The Complete Guide to Livestock Guardian Dogs and Chickens

Guardian dog
A well trained, big and strong, livestock guardian dog can be a valuable asset to help ward off wolves, coyotes, and other dangerous predators.

For people that live on land with cattle, sheep, and other ranch animals, livestock guard dogs can be a huge help. People have been keeping livestock for thousands of years and, in all that time, they have been tasked with keeping these animals safe. Helping them keep these animals safe have been livestock guardians dogs.

Similar to the way that bloodhounds are bred to track, these are dogs bred with the specific purpose of protecting flocks and herds of animals from wild predators, other dogs, and even trespassers of the human variety.

Livestock guardian dog breeds are very large, with thick coats and an excess of scruff. Their coats help keep them safe if they get in fights, with their size ensuring they have a good chance of intimidation and victory. Keeping wild wolves and coyotes away from the more vulnerable animals on the property is a job that is much more suited to a 150 pound dog with strong jaws and packed with muscle than is it a 15 pound lap dog that doesn’t really like to move.

While people are usually aware that livestock guardian dogs can protect goats, cattle, and other larger animals, they may not know that some of these dog breeds will also guard chickens with the same amount of ferocity and loyalty.

Livestock guardian dogs have been around for thousands of years, with many different breeds that would come to span across the world. In regards to looks and personality, the livestock guardian dogs are almost identical to their ancestors of hundreds of years ago. The history of the livestock guardian dog is expansive and interesting.

Today, livestock guardian dogs are in decline. Livestock that requires a living protection at all times is becoming more and more rare as technology increases and free-range herds decrease. The dogs are simply not needed as much for their original purpose.

Another reason for this is that livestock guardian dogs are not typically pets. They tend to be more standoff-ish in personality, ranging from shy to outright aggressive with people. Having even a possibility of aggression in such a large dog is very offsetting to people.

Chicken livestock guardian dogs specifically are not often utilized.
This is for a number of reasons, but the main reason is trust. People feel like they can not leave a dog unsupervised with a flock of chickens, and therefore do not want to put in the work and money to purchase a livestock guardian dog for their birds.

They may also not feel that it is cost and time effective to buy and train a dog to protect a flock of birds unless they have a very large, free-range operation.

A really important thing to keep in mind is that every dog will need some kind of training when dealing with chickens. Livestock animals are prey, but chickens are significantly easier to chase and kill than a cow. Any dog with a prey drive, which is almost every dog out there, will naturally want to chase the chickens if the birds are flapping their wings or making distressing noises. The dog can be taught to protect the chickens instead of stalking them. There are a few things that can be done to improve your chances of your dog and chickens getting along.

  • Introducing the dog to chickens when they are young is very important. Old dogs can learn new tricks, but it is a lot harder for everybody involved. Once a prey drive against chickens is established, it will be incredibly difficult to train it out of the guardian dog.
    Puppy and baby chick getting to know each otherAlways supervise puppies to ensure good behavior during the training stage.
  • Though they should spend a lot of time with the chickens, only once the puppy is grown and behaviorally mature should it be left unsupervised with the flock. Some unassuming fencing, like chicken wire instead of wood, will go a long way in ensuring that the dog does not see the fence as a territory border, but as just another part of their property.
  • Supervised time for the puppy to interact with the chickens inside the chicken fencing is important, so that any bad behavior, like chasing or biting, can be stopped right away.

A lot of people who have considered getting livestock guardian dogs have a small flock of chickens and maybe a few goats. The chickens might be fine during the day, but foxes, coyotes, and strays in the more rural residential areas can be a problem during the night. However, people worry that the dog will be bored with such a small flock. They don’t need to worry.

For one thing, this is how a lot of livestock guardian dogs work. They aren’t like herding dogs, that are constantly running around with the herd. Instead, the dogs sit and wait until they are needed to protect the animals under their charge.

A small flock of birds may seem like it is not enough to keep the dog stimulated and working, but this isn’t true. In regards to the happiness of the dog, they will be just as happy and effective with a flock of chickens as they would be with a large head of cattle.

If you have a flock of chickens in a space where you are worried they might be in danger from the local wildlife, a livestock guardian dog might be the perfect solution for you. Livestock guardian dogs add a sense of security for owners.

These are dogs that are at their happiest when they have a job to do. Chicken livestock guardian dogs can have just as fulfilling a life with their small little flock as a free-range cattle guardian dog.


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