Although chicken is a major food source for dogs, the two species can live in harmony with proper training and monitoring. The likelihood of attack varies according to the breed and personality of the dog. For example, terriers are much more instinctively inclined to chase and hunt small animals that move quickly. By introducing your dog to the chickens in a controlled environment, you can restrict dangerous behavior, reward positive behavior and correct unwanted behavior.
Take your dog for a long walk and allow him to run freely if safe and appropriate. The aim here is to make the dog tired.
Play with your dog. Use existing knowledge of his instincts to stimulate him. For example, if your dog is a retriever breed such as a Labrador or springer spaniel, it is highly probable that fetch-type games will appeal to his natural instincts. By playing with and stimulating your pet, you reduce the chances of him being bored or overly inquisitive when it comes to the first introduction with the chickens.
Feed the dog at his regular feeding time, as any changes from the normal routine are undesirable when preparing to introduce a new and potentially exciting stimulus to his environment. The aim is to put the dog into a relaxed and content state before the introduction. Most dogs have a natural prey drive that stimulates their hunting instincts. This makes small, moving animals very appealing. Your dog is less likely to act on this drive if he is not hungry and is in a content and settled state.
Move the chickens into their pen or coup if you use one. While it’s possible to introduce a pet dog to chickens that are roaming freely, it is easier to do it when the chickens are confined.
Put the dog on a short leash. This puts you in ultimate control of the introduction and enables you to restrain and correct the dog as needed.
Walk the dog toward the chickens. Stop approximately 20 feet away from the chickens and command your dog to sit. Issue the command in a confident voice and verbally praise the dog when he obeys. By giving your dog commands, you are focusing his attention away from the chickens and reinforcing your position as leader. If your dog is not trained to sit, he is not ready to be introduced to livestock.
Give the dog a toy, such as a ball or rope. By introducing a positive stimulus at this stage, you have the option to remove it should the dog respond badly to the chickens. The dog will associate his action with the removal of the positive stimulus, which decreases the likelihood of repeat behavior.
Walk the dog toward the chickens so that he is no further than 10 feet away. Ensure that you have full control over his movements with the leash.
Monitor the dog’s response to the chickens. It’s normal for any dog to be inquisitive toward the chickens; don’t correct this behavior. Reward the dog verbally and with food treats for remaining calm. Correct the dog verbally for barking or lurching toward the birds. Remove the toy if he repeats unwanted behavior. Use the leash to gently restrain the dog when necessary.
Call the dog’s name intermittently. This focuses his attention on you, rather than the chickens and enables you to control the dynamic of the introduction. Give the toy back to the dog as a reward for focusing on you.
Repeat the introduction process daily, increasing the length of interaction each time. Only let the dog and chickens interact freely once you are confident that your dog is not interested in attacking the chickens.