Free Range Chickens Need Guard Dog

tramirezMay 18, 2009

I am having some issues at home. I have a lab/border collie mix (Rex) and his cousin border collie/german sheppard mix (Ranger) and Rex is alpha dog. He is the sweetest dog- until he is sure he is unsupervised. The two dogs are on a wireless fence system with their boundary set to include the chicken coop and rabbitry. But, everytime he is sure he is alone, he will kill something- and its purely sport. He attacked the cat this week, a day after killing a chicken, and I'm still not sure if the cat will make it- he is finally eating again- and this is an animal he has curled up with and slept for the last year. We try to let the chickens free range during the day and put them up at night. Rex will go a couple of days- then BAM- kills/attacks something.

I am so frustrated, I had him neutered, hoping he would settle down, didnt work. At this moment their perimeter is set to two. They can walk around the house if they stay real close to it. I need help, I don't want to kill the dog(s) but I cant have them killing everything for fun when he knows what he is doing is wrong. When I get home from where ever I had been, he tucks his tail and runs to hide- I know I have to go and try to find what he has killed/attacked. I have tried the chicken around the neck and it didnt work for Rex. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks, TR

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The reality may be that you have to choose, free range chickens or the dog. Another solution is keeping the chickens in electrified poultry netting. Take a look at Premier fencing supplies in Washington, Iowa. But you'd have to move the netting every few days to give the birds fresh ground. Good Luck! Tom

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 6:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Unfortunately you are working against their natural instincts, and these behaviors have become habit.

Couple of things you can try, or maybe combinations, depending on your situation, set-up, time constraints, wishes to correct the issue.

Do not let them loose together

Allow plenty of toys-empty milk jugs work great

Train with a shock collar

Use electric fence as was suggested

get some of those no-jump harnesses (these work great to slow a dog (or pup in training) down enough to let it's "prey" escape.

Spray no-bit spray (bitter-apple, cayeene pepper, etc) on the birds or at least the trainer bird, watch the eyes

Repremand them-HARD, let them see you caring for these animals while on their leash

Personally, I'd find the dogs a good home, and replace them with a more suitable breed or a pup you can train from the git-go. Here a killer is not welcome, though they will get the (small) opportunity to straighten out.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)


You don't mention what training you have done. Are your dogs obedience trained? Have you worked "leave it" with the chickens?

That being said, I have a decently trained dog who simply has chicken blood lust. I asked my trainer for advice and she said "never, EVER, let the dog and chickens out at the same time."

That's how it goes here. If the chickens are out, the dog is on a strong tie-out away from where they range. Her prey-drive is so strong that training against it would be nearly impossible.

If you can't train against it, then you must manage the situation to keep the dog and hens away from each other. If you are not able to do that, then maybe you should rehome the dog with people who don't have livestock.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: My place: Busy Solitude Farm

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 6:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I reared them from pups along with kittens and introduced the animals in slowly. The dogs will lay down and let the baby chicks crawl all over them and play with them, same with the rabbits. They only attack when they are sure they will not get caught. I can leave all of the pens open all day long and the dogs will not touch anything as long as I am home, the second I leave- they start the mischief. We live out in the middle of nowhere with a lot of coyote, fox and racoon around. I want dogs that will protect everything- along with the house and from strangers. I am looking to rehome them at this time. I know they kill in sport because they know what they are doing is wrong or they wouldn't run and hide when I get home. I dearly love the two dogs but I do not feel that they are going to be suitable for my homestead at this time.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sounds like you need a pup from the Livestock Guardian class of dog (LGD) like a maremma or pyranees. Their prey drive has been bred out of them and the protection emphasized. Raise them with the flock and any other animals you have and they will protect them instinctively. They do need a bit of normal training when pups.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 6:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You need a sissy dog like my Golden, Ellen. Ellen, in rare innocence, made the mistake one day three years ago of standing on a piece of earth that a hen got a mind to approach. My rooster looked over, saw my dog in hen's proximity and raced across the yard in a white hot rage with his wings spread about 12 feet across. He beat my stunned and wild-eyed dog with those enormous wings as she frantically tried to tuck tail and run.

When my dog's in the yard now, her head is constantly turning, ears cocked, looking over her shoulder for Orlando, and listening for his approach. She is very careful to not make any movement that might make it appear that she is looking at a hen, or even thinking about looking at a hen.

