Canines and Chickens

Fact: My dogs will eat anything you put in front of them.
However, I have been extremely fortunate that none (except one) have shown any fowl killing tendencies. The one that did is a 3 month old puppy that ate two of our Buff Orpington chicks, and that was our fault. Being hounds our dogs will occasionally chase the birds (Baxter, our Beagle/Lab mix, in particular loves the noise the Peacocks make when chased up on our roof) , but no one has descended to eating chickens yet. We have a couple egg eaters, but no chronic chicken killers.

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Unfortunately this was not always the case. Before Baxter we had a full blooded Chocolate Lab that ignored the chickens and geese but went after everything else. Turkeys, ducks, and guineas, he would run down with no remorse. While he was alive we gave up on trying to raise these animals as sooner or later it lead to their untimely demise. Near the end of his time with us he had started to learn to live with the birds but he passed away before that happened. Another dog we had in the past was a Jack Russell, she was the opposite. She had eyes only for the chickens and her greatest joy was chasing them down and ripping out their feathers. However she turned out to be teachable as she eventually learned to leave the birds alone. Our current dogs tend to ignore the birds (except for the occasional Peacock chase) and haven’t (yet) done any lasting harm.

Here are some rules for introducing your dog to new birds (the same could apply to cats as well but fortunately we’ve never had trouble with our cats before. They seem singularly uninterested).

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Birdy and a Buff Orpington

Always supervise your pet when they’re around new birds, especially if it’s a species that’s new to them. Continue to supervise for at least a month if not more. Baxter didn’t discover that the Peacocks made funny noises until several months after they were introduced.

Never assume that your pet will ignore the new arrivals. A family member assumed that since the older dogs ignored the chicks the puppy would too, this was not the case. We lost 2 chicks before we noticed that the puppy had discovered that day old chicks are tasty.

If your pet discovers that they like to eat your birds there are three options:

  • Train your pet to leave the birds alone (this is time consuming and there is no sure fire way to do it, each animal is different and responds to a method differently. However it is very rewarding though when your barnyard is peaceful).
  • Keep your pet or your birds penned when your not around to supervise (I did this with my waterfowl for a while)
  • Most drastically you could find new homes for the birds or your pet. I would only do this if the dog proves to be an unrepentant bird killer.

Keep the above in mind when introducing new birds to a dog or a new dog to your birds. The dog usually is easily dissuaded from future conflict and the smarter birds usually learn to steer clear of the dog.  Keep an eye on them though, you can’t predict what will happen. With any luck both your flock and your pet will be healthy and happy.

Happy Keeping!

~Kc

Hello Handsome

My flock added a new member today, a 5 month old Black Austrolorps Rooster temporarily named Handsome Stranger.

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Isn’t he a pretty boy?

I was lucky enough to know someone who knew someone else (who’s cousin’s grandfather’s nephew, not really but you get the point) who was looking for a new home for him. I currently have four Austrolorps hens who he’s already been trying to charm through the fence. But before he joins his new harem he has to go through a few weeks of solitary.

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Silly girls

When ever you bring new birds onto your property it’s a good idea to quarantine then first; even if they’re coming from a place you’ve personally  visited and inspected. A health bird may become sick very quickly, and the best way to prevent any sickness from spreading is to play keep away until your sure that their total fine. The recommended time frame is about two weeks.Besides quarantining birds coming in make sure birds coming out aren’t sick as well.  This goes especially for your own birds coming back from shows and fairs. The flocks in my area had a bad experience with this  a few years back.

During our county fair someone brought a bird infected with fowl pox to the youth poultry and rabbit show. A lot of 4-H’ers show poultry in the fair and unfortunately the sick bird passed on the fowl pox to a bunch of other flocks including ours. For weeks afterwards we got reports of birds dying in many kid’s flocks around the county. Fowl pox usually is quite painful for the birds and can be deadly if it gets inside the hens throat. We had to put several hens down, but that was nothing compared to a friend of mine who shows birds at semi-professional level. She showed about twenty birds at the fair and ended up having to put  7 different birds out of their misery, not to mention treat dozens more after it spread.

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Medium to severe case of Fowl Pox (be careful googling this, there are pictures of dissections  of diseased birds)

The moral of the story is be careful when introducing new birds or birds that have been away for a while. “Handsome” is frustrated for now being penned up, but it’s worth it knowing it will keep my flock happy health and safe.

Thanks for reading,

-Kc