Chickens kept in rural areas can be in danger from local predators. Because you don’t want to patrol 24/7, having a dog to help protect your flock can be beneficial. While certain breeds are known to be good at guarding chickens, the best dog to protect chickens is one that is well trained to the task. Here are a few useful tips for training in general, as well as some for specifically training a chicken protector.
Teaching Basic Commands
If you are training the dog yourself, start with basic commands before going into the more specific task of chicken guarding. Commands like sit, stay and come are common to dog training, but one that is especially important for poultry is leave it. It’s important to remember that training a dog requires the right balance of positive and negative reinforcement, so starting with the basics can build a good bond between you and your dog for when you deal with more complex tasks. Make sure you have all the proper equipment for training, reduce distractions and understand the basics of canine psychology before you begin.
Desensitize Your Dog to Chickens
New sights and smells can excite dogs and make them less responsive to commands. When you start the process of desensitization, do so with as few distractions as possible. One way is to use a fenced in area where your dog and your most docile chicken can interact with each other. If the first few tries don’t go well, work on just the smell. Rub down a chicken with a damp cloth and leave this in your dog’s bed or pen. A desensitized dog can learn to be the best dog to protect chickens.
Teach Your Dog Who the Chicken Predators Are
When you make your rounds to fend off chicken predators, take your dog with you. They can quickly understand which animals you don’t want around when you use this method. When you reward them for noticing predators, such as foxes, chicken hawks and crows, they will learn this to be one of their jobs and handle it with typical canine dedication. The best dog to protect chickens knows how to interact with these birds but also how to keep away animals that pose a danger to eggs and chicks.
Other Chicken-Specific Tasks
To round out your dog’s training, there are some other chicken-specific tasks your dog can learn. One is to break-up rooster fights. Fights among birds can reduce your egg haul from injury and stress, so when your dog can help handle these fights, you can have a healthier and more productive flock. A safe way for a dog to break up fights is to run at but not chase, the offenders or to howl repeatedly.
If you get frustrated, keep in mind that certain breeds are better at this than others. Dogs that are bred to hunt birds, such as spaniels, pointers and retrievers, are not the best dogs to protect chickens. Sheepdogs are very well suited to this task, but other breeds can also learn the proper commands and actions.
Put these tips to good use when training a dog to watch over your chickens. Proper rearing and adequate attention are sure to pay off for your chickens and your egg production.