I successfully trained my dog to be a chicken guardian. It took a lot of
work, but it was so worth it.

Here's my dog Badger with his chicken buddies.

Here’s my dog Badger with his chicken buddies.

Valerie Proctor Davis

Dogs That Protect Chickens: Training Puppies and Dogs With Chickens

This is my backyard chicken guardian dog, Badger. He lives mostly outside,
watching for wild animals and strange humans. Any unusual sound is the signal
for him to leap up, scattering chickens everywhere, and vanish silently into
the woods. He moves so gracefully that he seems to float.

Chicken-keeping can be a nerve-wracking hobby. A dog can be either the most
dangerous predator or the best protection that your chickens will have. With
proper training, your puppy can become a reliable chicken guardian.

It’s not common for a dog to bond with chickens the way they might with goats
or sheep. Birds can’t take being licked and played with the way larger animals
can. And that kind of play is way too tempting for the dog! But both dogs and
chickens are territorial, and you can teach a dog to ignore the chickens while
guarding their common territory.

I trained Badger to be safe with the chickens. He goes peacefully with me into
the pen and hangs around while I work. If he spots an animal outside, he races
to the gate and waits until I let him out to chase down the intruder. It took
a lot of work to get him to this point, but having such a well-trained, useful
dog is really worth it!

You can read about how I did it here, with videos by dog trainers explaining
some of the basic methods.

How to Teach Your Dog Not to Kill Chickens

These are some of the basic steps I used to train Badger and that many
experienced chicken-keepers recommend. Keep reading for the details!

  • Teach basic skills like sit, stay, off, and heel while away from the chickens. Practice them daily in many different situations.
  • Bring your dog on-leash while you do chores. When you need your hands free, tie him where he can’t reach the chickens. Reward and praise him when he’s calm.
  • After he’s become a little accustomed to the chickens, begin to practice his basic skills on-leash when near them. Especially practice “off” and “take it.”
  • Watch for signs that he is paying less attention to the chickens—relaxed body and ears, yawning, wanting to wander off.
  • After several weeks of less excitability, begin to do supervised practice off-leash. If he backslides, go back to on-leash work for a while. (Leave a long leash attached and trailing, so you can catch it if he charges the birds.)
  • Train him to go voluntarily into a kennel or pen so that you can confine him as needed.
  • Practice with the chickens in all sorts of circumstances: day and night, in the pen and out, with adults and chicks, eggs in the nestbox, or on the floor. Just because a dog understands one circumstance doesn’t mean he will another, so you need to practice variations.
  • Gradually let him off-leash for longer periods while you work close by or otherwise keep an eye on him. Watch for any signs that he’s excited by the chickens, and redirect his attention to you.

Badger the Puppy

Badger the Puppy

Valerie Proctor Davis

Choosing a Puppy to Raise With Chickens

This is Badger as a baby. His mother is a working livestock guardian, a Great
Pyrenees, and his father is a working herd dog, a Catahoula. We could see that
Badger and his littermates all had the slow, stolid temperament of their
mother, so we chose him to train with chickens.

Almost any breed of dog can be trained to tolerate chickens (although if
you’re going to try a Husky, you should have lots of experience and plenty of
spare birds!) Some breeds are easier than others, especially when they’re
young, and that’s a consideration if you don’t have much experience. As Badger
was my very first puppy, I wanted a dog who would incline to calmness and an
easy temperament.

Breed vs. Training

But choosing a calm breed doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing. Dr. Dunbar
says that the majority of a dog’s behavior is determined by its training, and
since I was learning too, and often didn’t know exactly what I wanted, we had
to go back and learn a lot of things over together. (And as I’ll recount in my
next article, we had a disastrous setback that nearly ruined everything.)

And there is also the dog’s natural development. He’ll turn in a few months
from a loving puppy to a hyper, knot-headed adolescent and stay that way for
what seems like a century. This is a time to keep repeating the basics, watch
him closely, and don’t let him loose with the birds yet.

