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Chickens. It's not going well.

(26 Posts)
lougle Sun 26-May-13 18:10:25

Patch is now 18 months old.

We have 4 chickens which we got at 7 days old. He seemed ok with them as teeny chicks - he would sit in his crate, watching them roam and pretty much ignore them.

He seemed fine when I was cleaning their brooder, which was on the worktop above his head height.

He seemed more interested in them <read meat> when they were in the outhouse in a dog crate. We had to shoo him out a few times.

Now, they're outside in an enclosure. He's going nuts. He's circling the enclosure, jumping up at the chicken wire and barking. Loudly.

He isn't a barky dog. At all. So the barking is specifically for them.

I tried clicker training, but he ignored his kibble. I moved onto higher value ham, which he also ignored. He won't wee and poo outside because all he wants to do is get the chickens, so he comes inside, gets caught short and has a wee and a poo.

He seems 100 times calmer once I have hold of his harness or if he is leaded.

Any suggestions?

Floralnomad Sun 26-May-13 18:17:17

What sort of dog is he ?

VivaLeBeaver Sun 26-May-13 18:20:29

How old are the chickens? If they're fully grown I'd be tempted to let him at them with you holding the lead to prevent carnage. If they stand up to him and peck him when he comes too close he may learn not to go near them.

My chickens chased my greyhound about until she got the message and are now terrorising my new terrier type dog who has now lost interest and runs away from them!

lougle Sun 26-May-13 18:21:58

He's meant to be a Staffy. He's more likely to be a cross breed - possibly Staffy x Whippet or Staffy X long-legged JRT. Not sure.

The chickens are 11 weeks old.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 26-May-13 18:25:42

Mmmm, by the time they're fully grown I reckon they'll give him hell.

Floralnomad Sun 26-May-13 18:26:44

Can you section off the garden so that he cannot see them , we have a terrier x and that's what we had to do with our rabbit as the dog is completely obsessed with him . Having said that he goes berserk if a bird lands in the garden and has been known to catch a pigeon . Our dogs prey drive is so strong its ridiculous and he will stand his ground and end up injured rather than back down ,if yours is a JRT he could well be similar . Sorry ,that's no help .

lougle Sun 26-May-13 18:39:13

I just took him in there. Incredibly short lead. He was straining to get to them. One of them came a fraction too close and he had her in his jaws, just like that.

I shook him and she fell free. Then they all went behind the hen house to hide.

Will she be ok? She could die of shock sad Stupid idiot that I am.

I think a fence is the only way we can go.

moosemama Sun 26-May-13 19:30:17

Hi Lougle

The clicker training should work, but you will need to go back to a point where he isn't reactive and build it up from there - you probably also need to do some work on his relationship/responsiveness to you, so that he will focus on you regardless of distractions, then you can build up to getting him to completely ignore the chickens - you can use the clicker for that too.

I've been watching a fab clicker trainer on youtube called kikopup and she has some videos that would help you build up your control via clicker training. She has a website as well, with all the free videos on it. Annoyingly I watched one last night about getting your dog's attention, but can't seem to find it now. I'll go and have a search through and post the link when I find it.

Always start clicker training with the fewest possible distractions and make what you are asking easy enough that you are setting him up for success.

Can you see the chicken run from the house? If so, you need to wind back the clicker/positive reinforcement to rewarding him for looking out the window/door without reacting and build it very slowly from there.

Once he is reliably able to look outside in a totally calm manner, perhaps the next step would be a baby gate across the exit, so he can see them but not get to them - again, building up until he's totally calm every time he looks out.

Next, on-lead, just one step outside of the door - more reinforcement of calmly looking in the direction of the chickens with no response - or even better looking at you, instead of the chickens. Then it's a case of keeping going, literally a step closer at a time. If at any point he starts getting really reactive and unable to focus on the training, go back a step and reinforce that until he's 100% again before moving on.

In the meantime, keep all toilet trips on the lead. Take your treats and clicker with you and click/treat every single time he looks away from the chickens/towards you - even for a second.

You are going to need top grade treats, so either extra tasty liver cake or lovely smelly greasy sausage or hot dogs.

It's not going to be easy, but with lots of short-sharp, positive sessions it is doable. If it were me, I would persist with the training and also get him out and about socialising him and positively rewarding meeting as many different types of birds as possible in the meantime, but if you aren't in a position to do that at the moment, then I would second what others have said about screening off the chicken run from view - although really that's only a temporary fix and you'd still have a problem if, say, one of the chickens got out - or he got wise to where they were.

lougle Sun 26-May-13 19:46:27

Thank you, that's a really helpful message.

Whilst this drama was unfolding, the hole in the hedge between us and next door neighbours finally got big enough for their JRT to get through into our garden.

Fortunately, having disgraced himself with the chicken, Patch was inside. The next door neighbour said that if our dog was out, his dog would start fighting with him. Patch is scared of other dogs, but I do think, given how he treated our other dog, he would give as good as he got, and there would have been major blood.

So, safety plan is:

DH and I have used some old doors and wire fencing to fence off an area near the house which is safe for Patch to roam in. It goes down the side of the house from the door, and then behind the house along it's length - an L-shape. We've made sure he can't get up into the main area of garden.

