Keeping your own chickens at home can be exciting! But chickens are food for many predators, so you might be wondering how to keep your chickens safe. Aside from building a coop or pen, there are actually dogs that can guard your chickens, known as livestock guardian dogs. This article outlines the four best livestock guardian dogs for your home chicken flock.
In the past, as today, farmers put all their trust in dogs to help keep their livestock safe & together in a group. Breeds like shepherds could round up sheep, goats, pigs and cattle, but they could also take care of chickens. Many different types of dogs can fulfil the role of livestock guardian: some are classified by the AKC as working dogs, while others are classed as guardians by the UKC.
The dog you get for your chickens at home will depend on your land size, lifestyle and whether the dogs temperament meshes with yours. It takes a special kind of dog with lots of patience to watch over clucky chickens. They need a low prey drive and should be okay with the noise chickens make.
What is a Livestock Guardian Dog?
Livestock guardian dogs (LDGs) are dogs that work with farmers and protect the livestock; they are often simply called working dogs or farm dogs. They are different from pet dogs; while they will be friendly, they are there to do a job rather than be your friend, so make sure that distinction is clear in your mind. Most LDGs are medium-to-large dogs that are strong but gentle and calm. They need to be able to watch the flock all day and keep them together yet protect them from predators like foxes at the same time. LDGs must also be able to work for long periods of time outdoors in any weather conditions, from snow to tropical heat. This is why many of them have thick coats that can tolerate all types of weather and temperatures. The typical LDG is calm and patient but alert & strong. It must be comfortable with spending its time alone with the livestock but also always be watchful and bring out its strength when the time comes for it.
Here are 4 of the best livestock guardian dogs that can protect your chickens from predators.
Commonly used in Australia, the Maremma is renowned for being an outstanding livestock guardian dog. On the smaller end of the LDG size scale, Maremmas weigh 30-45 kg (65-100 pounds) yet have similar strength and endurance to their larger counterparts. Its thick all-weather coat makes it well adapted to cold weather. Originating in Italy, the Maremma is likely a close descendant of other great white European flock-guarding dogs.
But be warned, while they do a fantastic job of guarding any livestock, this is not a breed for the faint-hearted! Maremmas require a lot of training and probably won’t be able to guard a flock independently until they are two years old. They are big & loud, & you’ll need to put in a lot of work to socialise & train them: be mindful that they can bark a *lot*. This dog needs a lot of exercise and is best kept on acreage. They are really not suited to suburban backyards.
The Kangal dog, also known as the Kangal shepherd dog, is an ancient breed that is named after the Kangal district of Civas in central Turkey. This sturdy livestock dog has been used for centuries by farmers there and is considered to be the national dog of Turkey.
Kangals are large and powerful dogs that will stand up to any predator. It has three distinctive qualities: its body is longer than tall, a tail that curls up, and a dual-layer coat. Its coat is short but dense in winter, after which time the undercoat sheds. The coat colour should always be solid and may range from light dun to steel grey. The Kangal dog has a black ‘mask’ and black guard hairs over its floppy ears.
This breed is typically very alert, protective & territorial. Loyal and sweet to its human family, the Kangal prefers intimidation but will confront a threat when required. Strangers, predators and stray dogs will not be able to touch the chickens under this guardian dog’s watch.
The Great Pyrenees is one of the most popular LGDs and the most commonly used in America. It is an old breed originating from the Pyrenees mountain region between Spain and France. There it has always been a working dog, used to guard sheep and cattle against predators.
While the great Pyrenees has a mellow appearance & calm demeanour, don’t be fooled by this or its friendly-looking fluffy white coat. This giant dog weighs 60 kg (100 pounds) or more and will happily knock over anyone if it feels threatened. Known for its immense patience & ability to spring to immediate action to defend its flock, its courage is unmatched, so you can definitely depend on this dog to take care of your chickens!
The great Pyrenees can blend well with your family due to its calmness, intelligence & friendliness. But make no mistake: like all other large working dogs, this breed needs intense training & a job to do if you are to bring the best out of it.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a breed that dates back to ca.2000 BC & originates from the peninsula known as Anatolia, which makes up the Asian part of Turkey.
Farmers love the Anatolian shepherd for its independent & patient nature. It is happy to be left alone to guard livestock for many hours at a time. This dog shows its loyalty by protecting its charges and alerting its human family of anything suspicious. At the same time, the Anatolian has a reserved nature and may not be particularly affectionate towards people.
Typical of livestock guardian dogs, the Anatolian shepherd is an imposing figure. Agile yet tall & muscular, they can weigh up to 68 kg (150 pounds). They have a curled tail & a short coat, which may be slightly longer on the neck. Coat colour can vary, including fawn, liver, brindle, white, red fawn, biscuit & white and blue fawn. Markings such as a black mask & ears or white on its chest or paws are also acceptable.
These are the four best livestock guardian dogs for chickens. Each of these breeds is unique- your choice will depend on your situation. They are all excellent guard dogs of all types of livestock. Whichever you choose, rest assured that your chickens will be safe from predators. Read more about livestock guardian dogs at www.marvelousdogs.com.
Founder | Marvelous Dogs