Do German Shepherds Attack Chickens?


chickens

While a German Shepherd dog may initially have the urge and prey drive to capture and kill a chicken, with exposure and training they can be trusted to coexist with chickens without harming them.

8/20/2015: I stumbled upon this post today, initially posted 8/20/2013, exactly 2 years ago today. This could be one of my last good pictures of my beloved previous German Shepherd, Fina, who passed away in late 2013.

Here’s Fina, the German Shepherd Dog, hanging out by chickens. I have had multiple German Sheperds. Each time they were introduced to chickens, the response has been the same. Here’s how I trained our GSDs to tolerate their urge. I am not an expert dog trainer and I am sure there are more ways than one to accomplish this. I personally used positive reinforcement and repeated exposure.

Introducing your GSD to chickens.

Each time I have introduced a GSD to chickens the response has been the same. They lick their lips and prepare to chomp down on the chicken. I have usually introduced them to chicks. I typically have my Shepherd sit and hold the chicken as I know they won’t bite me. The first time I introduced a chicken to Aura she chomped down on it’s head. I exclaimed “Nine!!” and she let go. Thankfully the chicken was 100% ok. That was enough for day 1.

Immediately, I knew that I needed to take her to the coop daily with me.

Day 2

On the second introduction, Fina knew not to eat them.

On the second intro with Aura, I brought Aura into the coop. She looked around with wide eyes and salivated. I obtained a chicken and repeated the process. She was alert and had a stiff body and had the urge to chomp the chicken. I held the chicken near her mouth and she did not eat it. She did spend much time sniffing it.

Moving forward

Every day when I got eggs I brought Aura into the coop. (The chickens are free range but I lock them up for a few days when there are “events” like this or a fox in the neighborhood).

She would sit and watch me and occasionally try to eat some chicken poo off of the ground. When we left with no chicken attacks I would verbally reward her and pet her. Soon, she could sit calmly without drooling and waiting for me to turn her back.

Chickens in the yard

Things changed when the chickens were in the yard. There was one occassion when Aura pounced onto a chicken and shook it violently to and fro. I shouted “Nine!” at the top of my lungs (German for NO) and she never once touched a chicken again. She can now be left alone with the chickens any time. Once in a while, she will charge one just to see it run but controls her urge.

Fina had much less prey drive. She was calm around the chickens, and the chickens were calm around her. We called Fina “Mother Hen” as she cared about the animals around her.

Puppies

I have had the opportunity of introducing puppies to chickens. However, I never let them near the chickens. By default, even a 8lb puppy wants to chase a chicken down and see what it’s all about. I would never let a small puppy near a chicken. A pissed off chicken will peck a puppy’s head with its beak. I’ve seen it happen to cats and it is rather unpleasant. Of course, this would ruin a puppy’s experience with the chicken. IMO A dog must be old enough to where it is making effort to please its owner.

Here is the original article, published 8/20/2013:

Fina said she wanted her picture taken, too. Here we have her hanging out in the back yard. The chickens know she will leave them alone. The chickens are free range laying chickens. Fina just happened to sit down in the hula-hoop. Silly Fina! Fina will be 8 soon.

2 Comments
  1. Hi, I have two German Shepherds. My girl is 18 months old and my boy is 13 weeks. We had 10 chickens, one of whom regularly escaped. Our girl has never had any interest in the chickens. We have been socialising our boy with the chickens but he hadn’t shown any real interest in them (he is probably the laziest puppy I have ever come across).

    Today I found the escaped chicken on the ground and the puppy was I believe licking her. She had been ripped up on her back. I took the chicken to the local vet who advised the best option was to have her euthanised. The vet advised a large dog would have been responsible for the damage inflicted, the puppy was too small to have caused any real damage. I am now concerned that my girl may have attacked the chicken. Is there anyway to tell?? I have taken her to the chicken area and she did a big sniff around but showed no interest in the chickens themselves (the chickens are in a netted pen). The puppy showed little interest too. Is this normal behavior for dogs who have attacked chickens??

    The chicken has been escaping everyday for about the last 3 or so weeks though we have not been able to find out how. The other 9 chickens do not get out. In this time neither dog has had any interest in the chicken. If my dogs act no differently could this be the work of a stray dog?? We live in a bush setting which is very difficult to fence so even though in 3 years we have never seen a dog on our property there is nothing to stop one. We actually have arrangements to begin building a proper fenced area for the chickens this weekend but unfortunately this comes to late for my poor chicken. I’m just looking for any advice on what could have happened. I am finding it very hard to reconcile the dog who keeps a wary distance from chickens as a dog who could wound one.

    The vet mentioned that sometimes when you bring two dogs together this induces a pack mentality where one dog eggs the other one on and they behave differently than they otherwise would. Is it possible this has happened?? I feel pretty traumatized by this situation and so does my little girl who unfortunately had to come to the vet with me and has been very upset ever since.

    • Well… I personally let me chickens free range. I close them up at night. They’re great and come when they’re called, but they get killed once in a while. Even being extra careful – a hawk dropped out of the sky just last week and killed one.

      I tell people that unfortunately “everything loves chicken”!

      I think at that age the pup could definitely attack the chicken but maybe not have enough power to kill it. Usually an adult dog will just shake it and it will be dead in under a few seconds. A neighbor (who moved long ago) had a nice chocolate lab who came by and killed my entire flock once in under 5 minutes. Totally sucked.

      I think most dogs will want to kill the chickens until they’re learned not to. And they could just go attack one when you’re not looking!

      The other chickens could find that escape route though…

      Anyways, moving forward, I’d take a dog in to the coop whenever you can to get them exposure and so you can immediately correct any unwanted behavior..

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