Can I Keep My Dog From Chasing My Chickens?

Dog watching chickens
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Q. My city just approved chickens as pets. My dog wants to chase the birds at the park, so I am concerned that she’ll chase the chickens in my yard. How can I keep everyone safe?

A. In a word: fencing. As I’ve written before concerning cats and indoor birds, you simply cannot trust an animal with the instincts of a predator to be perfectly predictable around prey animals.

Well-trained herding dogs routinely handle everything from chickens and ducks to sheep, goats and cattle, but they’re bred and trained for the work. It’s not fair to expect your dog to accept that what you’ve allowed in the park won’t be allowed in your backyard. And it’s almost impossible for your dog to resist if she’s from a breed or mix of breeds that has never been expected to leave livestock alone. The quick, jerky movements of chickens are just too tempting to resist, and a chicken on the run is just asking to be chased, from a dog’s point of view, at least. (Even the work of a herding breed such as a Border Collie is, at its root, a chase behavior modified by generations of selective breeding.)

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The solution here is going to be a sturdy fence; the best fencing for your chicken’s area will include netting over the top. That’s because many chickens, especially the small banty breeds, can fly well enough to get over even a six-foot fence. As an extra precaution, you can trim the flight feathers on one wing to keep them grounded. (With two clipped wings the lighter birds can sometimes still fly, but clipping one keeps them off-balance and grounded.) Of course, don't clip the primary feathers if you ever intend to have your chickens outside of the cage, because they will have no way to escape predators. When clipping the feathers, care should be taken not to draw blood.

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