Labrador Retrievers are recognized as one of the most popular bird dogs, making them a common choice among the hunting community. However, there is a cause for concern for owners that are considering a Lab, but also raise livestock. Particularly when it comes to the issue of whether or not Labradors kill chickens.
If untrained, Labradors will kill chickens and other livestock as they are instinctive hunters with a high prey drive. Labs have a natural propensity to attack small fleeing animals, as they were bred for generations to do so. When trained, Labradors and chickens can coexist without concern.
In this article, I’ll investigate whether it’s possible to prevent Labradors killing chickens. Additionally, I’ll look into which dog breeds are and aren’t good with chickens. I’ll also give a brief background on Labs to understand why Labradors kill chickens if untrained.
Can You Train a Lab Not to Kill Chickens?
If you’ve suffered the wrath of dogs who’ve often ravished your chicken flock, you’d be anxious for a working intervention. Fortunately, you can train your dogs not to kill chickens.
Some basics for training dogs:
- First, know that prey drive level varies from breed to breed, with some breeds being more aggressive and others being relatively docile.
- Secondly, although the dog’s hunting instinct is inherent, it can be put on a leash through training so that the dog learns to only eat the food you provide and not the chicken that straddles across the yard.
- Thirdly, you’ll require patience in good supply, particularly in training older dogs. The earlier you begin training the puppies, the better.
Wagwalking.com recommends three training methods:
- The Proximity Method
- The Distance Training Method
- The Restrain Method
The Proximity Method
The proximity method entails getting the dog used to being near the chickens without preying on them.
- Begin by tying the dog near the chicken house to familiarize him with the chicken coop area.
- Release the leash progressively as the dog gets comfortable near the chicken.
- Repeat the processes if the dog relapses until the training is successful.
The Distance Training Method
We are training the puppy to be accustomed to a certain distance away from the chickens without reacting to the chicken’s presence.
- Gradually reduce the distance until the puppy is at ease with the chickens.
- You’ll use a combination of verbal commands and rewards to pass to teach the message. Patience is paramount if you want to see results.
The Restrain Method
The restrain method involves discouraging any sort of hostility the puppy may show towards the chickens. You restrain the puppy with a stern verbal command until it’s comfortable being near the chickens.
Watch this video to learn more about training dogs not to kill chickens:
Breeds That Are Good With Chickens
When selecting a dog breed, you intend to keep near your chickens, pay close attention to the breed’s prey drive. A lower prey drive means the breed is less likely to attack your chickens and turn them into a sumptuous meal.
Dogs are traditionally involved in herding livestock. Livestock guardian dogs are better suited to be around your chickens. They’re already used to being around animals and are expected to be least agitated.
It’s vital that you routinely exercise the dogs to expend any excessive energy. This lowers the dogs’ prey drive, which in turn translates to a better and safer environment. The likelihood of a Labrador to kill chickens and other smaller animals such as ducks, cats, and pets is significantly reduced.
As a precautionary step, feed your dog at predictable intervals so that they do not resort to attacking smaller animals like the chickens on the farm due to starvation.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some breeds that are good with chickens:
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Anatolian Shepherd
- The Great Pyrenees
- The Australian Kelpie
- Old English Sheepdog
Other Animals Labs May Attack
For the most part, Labs do not attack unprovoked. That said, you shouldn’t assume these beasts may not randomly pounce on some small animals that are deemed to have agitated them. Unpredictable, temperamental changes do occur among dogs, as well as other animals.
Apart from the concern of whether or not Labradors kill chickens, Labs could also attack ducks, rabbits, cats, other smaller dogs, guinea pigs, and a list of other household pets that they could intimidate.
The Risk of a Labrador Retriever attacking is higher in the following circumstances:
- When they sense danger, the dog will act in self-defense.
- An untrained dog can exhibit a lack of restraint and an outburst of uncontrolled temperament.
- A starving dog, probably due to neglect, is easily irritated. In such a case, the urge to seize prey can become irresistible. This could result in unnecessary aggression.
- Excessive energy not expended during regular exercise.
- A sick animal that’s experiencing discomfort has a higher susceptibility to violent behavior.
- Intrusion by a stranger. As the Lab strives to protect the home, moments of aggressive attacks may ensue.
- They are acting in a manner that provokes the animal.
History of Labrador Retrievers as Bird Dogs
The Labrador Retriever doesn’t originate from Labrador, Canada, as the name suggests. The Lab’s history can be traced back to Newfoundland. Fishermen employed Labs to retrieve fish that had slipped back into the waters. They’d also assist in pushing the catch to shore.
Equipped with webbed paws and water-proof coats, the canines were well adapted to the job.
The St. John’s Water Dog was the product of breeding Newfoundlands and small water dogs.
They caught the attention of British sportsmen who saw them as a perfect sporting partner for bird shooting sports. These agile hunters have continued to thrive as the most popular sporting breed. These dogs are versatile workers who deliver beyond expectation.
Other Dog Breeds to Avoid
There are dog breeds with such a high prey drive that they’re generally a no-go zone for a chicken farmer, particularly for free-range chickens. Such dog breeds particularly enjoy chasing after any small animal that runs away. It’s like a hobby to them.
Here’s a list of some dog breeds you should be wary of as a chicken farmer:
- Jack Russell Terrier: They come in a smaller physique but exhibit a higher prey drive than the others on the list. This characteristic was bred into them so it’s more likely to be found in most dogs of this kind. They’re vigorous chasers.
- A Greyhound: They have a reputation for speed, mercilessly chasing down their prey in the wild. Although some greyhounds can behave, those should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule.
- Siberian Husky: Aggressive hunters that can decapitate your chickens and rabbits in no time. These sled dogs were rewarded for being chasers. They not only go after small animals but can also scare away larger ones like cows and wild animals such as polar bears and wolves.
- Weimaraner: Tough canines, powerful jaws, huge sleek and energetic males are just a few adjectives that describe them. They were bred to hunt in the wild; domestic chickens and rabbits will walk in the park for them.
In conclusion, Labradors kill chickens and other small animals when time hasn’t been taken to train them otherwise. Their prey instinct takes over, and that can be disastrous. It is important for owners to take the necessary time to train them, preferably at a young age.
Dog breeds that are great for keeping next to your chickens are Kuvasz, Maremma Sheepdog, The Australian Kelpie, Kangal, Maltese.