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Chickens and dogs & cats

Posted by on Wednesday 27 April 2011 in chickens | 9 comments

A few people have asked me – offline and on – about what our dog and cats think of the chickens – and what the chickens think of them.

The dog

I won’t deny it – their relationship was a little fraught at first. Lily-dog was very excited by the hens – and if let into the airlock (the space between the enclosed run and the rest of the garden), she would grunt & nose the chicken wire looking for a weakness. The chickens would squawk and flutter away, which made her even more excited – she doesn’t tend to chase things unless they run from her, then game on. I took her in to meet them a couple of times: I’d have her on a very short leash and she would be fine with them – sniffing the birds and their poo piles on the floor – for a while, then would bolt at them and I would very quickly eject her from the run. I had to make sure she was firmly behind a locked gate before I let the chickens loose in the garden, even in their portable run because she’d nudge at it with her nose. I suspect she’d wouldn’t have known how to undo the feathery wrapping if she had ever got hold of one but I don’t doubt she’d have given it a good chewing to find out.

Lily is generally a very gentle dog though so I hoped that in time, she’d settle down – and she has. There has been a definite “friends not food” shift over the last few weeks – I’m not sure what caused it (familiarity? boredom? being called a bad girl for bolting?) but she doesn’t seem to have any interest in chasing them any more.

A few months ago, this scene would have scared the heck out of me:

But you know why she’s looking at them like that? it’s because they’re in the way:

She wanted to run down the path to the beck and they were hogging the steps – she ran by as soon as the path was clear.

She’ll sit in the run while I’m cleaning the coop out and hardly even deign to look at the feathered ones – just happy to be next to me (there is nothing like a dog with separation anxiety to make you feel like the most special person in the world). When they’re loose in the garden, she’ll watch them more closely – but as if she’s doing me a favour, being a watchful hen-nanny, rather than a predator (this is typical of her – she tattle-tails on the cats if they’re scratching somewhere they shouldn’t).

And what of the chickens – what do they think of the round hound? They divide into two camps – the brave ISA Browns (Lime, Green & Blue) on one side and the more flighty girls on the other. The brave bunch don’t bat an eyelid around her – as the picture above kinda shows. The other four keep out of her way – stay on the other side of the run while she’s in there, or jump up onto a perch – but they’re not freaked out and squawking, which I think helps Lily stay calm too.

The cats

Almost from day one, the cats have been indifferent towards the chickens when they’re in their run or thereabouts. They can’t easily be food and they aren’t a threat, so who cares? When they’ve seen them loose in the garden, they’re a bit more interested but about three seconds after I took that picture, Boron had a bit of a wash and wandered away – not exactly fixated.

(Boron was once feral but once he no longer had to hunt to survive, he quickly gave up that pursuit. He is about ninety-hundred years old now and had to have his teeth removed because of gum problems so I don’t really worry for the chickens’ safety when he’s around.)

Our neighbours have cats too – and one of the them, a giant fluffy tom cat called Daisy, often sits about 6ft from the run, watching the chickens through the fence. He’s got the youthful vigour and muscle to do more damage than Boron but I think he just likes Chicken TV — a few weeks ago, he and his brother suddenly appeared when two of our chickens were loose in the garden. I saw their eyes widen but, like with ours, they realised it wasn’t worth the effort when there was some already bitesized, feather-free meat pieces in a dish in their house. Meat that can’t do this if cornered:

So in summary, the cats & dog couldn’t really care less about the chickens – I’m not sure I’d leave any of them locked in the run with the chickens for an extended period of time but they’re happy enough pottering around the garden together, and I’m happy enough with that.

Do you have other animals as well as chickens? How do they get along?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Emma

    We don’t currently have other pets, although we have been considering a dog for a while, and the fact that we have chickens will have some sway in the choice of breed. Practically all of our neighbours have cats, though, and as you say they love watching ‘Chicken TV’. The chickens chase off any brave enough to venture too close, though.

    • louisa

      I think our chickens would chase off Daisy if he did try anything – he’s a big but timid boy so would run away super fast!

      Having cats swayed us against certain breeds but we didn’t really think about the chickens as they have to be enclosed against fox attack most of the time anyway. As a springer spaniel, Lily should be genetically inclined to fetch us birds but between age & laziness, she doesn’t seem bothered :)

  2. Jen

    Hmm, interesting. It’s a good job all your animals get on so well. We have a cat atm and would like to have chickens one day so the information will hopefully come in useful. Our cat is young now, but probably won’t be by the time we’re able to have the chickens!

