Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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You may have pets already as part of your household. When introducing chickens to cats or dogs you already own, you should remember that your pets can become best buddies or deadly foes with your chickens.

Pets can be friends to your chickens

Just like when Mom and Dad bring home a brand-new baby sister or brother, everyone goes through a period of acclimation and adjustment to the new family member. Don’t be surprised by some jealousy and temper tantrums on the part of your current pets. All will be well in a few weeks, if not days. Close supervision is essential during this time.

You want your cat and dog to get along with your chickens and integrate well. Your family pets enjoy your garden landscape and outdoor living as well. Introduce your family pets slowly and carefully so that your chickens are protected.

Either contain your chickens in their enclosed secure outside pen, or hold them in your arms when first introducing them to your cat or dog. You need to be very cautious, as you don’t know how each of them will react to one another.

Family cats are more curious about other things in the garden than chickens. If you let your cats in the garden, the garden is their territory, too. Garden cats are more interested in catching mice and gophers than stalking chickens.

Introducing family dogs to chickens for the first time can be tricky. It’s ideal if your dog has grown up with chickens since it was a puppy. Some dog breeds are innately bird dogs, and will want to chase after chickens. These dogs see chickens as a game and can be overzealous when their natural instincts kick in.

We’ve often heard of a family dog (who never hurt a fly) being left alone with the chickens, and when natural instincts kicked in, uncontrollably killed the entire flock. A real family tragedy. Your dog can be a great protector for your chickens in your garden setting, barking and fending off potential predators.

However, use common sense, and don’t take chances when it comes to your chickens and your dog(s). Being overly protective regarding your chickens is best.

Our suggestion is to be patient with your dog. Introduce your chickens in a protected situation such as in their secure outside pen enclosure. Start with close supervision. Graduate to holding your chicken, with your dog contained in the yard, and see how the animals all react.

Hopefully your dog has “heel” and “stay” manners, and is obedient to you. When you begin letting your chickens free-range in your setting, keep your dog on a leash or otherwise restricted. When your dog becomes accustomed to your chickens, your dog will start paying attention to things other than your chickens.

If incompatibility continues, with your dog is harassing and chasing your chickens, you may want to look into professional dog training assistance. Sometimes it just takes a little time for your family dog to understand the integration of chickens into his world. Be patient with your dog, giving him time to understand right and wrong regarding chickens.

You have to be open to the possibility that based upon the temperament of your dog, free-ranging chickens in your garden many not be a viable option. Your dog is going to win every time in a tragic way.

Pets can be foes to your chickens

Nothing is more tragic than having your family dog kill one of your beloved chickens. Sometimes a family dog doesn’t get it and won’t stop stalking chickens. A family cat may eat or harm chicks if given the opportunity, but usually won’t attack mature chickens.

Unfortunately, in these situations, you end up having to choose between having your dog or cat or having your chickens. This type of decision is a very emotional one, especially if you’ve had your pets for a long time.

You may have family pets that acclimate just fine with your chickens. However, it is important to recognize that your neighbors’ pets or rogue pets may find their way onto your property and have the potential to harm or kill your chickens. When this happens, these pets are called predators. Dogs are one of the top predators of chickens. Be aware that feral cats can be potential predators of chicks and chickens as well.

About This Article

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Bonnie Jo Manion has been featured in national garden magazines with her gardens, organic practices, chickens, and designs. Follow Bonnie at Rob Ludlow is the owner of, a top source on chicken raising, and the coauthor of Raising Chickens For Dummies.

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