With the latest movements toward becoming self sufficient, many suburbanites are starting to raise chickens. If you are considering doing the same, first check with your county to confirm that yours is one that allows for this ordinance. Once you have, ensuring your best friend Bullwinkle can live with chickens is another story. While this may not seem like such a big deal, it can easily become a problem if Bullwinkle hasn’t ever seen a chicken. When a dog and a chicken get into a scuffle, both of them can easily get hurt. Since you are Bullwinkle’s owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that he knows what behavior is expected around livestock of all kinds, including your chickens.
One of the best ways that you can prevent Bullwinkle from trying to eat the chickens is to socialize him with the chickens. Now, if Bullwinkle is a puppy, this is going to be a fairly simple process, but if he is an older dog, it is going to take a considerable amount of time and repetition on your part. In either case, the method you should use remains the same.
The first thing that you should do is to let Bullwinkle sniff around the area where the chickens live. What you are doing is getting him used to the chickens’ smells. Remember, Bullwinkle smells better than he sees and his world revolves around that extra keen sniffer of his. Keep Bullwinkle on a leash so that he doesn’t try to dart after any chickens. Once Bullwinkle has settled down, you can introduce him to a chicken. This is going to be a very scary experience for the chicken, so someone will have to hold the chicken. Let the animals sniff each other, but be very careful that neither of them snaps at the other one. Thing can quickly turn into an ugly situation if you aren’t not keeping a watchful eye on both canine and fowl.
If Bullwinkle shows any desire to get the chicken, you may have to back away from the chicken. It is important to let Bullwinkle and chicken socialize with one another on their own terms. Trying to rush things or to force them to socialize will lead to a frustrating experience. As a general rule, the older Bullwinkle is, the longer it will take him to accept that the chicken isn’t his dinner.
Because socializing Bullwinkle is going to take longer than just a day, you will have to keep him distracted so that he won’t try to find his way into the chicken coop. Buy him some new chew toys and take him for walks away from the chickens. Play with him in an area where the chickens won’t become his main focus. This is going to take some extra effort on your part until Bullwinkle gets used to having chickens nearby, but it will be worth it in the end when your dog and your chickens can hang out in the same backyard without bloodshed.
When you are trying to find things to distract Bullwinkle, it is vitally important that you don’t choose anything that looks like or smells like a chicken. That yellow toy that vibrates and squeaks probably isn’t a good option if it is fuzzy since small, yellow and fuzzy describes a baby chick. Pig ears aren’t a good choice right now because the pig may have been exposed to chickens, and since dogs have a keen sense of smell, Bullwinkle may pick up on just that hint of chicken scent.
The Final Straw
If you have tried socializing Bullwinkle with the chickens and you have tried distracting him to keep his mind off the chickens and Bullwinkle still has a high prey drive toward those chickens, it may be time to just acknowledge that Bullwinkle and the chickens have to be kept separated. If Bullwinkle is a small dog, keeping him away from the chickens can be as simple as constructing a chicken coop or creating a fence that neither chicken nor Bullwinkle can cross. Most dogs can learn not only to coexist with chickens but as well learn to protect them as they do you. Keep being patient with Bullwinkle and when he stalks your chickens, firmly say, “no!” and eventually even the most stubborn dog will listen.