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Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs together?

Posted by babalubird Central Texas (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 11, 08 at 12:36

More free-range chicken questions.

Will our 4 horses use them for horse toys? Or will they let them live in peace and one-piece?

I asked this question before in another post but I think it got lost in the shuffle...

Do guardian dogs really work well with chickens? Worried the "guard" may develop a taste for drumsticks. Hard to believe any dog can be trusted around any bird. I've talked to an akbash breeder reasonably near me who says the dogs are used to chickens but then says don't leave a young dog alone with them for extended periods. Help! Anyone have real hands-on experience with horses and these dogs living peacably with chickens? We need a full-time guard to protect from preditors.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

We have a Maremma and I'd never trust her around chickens. When we get layers this autumn they'll be in electric netting. Chickens and rabbits seem to be on the bottom of everyone's food chain. Tom

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

You could spray down a few chicken with bittering compound and pen them up with the young dogs for a few weeks, if the dog goes after one it will get a mouth full of yuck and never try again I would imagine.

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

I have caught my great pyrenese dogs in the enclosure where the chickens free-range during the day. They were merely curious; however, the enclosure I put them in at night as puppies, and I still use when I want them out of the way, is right next to the chickens with only a welded wire fence between them. They are very used to each other and there are also some pretty aggressive geese in with the chickens as well. As puppies I would take them into the chicken enclosure with me and scold them if they went towards the chickens. They were more interested in eating eggs and chicken scratch than the chickens themselves. The dogs don't seem to be at all interested in the geese. The horses don't seem to be bothered by cow birds at their feet, I can't imagine a chicken would be any different. My concern would be how many horses and the likelihood the chickens would be accidentally stepped on. Hope this helps.

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

Until you know how the dog will interact with either the horses or the hens, I would keep a close eye on things - even though your pup is a guard breed, and used to animals and birds, your animals won't be "his" animals. And some dogs, of whatever breed, have a stronger prey-drive than others - most dogs will, until taught otherwise, chase anything that runs from them. Some dogs only chase, in fun, and some chase and grab when they catch up. Until you know how your dog react, it's safer not to take the chance. And some horses don't like dogs - which can be as dangerous as the dogs not liking horses. Plus, if not used to horses, the dog needs to learn how to interact with them, and stay out from under hooves.

My take on what the Akbash breeder said is that the pup is probably safe, but also probably not totally reliable yet - think of teenagers and their responsibilities - most know them, most will do them, and sometimes they forget! And sometimes they have too much energy, get bored and start to amuse themselves with made-up games! These games may not be amusing to the beneficiary, and might be dangerous.

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

We have three horses and they never bother our free-range hens or rooster. The chickens are bold enough to try to eat the spilled horse feed from around the horses' buckets in the winter, and the horses simply nose them away. The horses can't really sneak up on the chickens due to their heavy stomps, and chickens are quick. The only problem is the horses constantly trying to access the chicken feeder in the portable and the permanent pens. So make sure the horses never eat of it in the first place and you will avoid our headache of them trying to eat of it a second time. (This is really only a problem in the winter when they are grazing in the area of the pen).

We have three dogs and therefore initially confined the new hens to a portable house/run for two weeks. We would hang out near the pen and talk sweetly to the chickens often (hoping the dogs would get the idea that we really liked these birds and would appreciate them not getting eaten). After two weeks we let the chickens run free each late afternoon and tied up each dog and kept a watch on them. We scolded the manchester terrier for any agression toward the hens. The other dog would simply lie and barely show any notice to the hens as they walked right in front of him. After a week or so we saw no more chasing by the terrier and just let the chickens out with the dogs free. These two dogs take off after any rabbit or squirrel they see so we're happy they treat the chickens like fellow pets. The terrier only mock-charges at the hens if they get too close to his food. It's been three years now.

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

We have 6 horses, lots of dogs, many cats and chickens. Chickens have a very large 6 ft. tall free range pen and that has a coop in the middle of it that also has a small greenhouse connected to the back wall of the coop.

Even though we have 27 1/2 acres all dogs are in large pens. The only domestic animals that are allowed to be free on the property are a couple of cats. I even have one cat in an enclosed kennel cause he keeps the other ones hiding or run off all the time.

There are plenty of predators - coyote, bobcat, foxes, hawks - have seen a mink and neighbors dogs that run loose.

3 of our highly energetic young beagles went bouncing out of the kennel and ran straight into the pasture in front of one of the horses. He tried to stomp them with his front feet and chased them stomping at them. Thank goodness they were all too fast and with me screaming at the top of my lungs, they came out of the pasture and he stopped trying to kill them.

So be careful, all horses don't like dogs.

RE: Question: Free-range chickens, horses & guardian dogs togethe

I JUST lost one of my favorite bottle-raised sheep - she just "disappeared" - all 175lbs of her. Not a trace of her remains.

I have thought numerous times about getting a livestock protector, and DID have a llama at one time. He was very, very difficult to manage, even though I had him neutered early. He died suddenly, without obvious explanation. His belly was torn open - no blood.

A friend has a livestock protector - a Pyrenees, who regularly kills chickens.

I've also had friends tell me of their dogs who are great, until one day, they decide to eat a lamb live, leg first.

Others have dogs who are highly successful protecting everything. the moment, I have a very sweet horse, and sheep/lambs, and chickens, and they all live happily with each other. However, if a predator came by......

IF I only had sheep/goats to protect, and IF i could find a breeder who had proven stock who would protect these animals, I MIGHT get a dog to protect my sheep.

However, I believe that I MAY stop the once in every 6 years sheep loss, in exchange for losing MOST of my chickens.


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