Whether you live on a farm or own a backyard coop, chickens are wonderfully rewarding creatures to keep — they’ve got great personalities and (if you’re lucky), they give you fresh eggs each morning!
But you have to take good care of your little chickadees and give them a good home! And part of that entails providing protection beyond secure fencing.
That’s where our furry friends come in!
Dogs can be excellent guards for your flock as well as being fantastic additions to the family. We’ll explain everything you need to know about dogs and chickens and identify some of the best breeds below. Just note that no dog will naturally be the perfect guard dog from the get-go, so we’ll run through some important training points too.
What Kinds of Things Can Dogs Protect Chickens From?
Sadly, chickens need to be protected from a fairly large amount of predators.
This will, of course, vary based on where you live and where your chickens will be kept. So, it would be wise to research the specific threats that are common to your area. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to implement as many security options as you can — Fido won’t be able to do it all himself!
Here’s the most common predators to be aware of:
Just note that dogs will be more helpful protecting chickens from some of these predators than others. Most doggos will scare away cats without problem, but they may not know how to react to snakes.
Additionally, people present a unique threat, which your dogs may or may not be helpful in addressing.
Do You Need to Train Dogs to Protect Chickens?
In a word — absolutely!
While certain breeds will have more naturally occurring traits (more on this later) that lend themselves to being great around chickens, most dogs will require some training to learn how you’d like them to behave around your flock.
Training requirements will vary depending on what your dog’s duties will be around the coop. For example, your training may need to focus on impulse control or instilling a good recall if the chickens are on a large farm.
Irrespective of circumstances, all dogs will need lots of time, patience and consistency to learn new behaviors, with plenty of rewards and positive reinforcement.
Traits of Good Chicken-Protecting Breeds
As we mentioned previously, some breeds are naturally predisposed to protecting chickens well. There are characteristics that make them the right fit for the job, here’s a few:
- Good Fit for The Climate — It goes without saying that you want your dog to be comfortable, especially if he’s working. Consider your environment and what breed will cope well with the weather. For example, if you live in a warm location, you’ll want a dog breed well-suited for high temperatures.
- Independent — As guardians of your flock, you need your hound to have a certain amount of independence. They need to be confident on their own, away from you, and in the face of potential predators.
- Protective — This can be more of an instinctive thing in certain breeds, but you can also train your dog to be more protective. Please note that the AKC advises against some breeds (such as the Kuvasz) receiving any type of guard dog or protection training as their protective instincts are already very strong.
- Large / Formidable — Ideally your dog will be bigger and more intimidating than any predators that cross it’s path! That isn’t necessarily a requirement (plenty of tiny doggos have kept large predators at bay), but it will certainly help.
9 Dogs That Are Good with Chickens
Many canines are awesome with other animals and have historically lived alongside them — including many dogs that often work on farms. More specifically, there are a number of breeds that have traits that make them good chicken-protecting dogs.
These are some great examples:
1. Old English Sheepdog
Old English sheepdogs are agile, attentive, and alert animals. They are large in stature, with full shaggy coats, so they can appear intimidating to predators with an almost bear-like poise.
Despite their name, the Old English sheepdog was actually bred to move cattle from the pasture to markets. So they’re not intimidated by larger animals!
These gentle giants are often easy to train due to their high intelligence, and their warm personalities mean they’re not only excellent additions to the family, but they’re also unlikely to chase or taunt your chicken flock.
2. Maremma Sheepdog
Known as a livestock guardian dog, the Maremma sheepdog originates from rural Northern Italy. Farmers in Australia who owned Maremma sheepdogs actually reported a 35 percent reduction in livestock fatalities from the likes of foxes, feral dogs and birds of prey.
Their weather-resistant coats mean they’ll happily spend lots of time outdoors, and their courageous and protective personas will keep your flock safe from predators.
However, the Maremma sheepdog’s fierce loyalty can manifest as hostility toward strangers, so you’ll need to be sure to incorporate lots of socialization work when training your pooch.