  3. greenfumb

    I have a dog, 3 cats, 20 chooks and a rabbit and they all get on really well. The rabbit lives with the chooks and in fact she is at the top of the pecking order. The dog is a bit scared of all the others, she just looks for opportunities to pinch their food. The old cats can’t be bothered to do anything but the young likes to annoy ot the rabbit and the smaller chooks just for fun. I never let any chicks near him just in case.

  4. Hazel

    We have a 40 x 50-ish ft garden and we have chickens, ducks, 3 cats and 2 dogs and they all get on fine.

    The elderly cat rules the house (youngest dog is terrified of her and won’t even stay on the rug in front of the fire if Clary joins her) but like Boron, has decided now she’s not feral that all that hunting outside is definitely not for her.

    The two young tabbies catch all sorts of things, but have never shown any interest in the poultry. They’ve caught small rabbits, but I suppose chickens have more pointy ends…
    I did catch a neighbours cat effectively rounding the ducks up the other day, but he didn’t seem to know what to do next!
    The dogs tend to keep other cats from venturing into the garden, so I don’t worry too much about them.

    I would say, don’t get too caught up on dog breeds- our dogs are lurchers. We’ve had various lurchers over the past 20 years, and they’ve all be fine with cats and pets. (We first got one because nobody else wanted them, but they are the perfect family pet; affectionate, loyal and lazy! They eat (they can be terrible food thieves!), run round a field and then sleep the rest of the time!)
    Despite the fact that general pet rehoming charities start sucking their teeth and refuse to give you a long dog/lurcher if you have other pets, or a cat if you already have lurchers…
    Of course there are some dogs of any breed who shouldn’t live with other pets, but not all long dogs will eat everything small and fluffy they come across!
    Like Lily, they will chase if something runs, but otherwise they ignore it.

    Our old boy Olly used to run up to the chicken wire and make the girls flap, but both chickens and dog got bored eventually- they just stopped reacting and it was no fun anymore!

    Our Saluki X thought it was some kind of chicken self-service system at first (he stuck his head in to the nest box with his mouth open when one of the children was checking for eggs), but when the birds escaped one day I found him knee deep in hens and had to rescue him!
    The Staffie/Whippet X has shown no interest at all.

  5. Layla

    We have got a dog, 2 cats and 2 hens (and a snake and 2 geckos).

    The hens are often allowed out of their run into the rest of the garden – the cats and hens studiously ignore each other, and the dog (an english springer spaniel) is frightened of the hens (who peck her on the nose) and the cats (because they bat her across the nose!)

    Sometimes we get the snake out for a slither around the lawn and that is a hilarious sight! He’s only interested in anything that’s small enough to eat, but the hens, dog and cats are fascinated by him and all stand round and watch as he wriggles along!!!

  6. Em

    I have kept chooks for a very long time now and have found that cats are not any threat at all, but dogs can vary.
    Kelpies can be be a problem, we have lost chooks on seperate occasions from a kelpie that I owned and then again from one that my brother owned. I think it is because they have that herding instinct and so they are trying to keep the chooks together and giving nips when the chook try to break free. The chooks are either frightened to death or succumb to ill placed nips.
    I have a kelpie at the moment who is a bit of a dud when it comes to herding and shows no interest in the chooks at all. So if you have a sheep dog with strong herding instinct I would be carefull.
    We have also lost chooks when a Malamute/Husky type dog came in off the street (before we got our fence up). I think it thought that it was the greatest fun to chase and catch these squawking things and give them a good shake.

  7. lynda kling

    Our dogs have been around chickens and sheep since they were puppies and are unaware of them…the sheep actually chase the dogs away as they wander through the barnyard! The dogs wander through the chickens if the chickens are loose in our back garden and basically ignore each other. One cat is interested in the chickens but they ignore her and if I scold her she leaves- she has more important business in the barn, anyway!

  8. louisa

    I’m glad to hear that so many dogs, cats and snakes (!) are getting along with their feathered garden mates :)

    Jen – I hope the rest of these tales are useful for you too. Get hens!! :)

    greenfumb – interesting about the rabbit living with the hens! I think I’d be a little more cautious about the cats around the hens if they were smaller/chicks too.

    ~Hazel – yeah, we were very keen to avoid certain breeds until we actually started meeting potential dogs and realised we shouldn’t be so … breedist. As a springer, Lily is supposed to be a gundog and a friend has former hunting springers who kill chickens regularly, but she has little to none of that instinct and even less ability to carry anything out.

    Layla – haha, love that mental image – a group of cats, dogs and chickens gathered together looking confused :)

    Em – more interesting breed info – thanks for that.

    lynda kling – haha, i like that image too – dog sheep, keeping the canines in line ;)

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