While a German Shepherd dog may initially have the urge and prey drive to capture and kill a chicken, with exposure and training they can be trusted to coexist with chickens without harming them.
8/20/2015: I stumbled upon this post today, initially posted 8/20/2013, exactly 2 years ago today. This could be one of my last good pictures of my beloved previous German Shepherd, Fina, who passed away in late 2013.
Here’s Fina, the German Shepherd Dog, hanging out by chickens. I have had multiple German Sheperds. Each time they were introduced to chickens, the response has been the same. Here’s how I trained our GSDs to tolerate their urge. I am not an expert dog trainer and I am sure there are more ways than one to accomplish this. I personally used positive reinforcement and repeated exposure.
Introducing your GSD to chickens.
Each time I have introduced a GSD to chickens the response has been the same. They lick their lips and prepare to chomp down on the chicken. I have usually introduced them to chicks. I typically have my Shepherd sit and hold the chicken as I know they won’t bite me. The first time I introduced a chicken to Aura she chomped down on it’s head. I exclaimed “Nine!!” and she let go. Thankfully the chicken was 100% ok. That was enough for day 1.
Immediately, I knew that I needed to take her to the coop daily with me.
On the second introduction, Fina knew not to eat them.
On the second intro with Aura, I brought Aura into the coop. She looked around with wide eyes and salivated. I obtained a chicken and repeated the process. She was alert and had a stiff body and had the urge to chomp the chicken. I held the chicken near her mouth and she did not eat it. She did spend much time sniffing it.
Every day when I got eggs I brought Aura into the coop. (The chickens are free range but I lock them up for a few days when there are “events” like this or a fox in the neighborhood).
She would sit and watch me and occasionally try to eat some chicken poo off of the ground. When we left with no chicken attacks I would verbally reward her and pet her. Soon, she could sit calmly without drooling and waiting for me to turn her back.
Chickens in the yard
Things changed when the chickens were in the yard. There was one occassion when Aura pounced onto a chicken and shook it violently to and fro. I shouted “Nine!” at the top of my lungs (German for NO) and she never once touched a chicken again. She can now be left alone with the chickens any time. Once in a while, she will charge one just to see it run but controls her urge.
Fina had much less prey drive. She was calm around the chickens, and the chickens were calm around her. We called Fina “Mother Hen” as she cared about the animals around her.
I have had the opportunity of introducing puppies to chickens. However, I never let them near the chickens. By default, even a 8lb puppy wants to chase a chicken down and see what it’s all about. I would never let a small puppy near a chicken. A pissed off chicken will peck a puppy’s head with its beak. I’ve seen it happen to cats and it is rather unpleasant. Of course, this would ruin a puppy’s experience with the chicken. IMO A dog must be old enough to where it is making effort to please its owner.
Here is the original article, published 8/20/2013:
Fina said she wanted her picture taken, too. Here we have her hanging out in the back yard. The chickens know she will leave them alone. The chickens are free range laying chickens. Fina just happened to sit down in the hula-hoop. Silly Fina! Fina will be 8 soon.