens).
- Retrievers and Pointers—Labradors, Goldens, etc. This can be a mixed bag, as these are bird or hunting dogs, but they're also dedicated to pleasing their people and to days spent relaxing. With training, some of these dogs may very well be okay around chickens.
- Miscellaneous— Siberian Huskies. They're working dogs, but usually not chicken dogs.
Dog Breeds that May Help You with Chickens
If you only have a few birds in your flock, you probably don't need much assistance in handling them or moving them from one place to another. That said, there are a few dog breeds out there in the AKC's Herding Group that would only be too happy to give you a hand. Herding breeds love nothing more than having a job to do. And if that job is something "real" like herding the chickens from their coop to their grazing or pecking area, so much the better.
The problem you can run into here is that herding breeds bring an intensity to their work that may be too much for chickens. Herding dogs can become overly excited about their job. This might be okay in a sheep or cattle setting, but it may be too intimidating and stressful for your chickens. But it can work in some situations.
Some of these herding breeds include:
- Welsh Corgi—Pembroke and Cardigan
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Shetland Sheepdog
Take it slow . . . and train!
No matter what dog you eventually attempt to introduce to your chickens, it's important to take the initial introductory period slowly3. Introduce your dog and chickens to each other in a controlled setting, with your dog on the leash and the chickens behind a safe barrier where your dog can see them but can't access them. Eventually you can work towards removing restrictions, but always keep an eye on your dog's body language (a fixed gaze, barking, etc.). Solid obedience skills—like sit, stay, and come—are a must-have. Also, the "leave it" command may be beneficial to stop your dog from chasing chickens. And never leave any dog unattended with your chickens.
- Ripley, Katherine. "8 Things You Didn't Know about the Anatolian Shepherd Dog." The American Kennel Club, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/8-facts-about-the-anatolian-shepherd-dog/
- "Keeping Your Coop Safe: A Few of the Best and Worst Livestock Guardian Dogs." BestNestBox.com, https://bestnestbox.com/blogs/news/keeping-your-coop-safe-a-few-of-the-best-and-worst-livestock-guardian-dogs
- Urquhart, Kristina Mercedes. "Will My Dog and Chickens Get Along?" HobbyFarms.com, https://www.hobbyfarms.com/will-my-dog-and-chickens-get-along-4/