One of the biggest obstacles chicken owners need to overcome is predators. Chickens are delicious to all sorts of species, after all. A flock owner can deter smaller predators like snakes and falcons with some carefully placed chicken wire or mesh. What about larger animals like coyotes, foxes, and raccoons? This is where an LGD, or Livestock Guardian Dog, comes in.
Will a Livestock Guardian Dog Protect Chickens?
Many chicken owners new to Livestock Guard Dogs will mistakenly assume that these protective dogs will guard any animals on their property. While some LGD will protect chickens and other poultry, most are more likely to see the fowl as dinner for themselves. This is a matter of choosing the breeder and individual dog carefully.
A Livestock Guardian Dog can be used to protect chickens when selected and raised specifically for this purpose. Many dogs, even those intended to protect livestock, will see chickens as prey. Often an unprepared and poorly select Livestock Guardian Dog will cause more harm than help in this scenario. Certainly, the last thing you want is to put a dog in with your chickens that do more damage than the local coyote!
What LGD Breed Is Best for Chickens?
Breeders influence their lines based on what traits they focus most on producing. So they can be a wide variation between the temperament/intelligence of one breeder’s line and that of the next breeder’s line. Find the breeder who focuses on the traits YOU need.
When considering which breed of Livestock Guardian Dog to use for chickens, consider first the breeder. Almost any LGD breed can be used to protect chickens if the breeder has a long line of proven dogs already protecting poultry. Consider too your individual needs in the breed – are your winters cold, can you accommodate a large dog, will you often have strange people on the property?
For example, a Caucasian Ovcharka may not be best for a warm area with small predators. Meanwhile, a Kangal may be a good choice if you have children and speedy predators. Once you have established which breed fits your other needs, you can search for a breeder whose dogs are known to work with chickens and other fowl.
Sandy McNabb Perry and admin from the Farei Kennels LGD Training and Education group on Facebook says “Breeders influence their lines based on what traits they focus most on producing. So they can be a wide variation between the temperament/intelligence of one breeder’s line and that of the next breeder’s line. Find the breeder who focuses on the traits YOU need.”
Here is the list of LGD breeds that may be good for chicken protection:
- Abruzzese Mastiff
- Akbash dog
- Aksaray Malaklisi
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Armenian Gampr
- Ashayeri Dog
- Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog
- Bakharwal dog
- Bucovina Shepherd
- Buryat-Mongolian Wolfhound
- Cane di Mannara
- Cão de Castro Laboreiro
- Cão de Gado Transmontano
- Carpathian Shepherd Dog
- Caucasian Shepherd Dog
- Central Asian Shepherd Dog
- Estrela Mountain Dog
- Georgian Shepherd
- Ghadrejani dog
- Great Pyrenees
- Greek Shepherd
- Himalayan Sheepdog
- Karst Shepherd
- Koyun dog
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Mazandrani dog
- Mioritic Shepherd
- Persian Mastiff
- Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Pyrenean Mastiff
- Rafeiro do Alentejo
- Romanian Raven Shepherd Dog
- Shirak Sheepdog
- Slovak Cuvac
- Spanish Mastiff
- Tibetan kyi apso
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Vikhan Sheepdog
How Do I Find a Livestock Guardian Dog for My Chickens?
There are two paths to take when searching for an LGD: buying a puppy from a responsible and established breeder or purchasing a trained and proven adult dog. As mentioned above, the first thing to look for in a breeder is their current stock. The parents to your future puppy should already have proven themselves protecting fowl.
Also, consider your local predators and terrain; generations of dogs used on flat land against foxes and coyotes would be ill-suited for mountainous terrain with wolves and bears. If you choose to purchase a proven adult dog, the same considerations should apply. However, you will eliminate the guesswork and effort of raising up a puppy.
Further, it’s always best to hold potential breeders to a standard. A breeder that has completed genetic health testing on their dogs will produce healthier puppies that have a longer lifespan. The use of a puppy raising protocol that includes socialization and positive livestock associations will ease your way as a future puppy owner.
My LGD Is Killing My Chickens!
If your Livestock Guardian Dog is already killing your chickens there are some steps that you can take. First, ensure that your dog is always supervised and restrained around your hens and roosters. The more the behavior is allowed to continue, the harder it will be to break. Consider going back to basics with training commands like “stay” and “leave it.” Then you can start staking your LGD out with your chickens on a very strong line or chain for short periods of time.
Progression depends on the amount of prey drive your dog has and how long they have been killing chickens. For more information and assistance for your individual case, consult a professional LGD trainer or your breeder. Unfortunately, some dogs are simply chicken killers and may be better suited for guarding different animals.
Training a Livestock Guardian Dog
In order to train your LGD, your best bet is to find an experienced mentor with similar livestock and needs to yours. A new Livestock Guardian Dog owner can also turn to a variety of Internet forums for anecdotes and personal experiences from current owners of working dogs.
There is a large variety of methodologies and philosophies for how to train a Livestock Guardian Dog. These include staking the dog out with their intended flock or herd or simply allowing them to live with them from the beginning. One popular methodology is called the Farei Kennels method. Many forums exist on this topic, and I would encourage my readers to reach out to these forums for more assistance.
The general idea of Farei is to raise the dog in your home as a close personal companion. This ensures that they care about the animals that you care about while still establishing a good foundation of training and appropriate manners.
This is a broad topic with many answers to any given question. I hope that I have given future owners of Livestock Guardian Dogs for chickens a great starting point. For more assistance or information, reach out to other owners of chickens and LGD. The Livestock Guardian Dog community is a welcoming and helpful one!
Written by Chloe Weasley