Between one and two years old, if you’ve persisted in daily training and
practice, you’ll see him mellowing, his intelligence blossoming, and you’ll
reap the rewards for your patience. A well-trained dog is a joy and a delight!

(Note that even though Badger was a livestock guardian dog, he didn’t know
anything about chickens. If you want an “instant guardian,” you should get a
dog from a working line that was raised with livestock—including chickens—and
trained by older working dogs. Even though the puppy is a guardian breed,
he’ll need to be trained either by humans or dogs.)

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Teaching “Off” and “Take It!”

A demonstration of the all-important “off” and “take it!” commands. This is
basic for teaching bite inhibition, which is necessary for the dog to get
along with humans and chickens.

Using "Off!" in the Chicken Pen

Using “Off!” in the Chicken Pen

Valerie Proctor Davis

This would be a scary picture if Badger were looking at that hen. His body is
rigid, his ears are up, and he’s staring fixedly—but not at the chicken. He’s
watching a dog treat on the ground in front of her, waiting for permission to
“take it!”

When I told him to take it, he took it from the ground right in front of the
hen, swallowed it, and trotted briskly off with me. He never looked at the
bird.

We began to practice “Off” and “Take it!” when Badger was very young. (Note:
With a large breed puppy, long sleeves and leather gloves are a big help until
he gets the idea!) As he learned what “Off” meant, I gradually varied the
game, sometimes putting the treat on the floor, sometimes on his paw,
sometimes saying other things before “Take it!” All this made him learn to
watch me closely and listen to what I was saying.

When he was very consistent with the command, we began to practice it with the
chickens, for many months on-leash. If he stuck his nose in the nest box or up
a chicken’s butt, I would tell him “Off,” then as he backed off, “Sit!” When
he sat and looked at me, he got a treat with permission to “Take it!”

Tone is important, as he doesn’t understand language. “Off” is said in a deep
gruff tone, and “Take it!” with a cheerful, rising inflection. I rarely say
“Off” in ordinary circumstances these days—Badger knows when he has to wait
for permission.

Using "Sit" in the pen

Using “Sit” in the pen

Valerie Proctor Davis

This is Badger waiting for me to open the gate for him. He knows from long
practice that he has to sit to have a door opened, then he has to wait for
permission to go through. I can tell him to “stay” as I go through the gate
and call him after me. Or I can tell him to “go on” ahead of me through the
gate, driving the chickens back so they don’t get out.

Believe me; this wasn’t learned overnight! First, we had to learn the basic
commands: sit, stay, come. Later we progressed to more advanced ones, like “go
back” and “go on.” We practiced these every day and still do every time I open
a door or go downstairs. Since Badger doesn’t understand that he could knock
me down by rushing through, I have to stay consistent and not let him
backslide. If he does rush past me, I call him back, tell him to sit, and wait
a moment before telling him to go on. This keeps him practicing good habits.

“Sit” is about the most important lesson your dog can learn. It isn’t enough
to tell a dog “No!” or “Stop.” You need to tell him what you want him to do.
And sitting is always safe and appropriate.

Right after I took the picture from the previous section of Badger and the
hen, I put the camera away and came to recapture my escapee. I got her
cornered and grabbed her while she shrieked and flapped. Badger rushed up,
ears erect, looking at her with interest. I commanded, “Sit!” and he sat. I
dropped the hen in the pen, and we walked back to the house.

One command . . . but it’s a life-saver.

Teaching “Home Base”

Your dog should have a secure place he can go when he needs to be separated
from the chickens or if you need to keep him away from strangers or any
dangerous situation. If he’ll be kept up for long periods, it should be a
large kennel or pen. But the principle of learning to go inside voluntarily is
the same.

Using "Home Base" for training

Using “Home Base” for training

Valerie Proctor Davis

Any dog should have a place he’ll go to voluntarily, where he can be confined
from danger or temptation. Medical treatment, elderly visitors, and chickens
loose during his training are all reasons that he needs to go to a kennel or
pen and wait calmly while you lock the door.

