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Beware of Dog: When Chickens and Dogs Collide

A photo of Brandon MitchellLast time I wrote about my moveable chicken pen.   It works great, and the chickens are happy, but with so many grasshoppers just waiting to be eaten, it was hard for me to say no to free food.  Long story short is I let some of the chickens out to wander around picking up bugs.  I own quite a few dogs (partly because I'm a stray magnet), but since they were all in pens, I didn't think much about it.  Fast forward a few days and I come home to find dead chickens all over the yard.  What had happened?  A beagle that had never shown any interest of escaping her pen did just that and decided she wanted a snack, say around eight half-grown birds.

So that brings me to my warning.  Dogs are probably the number one cost on most small farms.  It costs money to feed them, house them, and don't even get me started about vet bills.  Sadly it's been my lot in life to love animals, and I can't say no to a dog, even with all of these expenses.  What's so ironic is that most dogs around a farm are supposed to be used to help, not hurt.  Pyrenees and other sheppards are used to protect the herd.  Australian Sheppards and Collies herd the livestock from one place to another.  Pointers, hounds, and terriers hunt for food, and even Labradors retrieve it when it's been shot. 

I'm here to tell you, all dogs, even livestock guardian dogs are prone to eating chickens.  Everything goes fine for months, so you let your guard down a little, and in just a few minutes time, your flock has been reduced to a pair of jittery, terrified looking pullets.  Now I'm not saying all dogs do this.  I own a Pyrenees that loves chickens, for dinner that is.  My in-laws, on the other hand, have an unrelated Pyrenees that has no interest in chickens, and even lets them pick up the leftovers once he's done with his dog food.  The strange thing is, even with my Pyrenees' affinity for fast food (Yes... That was an attempt at humor.), he fiercely protects my goats from any stray dogs, coyotes, and sometimes even from the neighbors cows (which is strange because there are calves in the field with him.  Maybe he thinks they are jumbo goats.).  Yet, as I said, he feels no loyalty in protecting a chicken.  That is unless another dog is trying to take his meal away from him.

So how do you know if you're dog is a chicken killer?  It's hard to say for sure.  I've tried walking dogs next to my chicken pen, and some known chicken killer's act as though there isn't anything there.  Suffice to say you'll know that you have a chicken killer when it's too late.  But for those of us that don't want to shoot their dog, how do we break them of this?  I honestly don't have any surefire ways.  One method that's been used for generations is to tie the dead chicken around the neck of the dog.  The smell of the decaying bird is supposed to make them sick of chickens.  For the most part it works (I've heard), although I know more than one farmer that's said it doesn't.

I suppose the point to all my rambling is this.  Think twice before getting a dog.  They are wonderful little creatures, but consider what you may be dealing with when they're grown, not just what they're like when they're puppies.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying don't get a dog, but realize the possible problems associated with dogs on a farm.  On the flipside, scientific evidence has proven what most "pet people" have known for centuries.  Dogs make your life better in so many ways.  Nursing homes come alive when a well-trained canine enters.  Dogs have been known to save humans, detect seizures, find drugs and blood trails, and they are in fact man's best friend.  You know how I know?  Lock your spouse and your dog in the trunk of a car.  An hour later let them out and see which one is happy to see you.