Do Dogs and Cats Kill Chickens?
Know the Laws Around Dogs Killing Chickens and How to Keep Your Flock SafePromoted by Brinsea
Do dogs kill chickens? Do cats kill chickens? These two questions come up a lot among chicken keepers. The simple answer to both questions is yes, but the reality is a little more complicated than a one-word answer.
The easiest place to start is with cats. Cats do not usually kill adult chickens. On the list of what killed my chicken, cats are not usually at the top. Cats are smart animals. They learn quickly that adult chickens are too big and have too many advantages (think beaks, toenails, and spurs), so it’s best to leave them alone.
The real issue with cats happens when you are raising baby chickens. These are bite-sized morsels that are irresistible. You may think Fluffy is the most adorable and easy-going of all cats. He may hang out all day sunning in the window. But Fluffy is still an animal that has hunting instincts. Put a bunch of baby chicks in front of Fluffy and he’s going to want to play or hunt. Acting on either instinct does not end well for the baby chicken.
Until your chickens mature to a good size, it’s best to keep them in a secured area that cats cannot access. This keeps your chicks safe and doesn’t put your cats in a position to do something wrong. In the brooder, use a lid. When your chicks are outside, make sure they’re in an enclosure. Don’t let your chickens roam without supervision until their size is no longer an issue or temptation. At that point, your cats will have no interest.
Dogs are the bigger issue when it comes to chickens. (This discussion excludes livestock guardian dogs that are trained to protect your animals.) Do dogs kill chickens? Yes. Feral dogs. Your pet dog. Your neighbor’s pet dog. In fact, some say dogs are the biggest threat to backyard chickens above all others. I’d say this is a fair statement because the threat can come from so many places. Some experience losses caused by their own dogs, their neighbors’ dogs and others by free-roaming, feral dogs. I’ve been lucky enough not to have problems with my family dog. But early on, my flock was attacked by roaming dogs. The attack came from nowhere and we lost 10 hens in one fell swoop. We saw the dogs as they were running away. We did not dispatch the dogs, but a neighbor whose dogs were being attacked by them did.
This is the rub with dogs. With a wild predator, they may take one or two birds at a time. If you’re trying to figure out how to protect chickens from hawks, at least there’s some sense to it. Hawks have to eat too. With dogs, they’re not killing for food, they are killing for fun. When the bird stops moving, they lose interest and go on to the next. They can cause maximum damage in a short period of time. What is your recourse if your chickens are attacked?
The best advice for this problem is to know your neighbors and your local laws before a problem ever happens.
With your neighbors, it’s good to let them know you have a backyard flock. Be proactive. Remind them that dogs can be a problem if they get out. That way everyone is on the same page.
Protect your flock as best as possible with fencing and other measures. But understand, things happen. Dogs that are out roaming are resourceful.
If you find a dog or a pack of dogs preparing for an attack or in the middle of an attack, this is when you need to know your laws and have a plan of action in place, because you’re going to be upset. Hopefully, your preparation will allow you to be clear-headed.
Do your local laws allow you to shoot the dog(s)? Laws vary by location. Some say you can shoot if the dog is preparing to attack, others say the dog has to actually be harming your animal, others say you can’t shoot.
If you can’t shoot, how else can you scare off the attackers without getting hurt yourself? Also, what about chasing the attacker after it’s done and shooting it then? Usually, that’s not allowed, but know your laws, because that gets into even more legalities.
If your flock is attacked by your neighbor’s dog(s), it’s best to try to work it out so you can keep up good relations if possible. If you weren’t legally able to shoot feral dogs, it’s good to let law enforcement know about the attack. They can be on the alert.
In your earlier preparations, it’s good to have put together an emergency first aid kit for livestock. It will come in handy anyway, but even more so after the attack. Make sure to tend to any injuries and seek veterinary care if needed. When my flock was attacked, I gathered up the survivors and kept everyone confined in the chicken run and coop for a few days. I wanted them to feel safe again, and during that time, I gave everyone extra treats and special attention. Chickens are hardy animals and mine bounced back quickly.
Have you had an issue with dogs killing your chickens? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.