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Keeping chickens with dogs and cats – tips and advice

In most cases keeping dogs and/or cats along with chickens shouldn’t cause any issues especially once they get to know each other properly. This doesn’t mean that issues don’t occur and the introduction process may take a little time and work.

As a Jack Russell owner who chases anything that moves, we’ve had to teach him not to chase our chickens and now they chase him instead!

Chickens tend to be quite feisty and will work as a group to chase away a threat such as a cat or a dog. Problems can occur with small breed chickens, young birds and chicks so more caution will be needed in this case.

Read on more about keeping chickens alongside family pets, how to introduce them and how you can keep chickens safe from potential attack.


Keeping chickens with dogs

Keeping chickens with dogs is completely possible, if you’re already a dog owner then chances are you already know your dog’s temperament inside out so you’ll have a good idea of how they’ll react to a new pet.

If your dog is a big softie who would run away from a kitten then you shouldn’t have any issues introducing them to chickens.

For dogs who chase anything which moves then a little bit more caution will be needed when keeping the two together, especially if you’re looking to let your chickens free-range in your garden.

It’s only natural that any dog will be inquisitive of new chickens which are introduced onto their patch but given time they should become used to each other.


Introducing dogs to chickens for the first time

When you introduce dogs to chickens for the first time, it’s best to do this while the chickens are in a run where the dog can’t get to the chickens if it did decide to chase them.

Getting the chickens used to a dog is just as important as getting the dog used to the chickens, especially if they’ve never seen a dog before.

Let the dog look at the chickens and if it shows no interest then chances are you’re not going to have any issues if the dog is barking and trying to get to the chickens then it’s going to take some more work.

Keep showing the dog the chickens in the run and if possible let the dog go close to the chickens while they’re having some free-range time – while holding the dog or keeping it on a lead.

Our Jack Russell went through a stage of chasing our chickens and they would chase him back, so he thought they were trying to play.

Our bossiest chicken would run up behind him and peck him on the backside, which in time made him warier, but we put some simple training into place too.

We used a stern ‘NO’ when he looked like he was going to start chasing them and then when he didn’t he was rewarded with a ‘good boy’. Then every time he was around the chickens and he just looked without chasing we’d give him a ‘good boy’ and that was all that was needed.

It took a bit of time, but now he doesn’t chase them at all and they’re pretty comfortable around him too, although they keep an eye on him in case he steps out of line!

In most cases, this tactic should work for you too and is definitely worth a try if you’re having issues like this.

If you have a dog which is very aggressive towards the chickens, it will take work and I would suggest keeping them separate in the early days, building slowly to an introduction.


Is it safe for a dog to be around chickens?

It’s perfectly safe for dogs to be around chickens in most situations, but there are some times where extra caution will be required, including:

  • If a dog is showing aggressive behaviour towards chickens – if this happens despite efforts to train the dog it’s advisable to keep the dog away from the chickens and don’t leave them unsupervised.
  • If a chicken is showing aggressive behaviour towards the dog – this could cause injury to the dog especially if they’re at face level.
  • If your dog is prone to eating chicken droppings – although it doesn’t bear thinking about, this can happen and chicken droppings contain some nasty bacteria.
  • Very nervous chickens – when chickens are new to their surroundings they can be frightened or nervous, the sight of a dog has the potential to make them more stressed. If this is the case, give them more time to settle in before you introduce them to each other.

If in doubt, the best option is not to leave chickens and dogs alone especially during the early days of introducing your pets to each other. Animals can be unpredictable if threatened and a situation where injury can occur can quickly escalate.


Dogs who kill or injure chickens

Sadly there are instances when dogs kill or injure chickens, many dog breeds are powerful enough to do this although most don’t because it’s not in their nature.

Some breeds of dog are bred specifically for hunting so it’s in their nature to chase smaller animals. This means there’s potential for this instinct to kick in and for an attack to occur.

Many people have reported dog attacks on chickens and in some cases, this is a hungry wild dog (depending on where in the world you live) or neighbouring dog who has seen an opportunity to attack.

If a dog attacks and injures or kills a chicken once, there’s a high chance they could do it again. In this case, it will be safer to keep the chickens securely in a run while there’s still a chance it could happen again.


Keeping chickens with cats

It’s in a cats nature to go after small rodents and birds and because of this you may find that cats could show an interest in your chicken flock, but can they actually do any harm?

Keeping adult chickens and cats is unlikely to cause any issues, the average adult chicken is large enough not to become prey to a cat and most chickens are very good at defending themselves from small predators.

This article was first published on October 13, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets..

Cats can, however, be a threat to very young chickens and chicks if they can get access to them and this has the potential to lead to injury or death.

In this case, if you have a cat or cats visit your garden make sure your young birds are kept in a coop and run where cats cannot get in.

For larger birds, it’s unlikely that cats will attack a chicken especially if they’re in a group. Chickens will peck and cats if they get too close and in my years of keeping chickens in an area with lots of cats (including farm cats) we’ve never had an issue. In fact, local cats don’t come anywhere near our free-range chickens, even though they have plenty of opportunity to. I think they view them as too much of a challenge!

Wild and feral cats

The above information applies to pet cats so, if you live somewhere where larger wild or feral cats are found, they could pose a threat to your chickens especially if the cat is hungry or feeding young.

A wild cat has the potential to be more powerful and could attack and take down larger prey such as a chicken. Cats will also hunt at night and when a chicken is sleepy it’s less likely to defend its self leading to a greater risk of attack.

If wild cats are a potential risk for you, added protective measures will need to be in place to ensure chicken runs and coops are cat-proof and that coops are closed securely during roosting time.


How having a cat and or dog can keep chickens safe

I’ve included some extreme scenarios in this post for awareness, but in general chickens, cats and dogs will all get along just fine, so please don’t be put off keeping chickens if you already have a family pet.

Many farmyards have all three running around in perfect harmony and in fact cats and dogs can actually be beneficial to chicken keeping for the following reasons:

  1. Cats can help to control small rodents such as mice and even rats which can become a problem around the coop.
  2. Dogs are good at keeping larger predators such as foxes away from chickens, a fox will usually stay well away if they know there’s a dog around.
  3. Dogs are excellent at detecting anything coming into the garden and will generally let you know if a fox is around.

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Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article was first published on October 13, 2020..

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Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 13, 2020..

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.