Backyard chickens are one of the simple pleasures of urban homestead living. We check local city ordinance so we comply with code. We take the time to select which breed(s) to keep. We select how many to raise. We give them names. And lastly, we provide a secure coop.
We got it covered, right? Chicken keeping will be smooth sailing. We thought of everything, or haven’t we? What could possibly go wrong? Well, if you live in a neighborhood with dogs, quite a lot could go wrong. In fact, you could face heartache and devastation. Folks… dogs can pose a threat to your chickens (urban or not).
Most people provide a coop for their chickens (a requirement within cities that allow backyard chickens). They may think that the coop itself will provide shelter and protection from any would-be predators. However, a determined animal will find a way.
Now while most dog owners are responsible and keep their dogs on their property, this is not always the case. There are homes without fenced yards and once the dog is outside, the entire neighborhood is his to roam. Or perhaps he slipped off his leash while staked in the yard? Some dogs are escape artists and once they leave the confines of their own backyard, wander the neighborhood. The sound of your chickens clucking may be enough to entice them onto your property.
If you have a backyard enclosed with a fence on all sides, you may think, “This will keep out dogs.” But folks, some dogs have other ideas. Some breeds are quite agile and can leap over (or climb) a privacy fence. Breeds without those skills, may be adept diggers and choose to go under your fence or gate. If your fence doesn’t deter them, they will not be put off by your chicken coop or run. They will use their digging skills to breach the perimeter of the run or coop. And once a dog gets into the run or coop, there is no escape for your chickens. A dog can mutilate or kill your entire flock within minutes.
Before you worry about the demise of your flock, take heart. All is not lost. You can take measures to safeguard your poultry.
Steps to Protect Your Chickens from Neighborhood Dogs
- If you have a gate to the backyard, keep it latched
- Have the run attached to the chicken coop
- Install a sub-floor and flooring in the coop
- Use a sturdy wire for the chicken run and have the wire cover the top of the run
- Bury the wire for the run at least 12″ down and then angle in towards the run at least another 12″
- Only allow your chickens to free-range when you are in the backyard with them
- Plant some shrubs (or place straw bales) along the perimeter of the chicken run
- Install a secure latch on the door into the chicken run, ensuring that the door cannot be pushed open
- Talk to your neighbors and let them know you have chickens
Keeping chickens is a wonderful experience. While we don’t want to think about what could go wrong, it is best to take measures to help guard against those possibilities. With careful planning, good construction materials, and talking to your neighbors, you can rest easy knowing that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure”.