Please read my disclosure if you have questions.
Can you have a dog AND chickens? Will the dog eat the chickens? Can they be trained to protect your flock? Do dogs have a place on the urban homestead? What happens if you already have a dog but you are thinking about adding some other animals? What if you have other animals and are wondering if having a dog could be useful even in a small space situation? There are probably as many answers to these questions as there are people and dogs, but here are some things that I’ve learned from having our dog, Lawrence as a part of our backyard farm.
Can You Have a Dog AND Chickens?
There are advantages and disadvantages to having dogs and chickens. The biggest downside is that some dogs like to eat chickens. If this is your dog, you MUST have fencing to protect your birds. Other dogs can be trained to leave the birds alone. If your dog has learned the leave it command, and doesn’t bust after birds, squirrels, or other animals at the park, start giving him some short supervised time with your flock and see how he does. Give him the leave it command when he shows interest in the birds. If your dog is hyper focused and staring at them, he is NOT safe. This is what they do when they are watching prey. Good fencing really is the key to happy cohabitation.
Even if they have to be separated, there are some bonuses to having a dog around the homestead. Need to process some chickens or rabbits, but don’t want to add the leftovers into the compost? Yeah, the dog would LOVE to dispose of that for you. Heard that dog pee repels raccoons? Yup, a dog will be happy to oblige. In my personal experience this actually works. Two neighbors lost all their chickens and ducks to raccoons. We’ve only had two instances and they were both RIGHT after the dog hadn’t been around for a couple days. If your dog is safe with your birds you can even leave him in the yard for protection if you are going to be home after dark and don’t lock up the birds before you go. (DON’T do this if your dog likes chickens for a snack. Please.)
Why Have an Urban Homestead Dog?
Dogs can be insanely useful in a urban homesteading situation. If you are a prepper just having a dog on your property adds an extra layer of protection. Even if you have the sweetest gentlest dog on the planet, chances are when you are not home it thinks it’s sole purpose in life is to protect it’s territory. Lawrence is about the goofiest nicest dog I’ve ever met. He even likes the mail lady. Seriously. But we’ve heard from neighbors and friends that when we aren’t home he is all business. In fact, my sister used to live with us and one night she came home wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Lawrence didn’t recognize her with the hood on. He absolutely adores her, but she was downright scared of his growling before he realized who was coming in the house.
Why to Not Have an Urban Homestead Dog
All the benefits aside, there are also some really fabulous reasons not to get a dog for your backyard farm. First, if you don’t have the time or space to take care of a dog. Dogs need a lot of exercise and attention to be happy. They want to be with you because you are their pack. If you are planning to keep your dog outside all the time, please don’t get a dog. It’s just not fair to the animal to be isolated.
If you don’t have the time to train your dog, either hire someone to do it for you or DON’T get one. And plan to spend time walking or playing with it. Pets deserve to have all their needs met just like our food animals do. And even though I have a really awesome dog, I’ve realized that I am not a dog person. Lawrence will be our one and only dog. It’s a good thing he’s such a good one!
Fencing, fencing, fencing
Ever hear the saying fences make good neighbors? It’s especially true if you have a dog and it’s neighboring livestock. Make sure your backyard farm animals have enough fencing to protect them from your dog. Many dogs will not hesitate to kill chickens, rabbits, goats, or any other small livestock you may have. They can jump high and dig fast. When thinking about accommodating animals make your fences strong enough to keep your animals in but also your dog out.
Supervise! If you do let your animals near each other supervise them closely. Start out by letting them smell each other on your clothes and hands. Next maybe they can view each other from opposites sides of the yard. Take your dog closer on a leash, and remove him if the other animals are nervous. Make a special effort to train your dog as to what he can or can’t do around the animals. Go slowly! You don’t want your rabbits to die of a heart attack because your dog was so excited about it’s new friends it barked at them.
Where to Get an Good Dog
Chances are if you are in the city you don’t have enough space for a fully Livestock Guardian Dog to be truly happy. I personally think mixed breeds are less neurotic than the purebreds I have met. But if you DO go the purebred route, PLEASE do not buy from a pet store that gets their animals from a puppy mill. Do research and find a high quality breeder.
Lawrence is an Australian Shepherd and Labrador mix and I’m pretty sure that the gentle Labrador mouth has toned down the nippyness of the shepherd and the shepherd has imparted some common sense and better hips than a full bred Lab. My family gets fabulous dogs from the shelter. In fact I am writing this post in honor of Shelter Pets Day because Lawrence was a shelter pet! If you aren’t sure of where to adopt an animal the Shelter Pet Project will help you find nearby shelters and other agencies or rescues in your area.
Do you have a dog as a part of your backyard farm? Anything I missed about dogs and livestock?
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