I love dogs. I also love chickens. One of my dogs (a golden retriever), pays no attention to the hens – except for having an insatiable appetite for the pooh they leave behind. I am certain, however, that my other dog (a Blue Heeler/border collie mix) would chase down and destroy my chickens in a heartbeat … if given the opportunity.
So the trick is not to give him the opportunity.
To avoid problems, we constructed a chicken run made of half-inch hardware cloth (buried 4 inches below the ground) and surrounded by stone pavers, so nothing can get through, over or under – and all the doors have locks. It’s more than predator-proof, it’s bullet-proof. My chicken-eating dog, Tucker, is satisfied circling the coop, watching quietly, waiting and hoping, and sometimes drooling.
The chickens are not afraid of Tucker because they know they’re safe. They peacefully go about their business of bug-hunting, scratching and dust-bathing. In fact, if I didn’t know better I’d swear they were taunting him by doing this as close to the wire fence as possible.
In the two years that I’ve had the birds I am happy to report no incidents – except for once when Tucker jumped up and managed to pluck a few tail feathers while I was holding one of my girls. Believe me, that will never happen again.
The point here is that some dogs do fine with chickens and some don’t, but that is no reason for municipalities to reject a chicken-keeping ordinance. During our long struggle to legalize backyard chickens in Salem, Ore., one city councilor seemed overly concerned that barking dogs would somehow bark more than usual if they sensed the presence of a chicken in the neighborhood. I can’t help but wonder how one would go about quantifying how much more a barking dog barks and what exactly it’s barking at. We also dealt with opponents who clung to a state policy that says dogs can be put down if caught harming livestock. This, of course, can be easily resolved by changing the definition of livestock to exclude backyard chickens (see my blog about city ordinances and the definition of livestock).
When filming the movie “The Chicken Revolution” we visited chicken-keepers throughout the Pacific Northwest, many of whom have dogs of various breeds that got along wonderfully with the hens. These included a collie, Boston terrier and corgi. Then there’s my golden retriever, Slacker, who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of horror stories about dogs killing chickens. I personally know a dog that would love to get his paws on a chicken, but I have thus far managed to prevent him from living out his fantasy. You know your dog; if you suspect it might harm your chickens, take the necessary precautions and help keep these stories to a minimum. Let’s not give city councilors more excuses for rejecting an ordinance that allows people to keep a limited number of backyard chickens.
For more information about the movie “The Chicken Revolution” or help changing city ordinances where you live, go to http://www.chicken-revolution.com/.