|Sara meets Tilly|
This past January, we added a sweet Miniature Schnauzer puppy named Sara to our ever growing menagerie of pets. All two and a half pounds of this eight week bundle of joy arrived into our lives. Over the past nine weeks we have had time introducing her to her new life.
Since day one, the chickens knew something was up. As they peered from the run, they spied me toting a little leashed animal around the front yard through the snow drifts. They too were curious. Every hour I would return. The chickens would see me. They were confused. What was that little furry thing that had Mom’s attention?
As the days turned into weeks, Sara eventually noticed the girls. The chickens would chatter and even sound the alarm. We kept our distance. Sara had to learn to understand that the chickens would be visited on my terms and not hers. It was not time yet. Sara finally learned to ignore the coop and the chickens despite their noises.
After a week or so, I decided it was time to check for eggs with Sara. After Sara finished her potty business, we headed over to the coop. I kept her on a very short leash. The girls were safe in their run. Sara was a tad bit nervous. She sniffed at the girls. I lifted up the nesting box lid and let her smell the eggs. Our visit was brief and then we returned into the house. She did well. She did not bark. From that point on, we began to explore closer to the coop and the chickens. Sara learned that the chickens were part of our lives. She had accepted that they were part of her outdoor environment.
This past week, I decided to have our dog behaviorist help me to introduce the chickens one by one to Sara-up close and personal. As he held Sara, I scooped up each hen and let Sara and the girls know that everything was okay. I was careful to keep the chickens away from Sara’s face, as they will go for the eyes. Of course, my lap chicken Oyster Cracker was first. She has become so heavy over winter. I lifted up this ten pound chicken into my arms. She was leery but soon allowed Sara to sniff her and get to “know” her. Sara too was told to be “gentle” and “nice” and was given lots of praise during the process. When it came to Tilly’s turn, she too was a doll. She even tried to engage Sara in a bit of chicken talk but using her “Bud Budup” phrase meaning, “How are you?”
Lastly, Feather emerged and wanted to meet Sara too. We had them meet on the ground. Sara was told to “sit and stay”. She did. We kept about six inches between them and just let them hang out.
The entire interaction was about 20 minutes. Overall, I feel it went very well. It will continue to take a great deal of time and energy, but eventually my goal is to have Sara and the girls get along famously. A family dog is a wonderful way to help keep the flock safe from predators.
Click here for Part 2 of this series.
DISCLAIMER: Introducing a new dog or puppy at any age to the flock can be risky and dangerous. The dog and the chickens can be harmed if you are not careful. This post is for informational use. If you choose to use any of these techniques, please use them at your own risk. We will not be held accountable. When possible, it is always best to rely on a professional dog behaviorist/trainer for help.
Photo Credit: Mr. Tilly’s Nest
9 thoughts on “Introducing a Puppy to the Flock~Part 1”
This is a great post for me to read now. We are new to chickens and are currently fencing a backyard to get some miniature schnauzers too. I want to establish myself as a chicken owner before taking on a puppy or two. But I never considered the chicken/dog interaction. Schnauzers are gentle with kids but they were bred to chase rats so the instinct to grab at small running things is still there. I had one grab a parrot in his mouth once. No punctures but the bird died right then from shock. Thank you for your post. Your blog is in my reader and I learn quite a lot from your archived posts.
I loved this post on introducing your doggie to the girls!!! I am sure that the girls want to be IN CHARGE at all times!!!!
Great job, Melissa — slow and steady. What a fascinating adventure!
It sounds like it went pretty well! I think the key is to do it gradually, like you have done. I hope it continues to go well!
I am so glad I didn't have to go through all that when we first got our girls. Our run is surrounded by the dogs area and so our mutt from the pound with no noticable pedigree got used to them with no interaction except through the fence. She never did bark at them and she barks at anything in the yard. After a week I let the girls free range inside the dogs area and there was no problems at all. Now it's nothing to see the girls sitting on our deck with the dog watching the neighborhood and basking in the sun. We do have a rooster and the dog is afraid of him so she gives him a wide birth. She is very protective of the girls and has killed several predators protecting them at night.
No to show how stupid Termite (the dog) is when I throw scratch out in the evening she will go down and lick some of it off the ground with the girls if the rooster isn't looking. Yes I had to cure her of eating chicken poop.
Once your dog is trained to interact with the girls you will never have a problem. You can change your flock out and the dog will have no problem with new girls in the yard.
Maybe being a female dog and protective has something to do with it?
You are so right! Dogs are the absolute best protection for chickens. We very gradually introduced ours to the chickens and even though he is not a typical livestock guard dog-he's a Lab-he does a GREAT job! Love your blog by the way. I'm happy to have found it:)
Bookmarking this post! thank you so much and please continue to update us on your transition with Sara.
I had a beagle and 3 cats when we got our chickens. The first time I let the chickens free range our beagle just looked at them and than ignored them. She seemed to know they belonged. However, my large male cat stalked my barred rock, and eventually launched himself onto her back. She immediately squacked and fluttered. He jumped off and she took chase after him!!! He hasnt gone near the chickens since and neither have the other two cats.
Sara is a cutie!!