Orlando died two years ago, but Ellen doesn't need to know that.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

TR, I feel for you because we have experienced the same thing here this spring. I hate to say it and I'm sure people will disagree but the dog will have to go if you want your chickens and cats safe. We had a young lab who really terrorized us here, not just with the other animals but many other issues as well. We finally got rid of him after many futile attempts at containment and training. Once they kill something like that, it is very difficult to get them off of doing it again. I wouldn't have a critter here that constantly preyed upon the other animals that I cared about. It is hard enough trying to keep them safe from wild or neighbor animals. My chickens weren't even free range when he killed 8 of them in their pen. We have another dog who is admittedly older and has never offered to hurt anything or anyone. Sorry for your problem, been there and done that :( Lori

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 6:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am into dogs and have had chickens. You have to make a decision. dog or chickens. Labs, hunting dogs, german shepherds etc are never going to make it. a few goldens might be ok but most goldens will chase the chickens.

You just can not have both of them walking together like friends. They are not friends.

You can purchase a chainlink heavy duty kennel from Craigs list. Most are about 4ft by 10 ft and 6 ft tall but they can be larger and you can purchase 2 and string them together. You need 6 ft high. pen up the dog. get some fencing and put a skirt around the inside floor to keep them from digging out. Make sure you get the kind with panels that lock together. 4 panels to a kennel.

the picture is not the best but it gives the idea. this one is on cement floor. you can use the grass.

New cost is usually about $500 and craigs list price of a used one is about $100 to a little more. You can use 2 locked together into a bigger area. These are nice because you can get your money back when you sell them and they are pretty easy to move around the yard. If he jumps out put a top fencing on it. but not many dogs can jump a 6 ft fence.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 11:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do urge you to try any methods you can to try to keep the dog if you care for it. I must warn, however, that the lab we had busted out of his chain link kennel within 10 minutes of me coming back in the house after putting him in there :( Not saying you won't have good results but mine was a very problematic dog...he went THROUGH the fence, not over or under it. He was not a mean or evil dog, I'm sure he felt I would be very proud when he placed 8 of my poor hens at my back door. He just wasn't cut out to be here with us. Lori

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 1:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
judyag_44(SW FL)

This is a familiar story....I lived it. We had a sweet dog (malamute/hound) that we rescued from the roadside when she was a tiny puppy. We raised her around all our guineas, ducks and chickens.
She started killing our first I couldn't believe it! This happened when we were not at home. She killed three guineas. Then, we tried keeping her as a house dog and only put her out when we had her on a leash.
One morning my husband took pity on her and let her walk with him, off lead, down to the barn. On the way she killed one of our little chickens, literally in front of him.
Still we tried. We vowed only to put her out on a cable. Then, when we came home one day she greated us with the chewed off cable dangling from her neck and looking as guilty as sin. So, we went out to survey the area and found one of my favorite young crested ducks dead. THAT was IT! She was not worth all the lives she was taking and was out of our control.
We took her to Second Chances....a no kill shelter and put a biography with her telling them not to place her where there were other smaller animals.
Doing that broke my heart but the killing was just more than I could bear.
Since then we have gotten two Great Pyrenees who were not raised with our animals but guard them constantly. They keep the coyotes at bay, have brought in the body of a fox and even watch the sky for hawks. What a true blessing these big, white dogs are! Huge, and as gentle as can be with all our "family" of animals.
Hope my experience can help you.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 2:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm wondering what became of the dog? I took Blue (the chicken killer) to the HS and paid a fee for being out of their county. They told me they would not put him down and they shipped animals all over trying to get them seen and adopted. He would make someone a nice dog, very affectionate and loyal. They did make a notation about not placing him with small animals and actually his actions disqualified him from a local program where they retrain labs and goldens for the disabled. They called it "small animal aggression." Blue was fine with the cats until they ran from him (which was always since he never walked anywhere, always a dead run). He wouldn't just attack them but it was coming, I could see. I never knew how traumatized the cats were, staying in the garage all the time. Our oldest cat, Tigger, was very frail and ill looking and I figured it was his 15 yrs of age catching up with him. This spring since Blue is gone, Tigger is again beautiful and healthy and enjoying the outside. I have 7 little hens that escape the pen and free range each day, they are just small enough to squeeze under the corner of the pen. I so enjoy seeing them around the house and sneaking into the garage! I say sneak because they know they aren't supposed to be in there but I usually leave the back door open for airing the place out and they go in and eat the cat food, LOL! I have 5 guineas in a pen in the barn and plan to let them out in a few weeks. I could never have enjoyed all my critters with Blue around. Heck, I probably wouldn't have been able to even garden since he was just so distructive. I have been wondering how you dealt with your problem dog. Judyag, were your Great Pyrenees already grown? I have just heard such good things about these creatures! I would like to look into getting one or similar guard type dog for our place. Lori

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:58AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Inactivity on this forum...?
Like I said in an earlier has been 6 years...
Rat proof chicken feeder
Been having a few problems with rats (no doubt the...
Raw Milk
Where Can I find Raw milk in western washington?
My rooster Pluto is sick :(
ok, he is not "mine" but we all live together...
omg The Wind Last Nite
Its still blowing here in Pa.It howled,I have a metal...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™