Tomorrow, the plan is to repair the hole in the hedge, then put a line of 4ft fencing along the whole width of the garden in front of the chicken enclosure. He will be able to see it, but he won't be able to see the chickens.

Then, from that position of safety, we can start desensitising.

I love him. I really do. I wish he wasn't so reactive, though.

lougle Sun 26-May-13 19:48:08

Oh, yes, moosemama - he can see the whole garden from our lounge window, including the chickens. However, he can't see them when he's coming out of the kitchen door onto the tarmaced area that leads to the grass. It's only once he passes that area and turns the corner that he can see them.

moosemama Sun 26-May-13 20:01:17

Teaching the positive interrupter.

Paying attention/eye contact.

There's loads you can be doing with him in the house or his fenced off area in the meantime, that ultimately will improve how well he does with the desensitising work.

lougle Sun 26-May-13 20:11:35

Thank you. It sounds silly but I think I'm in shock, a little. I couldn't believe how quickly he grabbed her. Poor girl.

moosemama Sun 26-May-13 20:14:25

Not silly at all lougle. I think I'd be just the same.

lougle Sun 26-May-13 20:44:53

The worst thing was, that once the dog was in, I went to check on the chickens, only to find that one of them only had 1 leg.

I frantically searched the enclosure for the other leg, whilst in the back of my mind wondering why I couldn't see blood. I was dreading everything:

How was I going to tell the girls?
How would I tell the preschool leader who gave me the chicks?
How would I cope with sitting on the sofa and Patch wanting cuddles after maiming the chick?

Then, the chicken moved, and stretched her foot out. The 2nd foot!

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

moosemama Sun 26-May-13 20:48:49

Oh you poor thing. It must have been very scary and stressful.

brew Take a deep breath. The chicks are ok and you have a plan to control Patch's access/ability to see them until you have had a chance to work on desensitising him. It will be ok, it's just going to take a little time.

wine for Lougle. It does get better smile IME I have a 3 year old Border Terrier and about 100 chickens. I started him at 12 weeks with them - positive reinforcement etc - he was appalling with them with them and grabbed quite a few, when they came close enough. This went on until he was about 2. The training (with chickens) didn't appear to be having any effect, so at as a last resort, I had a plastic tub full of gravel and shook that when he went for one the next time. He detested the noise and it stopped him straightaway. I then went back to positive reinforcement but still using the gravel tub, if he went for one. Now he comes off lead in the chickens pens and won't touch them. The only time he looks like he might be tempted is when I need to catch them and they run and squawk, his prey drive seems to kick in, but he'll respond to my voice command to leave them.

So it may be that he's just still very young and might not be able to resist such temptation, but keep the faith smile and BTW I never lost a chicken to my BT.

lougle Sun 26-May-13 21:18:28

That's encouraging.

I'm taking heart that he had grabbed the girl but hadn't damaged her, and that I could shake her free from him.

When he went for our Westie boy, he had such a firm hold that we had to prise his jaws open with a stick.

He is still young. 18 months is not mature at all.

I do love him...just in case it isn't coming across. I love him with every bit of me. I'm just sad with him. He, on the other hand, is asleep without a care in the world hmm

Imsosorryalan Sun 26-May-13 21:30:58

Be careful. Haven't read other messages but my MILs dog not only caught a chicken bigger than him but was happily tucking into its side before she found him.hmm
Chicken didn't survive.. ( she blamed it on the BARF diet)

Grockle Sun 26-May-13 23:53:20

I have the same problem with my border collie-cross. She's lovely but so reactive with other dogs. She'll be fine in the garden but as soon as a dog barks in the distance, she reacts & then attacks the chicken run. She now barks & snaps at the wire. She has also caught one of the girls in the past. I need to work on it with her... that's my summer project! Brilliant thread, thank you.

Just keep going Lougle smile

I know the tub of gravel thing isn't ideal but it did seem to get his attention when he wasn't "hearing" my voice. He is now allowed to catch/rats mice in the chicken runs (he didn't do this until after he was "safe" with chickens). I know that there is a school of thought that once you encourage their prey drive, you can't expect to then turn it down again but actually in our BT's case it worked in the opposite way as he channels his energies into tracking and catching rodents and is much more responsive to control if he can smell a rat. I've seen him find rats within a couple of feet of the chickens whilst they're in the run, kill it and not even notice that the chickens are there - he "zones" them out. It's almost as if he knows what "his job" is now.

lougle Mon 27-May-13 09:34:46

Thanks for the encouragement. Today, the chickens are all alive (bonus) and the dog is folorn every time he sees the 'fence' which is preventing him from reaching the main garden. Bless him.

The chickens and I have reached an informal settlement regarding my misdemeanour yesterday. They will take it no further. In exchange, I have given them 2 perches, some carrot peelings and a dust bath.

Grockle Mon 27-May-13 09:43:55

Lougle, my hens would demand tea & cake!

lougle Mon 27-May-13 09:45:38

Shhhh...I haven't told them the wonders of tea and cake. I gave them grit, too..what more could some chooks want?

lougle Mon 27-May-13 09:46:11

And the water has apple cider vinegar in it - top class here, you know.

SweepTheHalls Mon 27-May-13 21:49:16

Might I suggest a super soaker? My labradoodle was a pain with the chickens until he got drenched every time he went near them. Now they co exist quite happily!

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