The akbash is a guard dog, originally bred in Turkey.
Large and powerful, these doggos are surprisingly quick given their size. They are also independent and very protective by nature, and owners have reported a tendency to “alarm bark” a lot. This could be problematic in a domestic setting, but it’s a pretty useful trait for protecting chicken!
Due to their independence, you usually won’t need to worry about akbash dogs suffering from separation anxiety, but training may be needed in terms of socialization with other animals and humans.
The akbash will need lots of outdoor space to roam, so if you have lots of birds to protect on a large property, this breed might not be the best choice.
4. Pyrenean Mastiff
If you’re familiar with mastiff breeds, you won’t need me to go into detail about their size — these are darn big doggos!
The Pyrenean mastiff is a rare breed from the mountains of Spain, who has a low prey drive and a history of protecting flocks from wolves, bears and humans. Their size gives them superior strength to protect your chickens from predators.
Pyrenean mastiffs (despite their intimidating size) are very friendly toward children, so they will be great for both the chickens and the family. Just note that due to their thick coat, they’re not suited to work in warmer climates for long periods of time.
Komondorok (the plural for Komondor) are famous for their distinctive long cord-like coats, but did you know they’re considered the “king of flock dogs” in Hungary? They are a larger breed with a loud bark, therefore they make incredibly strong and powerful protectors.
The Komondor’s instincts are deep rooted in independence, and he’s often happiest when left to his own devices out in the field. This can be an issue in a domestic environment, but they are great with other pets and children.
So, with the right training and leadership, they’ll feel right at home both at work and play.
Who’s wearing those curly haired canine cords best, the Komondor or the puli? Let us know in the comments!
The puli’s locs make their coats naturally waterproof, so they’re really well-suited to protect chicken coops in rainier climates. They are smaller than Komondors, so they are very quick and agile. Their small size also makes them well-suited to smaller households, making them the ideal breed for protecting a backyard flock of chickens!
Pulis are very intelligent creatures with a lot of energy, so physical and mental stimulation are of equal importance. Luckily they are loyal and eager to please their owners, but be warned, they are headstrong, so you’ll need lots of patience training them!
7. Anatolian Shepherd
The Anatolian shepherd dog originates from a climate where the summer season is incredibly dry and hot, yet the winters are freezing cold and snowy. For this reason, they are considered the toughest of flock guardians, with a thick undercoat of fur to protect them from harsh weather.
The Anatolian shepherd only needs a moderate amount of exercise, so he can be kept in a secure backyard, fending off predators from your coop. These dogs are instinctively protective and independent, so extra care will be needed to ensure they are properly socialized and leash trained.
The kuvasz is a large working breed with a thick white coat. Descendants of Hungarian royalty, these majestic creatures have athletic builds, and they are agile protectors of their families. The kuvasz was specifically bred to guard livestock, so he is an ideal choice for protecting your chickens.
Kuvasok are active dogs that require a ton of daily exercise, and they will thrive living on large areas of land. Unless you can dedicate plenty of time to giving your kuvasz quality walks and plenty of play, he is not the breed for you.
The kuvasz is also an intelligent breed, who’s eager to please, but he can also be sensitive, so a careful, patient approach to training is best.
9. Great Pyrenees
Described as having a “zen like calm”, these mellow canines are great additions to the family. The great Pyrenees was developed centuries ago to herd sheep and protect them from wolves, so he is an ideal protector of your chicken flock.
Great Pyrenees dogs can be considered fairly high maintenance and are not advised for first-time dog owners. They are big, white, and fluffy dogs who shed frequently and require a lot of grooming to counteract this. They also need a lot of exercise. Finally, given how independent they are, these pups can be stubborn during obedience training.
So, chicken owners, how do you keep your coop safe? Does your canine companion get involved in protecting them? Do you have any chicken-guarding tips for our fellow readers?
Let us know in the comments below!