Badger hated the kennel when he was a baby. He was raised surrounded by
puppies and goats and had never been alone a minute in his life. He actually
dug a den under our front steps and lived there when he was small, to be close
to us.

Meanwhile, I was training him to consider the kennel his Home Base. His food
and water were inside, along with a nice doghouse full of straw. It was
sheltered and comfortable. I kept all his toys in there, throwing them back
after he’d played with them. And the kennel was the only place he got treats.

Every day we practiced “Go to your pen!” I would throw a treat down inside and
direct him to “take it!” We would play with toys, and I would sit down and
read outside. As he got older, I would break up treats and throw the pieces
around the straw for him to hunt for. The kennel was great, a puppy playland,
everything good was in there.

Then I started shutting the door. At first, I would only leave Badger in for a
few minutes, letting him out when he stopped fussing. (It’s important to open
the door when he’s being quiet so as to reward him for the behavior you want.)
Gradually he stayed in for longer times. It was an everyday routine—”Go to
your pen!” and he would zoom inside and sit down happily to see what I would
give him. Then I locked the gate and left him for a few hours while the
chickens took a walk.

I think this was an important part of his training, too—locking him up every
afternoon while the chickens pecked around him. For a long time, as a puppy
and adolescent, he would stare and fuss. But eventually, he would just curl up
and sleep until it was time to come out.

Home Base proved to be life-saving training after the Great Chicken Coop
Disaster turned Badger temporarily into a chicken killer . . . I’ll link to
that story when I’ve finished writing it!

Badger eventually became our chickens' best
friend.

Badger eventually became our chickens’ best friend.

Valerie Proctor Davis

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Valerie Proctor Davis

Do You Have Dogs and Chickens?

Ladymifty on March 15, 2017:

Is there any way to train my dog to protect my chickens from other dogs,
hawks, etc.?

Brenda M. Negri on February 26, 2017:

A catahoula is a herding dog, not an LGD and using a cross like the author has
is extremely risky. Only purebred LGD breeds or LGD breeds crossed on each
other should be used. I have published two articles in Backyard Poultry
Magazine and in Countryside Magazine on how to rear pups up to guard poultry,
in 2016.

Pam on November 28, 2016:

I have a young dog named Rudy. I have worked with her around the chickens for
several months, then started keeping her in the pen for a short time and she
did great. She did great for about 4 weeks, no problems. Then one day I came
home and she had mangled the rooster. So I guess we are back at square one.
Any advice for another go as a chicken dog for Rudy?

Wasp64 on April 27, 2016:

I trained my miniature dashound/regular dashound, mix (10 lbs) when the chicks
were hatched. I kept them on the porch in a cage and let her smell and lick
them gently when I held them. Now they are grown, laying eggs, and in a large
pen and she goes with me to feed and get eggs. She doesn’t bother them and
they ignore her. She loves the hen house. It often has birds that come in
through the hen hole and she helps chase them out. I hold he screen door and
she jumps at them until they fly out.

Brenda Shipp on April 21, 2016:

Got Sammie female dog when she was dumped at brother s house. She was about 1
then. We got chickens later first baby duckling she killed when it fell off a
small coop .I was trying to protect it from her and put it on top .it fell and
she leaped quickly on it I scolded her immediately. From then on she knew I
wanted them. Never any more problems. Some rooster would attack us and she
just chases them off us. She is full blood German Shepard. Love her so much.
Brenda

WenDy on April 20, 2016:

This was a great article. I have shared it with my chicken group. I am very
interested in your follow up article about your disaster. Did you ever write
it?

Juanita on March 17, 2016:

I have dogs (3 Shepherds) and chickens and no training was really necessary.
They just instinctively protect.

Darcie on January 08, 2016:

We have two well trained boxers and we are getting chickens, i found this post
very helpful, thanks!

Sonja on October 08, 2015:

I have chickens, ducks, & geese. And a hyper 1y/o husky mix.

