From their happy demeanors and boundless energy to their adorable faces and fluffy coats, poodles have long been a family favorite. But would they serve well as guard dogs for chickens? When it comes to dogs looking after poultry, their prey drive is often the determining factor.
So, can poodles live with chickens? Yes, a Poodle can live and get along with chickens. While poodles are great companions, they have been bred to hunt. As a result, they have a high prey drive compared to many other dogs typically used on the farm. However, if properly trained, A Poodle can coexist well with chickens.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the qualities and behavioral aspects of poodles, providing you with some tips on how to train them to get along with chickens, and taking a look at a few dog breeds that may be better suited for farm work.
Poodle Behavior Around Chickens
Standard poodles were initially bred to retrieve waterfowl, and over time, smaller poodles were bred together to create toy and mini poodles. These petite poodles also have hunting in their blood and were traditionally used for sniffing out truffles and small game in European forests.
Because of their extensive hunting history, poodles are rambunctious dogs and will chase just about anything that moves. They can also be nippy, and if your chickens pique their interest, it could end in feathers flying. Additionally, the poodles’ energy is enough to knock off some chickens, considering constant chasing and frightening could eventually lead to your flock having heart attacks.
If there’s one thing a poodle hates, it’s being left alone. This is a red flag if you want to be able to leave your poodle by itself with your chickens. Not giving a poodle something to do will only result in them finding entertainment of their own (which would likely involve your poultry). They are high maintenance in this respect. Therefore, for a poodle to behave around flocks, you’ll want to be present as much as possible.
Despite their apparent flaws, poodles are particularly intelligent and often excel in obedience and learn quickly. The only downside to this is that this bright dog requires more advanced training than your average “sit” and “stay” to keep their attention. However, their drive towards complexity just might keep them interested as you train them to respect your livestock.
Training Poodles to Live with Chickens
A dog can either be the best friend or worst enemy of a chicken. While training takes plenty of effort and time, the outcome could be unmatched protection for a vulnerable flock.
Commands to Train Your Poodle
Before you can get into the complexities of putting your poodle around a bunch of chickens, you want to be sure that they understand basic commands.
- Off (or leave it)
Perform these commands away from the chickens in a variety of scenarios daily, if possible. Your dog should execute the action every time. Use treats and positive attention as a reward.
It’s also a good idea to train your poodle to go to their kennel or the house on command. If things get out of control in the chicken coop, you’ll want to be able to send them as far away as possible with as little force as possible.
Check out this article I wrote about training a poodle. In it, you’ll find additional commands that may help keep your poodle obedient when he is around chickens.
Bringing Your Poodle Around the Flock
Teaching your poodle the basic commands won’t ensure that they won’t go into a frenzy the first time they’re introduced to your chickens. To prevent potential disaster, you’ll want to bring your dog around the chickens on-leash slowly. This will keep you in control and your chickens away from any pending danger.
As you go out to feed, water, or clean the pens, take your poodle along with you, tying them to a fence post or tree near the pen. Reward them with treats for calm behavior and sternly scold lunging or excitable behavior towards the flock.
Once your poodle has become familiar with the chickens, you can bring them nearer or even inside the pen (still on-leash). When they go near a hen, especially if the dog begins to put its nose on the chicken, practice keeping them distanced by using the “off” or “leave it” command.
This on-leash practice should continue for several weeks to months until your dog begins showing signs of disinterest in the chickens.
Signs your Poodle may be disinterested in chickens include:
- Relaxed ears (as opposed to erect ears while watching the chickens)
- Wanting to wander elsewhere
- Slow body movements
Once your poodle shows a continual disinterest in your flock, you can begin practicing supervised off-leash visits to the chicken pen.
Practicing Off-Leash Visits Near Chickens
As your poodle becomes accustomed to not being tied up or having you in control when they are near the chickens, you may want to keep a long leash trailing just in case the dog becomes excitable, and you need to retrieve him.
If backsliding occurs, practice on-leash interactions again for a few additional weeks. Training a poodle requires an abundance of repetition. Any kink in the chain of commands could throw them off track.
Once your poodle becomes better around the chickens, you can practice taking the leash off entirely, keeping an eye on the dog as you work close by.
If you notice that your dog becomes interested in chasing the chickens, distract and scold them.
Gradually increase the amount of time your poodle is off-leash around the chickens until you feel comfortable enough to have them around whenever you’re tending to the flock.
If your poodle is particularly angsty or initially aggressive towards your fowl, it’s a good idea to utilize a muzzle during every step of the livestock training. This will ensure that, in the event of chaos, your poodle’s most effective killing weapon won’t be used against your chickens — or against you as you attempt to get the situation under control.
Other Dog Breeds That Get Along With Chickens
Training a poodle to become less prey driven around chickens isn’t an easy task, and will require months of patience, repetition, and scolding. If you don’t think you’re up to the task to train such a high maintenance dog, there are a few breeds commonly used on farms that you may want to consider.
Here are a few other dog breeds to keep in mind:
- The Great Pyrenees. These gentle giants have been used in farming communities to protect livestock for hundreds of years. They have intense instincts to protect their owners and their owner’s property and have a violent disposition towards predators such as coyotes, foxes, and raccoons.
- The Anatolian Shepherd. A large, highly intelligent, and agile breed, the Anatolian Shepherd has a fierce attitude towards predators but a relaxed aura around their owners and small livestock. Unlike some livestock dogs, this breed is often able to perform their task of protecting chickens without much intervention from people. With the proper training, this dog is one of the safest to leave alone with your flock.
- The Maremma Sheepdog. Initially used in Central Italy, the Maremma Sheepdog is a smart, capable dog that (once trained) enjoys independently guarding their flock. Though they’re a tad stubborn in training, they make excellent guard dogs to foul. These dogs have even been known to attack wolves to keep their livestock out of harm’s way.
Keep in mind that, while these dogs are better suited than poodles for working with livestock, every dog is a predator by nature and will need to be thoroughly trained to protect poultry. It’s best to begin training at a young age.
Yes, poodles can live with chickens – if you are willing to put in the work to train them correctly! As mentioned previously, all dogs, even adorable poodles, have a natural predator instinct that must be corrected before they can be trusted around your chickens.