Amber on May 06, 2015:

I trained my now 8 year old bird dog to “leave it” when she was a puppy. I had
no idea it would be so useful! Using the “leave it” command I’ve managed to
introduce her to cats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, and a goat in the
last couple years without any incident. Ever. I simply told her to leave it
when she would fixate on an animal and it only took a few times for her to
accept them as yard objects to be ignored. She has been trusted with our
various animals unsupervised for well over a year.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on April 05, 2015:

A great hub for people like me who are interested in starting a hobby farm.

Found useful and voted up!

terriwaxter on June 11, 2014:

I have a boxer that is the best chicken and bunny momma. She bonds with and
protects any baby animal she comes across.

stormy-findley on June 10, 2014:

I have a miniature heeler named Short Stuff. He is one and a half years old.
We live in town and knew that he needed a job. I had gotten a couple of ducks
to roam the yard and they bonded with him. So naturally he was the great
protector of the ducks as well as the house. We decided to give him some more
work to do and bought chickens. He loves them! He keeps the fox behind the
house from the chickens and they love him. I use him to catch escaped chickens
and chicks. And he makes sure that they don’t escape the yard. I now have the
happiest heeler on the planet! He will even show you where is “chick chicks”
are!

dmhonz on April 14, 2014:

we have a dog and chicken but they are not compatible with each other that’s
why chicken is always scared in my dog and always stay at there chicken house
. but thanks for this tutorial I will try to teach my dog with the command .
sit and take it

barkingmadtraining on December 19, 2013:

Yes, I hava a dog and chicken.

Meganhere on October 12, 2013:

I’ve had a dog and chickens and the dog was fine with them if she knew I was
home, but I didn’t trust her to be around them if I was out.

I love your dog’s name. If I had a black-and-white dog I’d call it Badger too.

lesliesinclair on August 07, 2013:

Not me, not yet and maybe never, but I do like learning tips on training dogs,
and appreciated the video. This article is really an informative lesson about
picking the right dog and training the right way, with great persistence.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on May 14, 2013:

No, I don’t have either but this was fun to read and really informative if I
did have dogs and chickens.

squid-pinkchic18 on March 28, 2013:

Loved this article. Loved the videos especially but your stories were great
too!

Kay on March 26, 2013:

Good looking and has a job. Badger is quite the dog! Loved the hyper,
knotheaded adolescent comment. We have two of those right now! Absolutely an
honor to bless this page!

floppypoppygift1 on March 24, 2013:

No doubt Badger is adorable!!! Great job with your pup. Cheers~ cb

WriterJanis2 on March 11, 2013:

Very cool. I never knew dogs could be trained to protect chickens. Pinned.

Lynda Makara from California on March 11, 2013:

It’s so fascinating that dogs can be trained to do so many things, like
guarding chickens. My dog’s only job is to look cute!

comparevacuumcleaners on March 11, 2013:

I don’t have dogs and chickens but i have a sausage dog and a cockatiel bird.
Secretly I know he’d like to eat the bird, unfortunately he has killed a bird
once in the backyard which I hated, but he knows I love this bird and as much
as he wants to — he doesn’t.

khatha0808 on March 11, 2013:

I used to have both dogs and chickens. The dogs bite chickens all the time. We
were thinking about training them too but it wasn’t worked

kerrylea on March 11, 2013:

Labradors are my favourite and they are so loyal, your dog is an amazing. I
use the command leave it rather than off with my dogs, and it comes in so
handy.

mockingbird999 on March 11, 2013:

We had chickens when I was a kid. Training the dog to protect them would have
been a good idea.

audrey07 on March 10, 2013:

I have not reared chickens before and neither do I have a dog. So, I wouldn’t
have any idea how to pair the two up. I know you can train a dog to help you
with sheep but now I know they can also help with chickens.

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on March 10, 2013:

i don’t have dogs and chickens but I can imagine what an untrained dog would
be like around around the chooks. Badger looks gorgeous and what a job he
does!

LisaDH on March 10, 2013:

We have dogs, but no chickens. And that’s a good thing because I’m SURE one of
my dogs would think chickens were play things. Badger is definitely better
behaved than mine. 🙂