November 8, 2012

Six Chickens And Two Dogs - Becoming One Flock

Ruby and Raquel
We have two Australian Shepherds that are getting older and settling down -as much as an Aussie can settle anyway. When we got the chicks we made sure that they were (from a safe distance) in a place where the dogs could watch us interact with them from the first day. Anyone who has Aussies can imagine their reaction to these chicks. I'm sure, to them, they looked like fluffy tennis balls. Aussies become absolutely OCD at herding SOMETHING…even if it's a tennis ball!  So there we are, two bouncing dogs and six chicks. If you are familiar at all with chicks you know they grow fast. Several of my first posts were mostly exclamations of how fast the chicks were growing.

The photos we got of the chickens and Ruby are bit blurred  but at the time we were focused on the safety of everyone but the photos not so much.

Ruby and Julie
Through the summer the dogs watched the chicks grow and evolve into something more than tennis balls. The chicks became used to the dogs running and barking. Once they got to big for the brooder we moved them to the coop-et (since the hen house was not quite finished). The coop-et sat near the back door so the chicks got to experience and get used to us and the dogs coming and going. The dogs of course got used to the chicks and their cheeping, squawking and flying circus act. 

Beautiful Raquel!
Just so you know, this set-up was designed with the safety of everyone the top priority!!! By doing things this way we hoped to 'grow' the chicks into our already amassed herd, instead of having almost full-grown chickens suddenly appear one day. The dogs would think those feathery things don't belong and the barking and chasing  and chaos would ensue!

The (fully enclosed) hen house has been completed and the chickens have been living in it since mid summer and they are very comfortable with the dogs' constant running amok. And the dogs probably don't remember the hen house ever NOT being there.

We finally did the big dogs-and-chickens-in-the-backyard mix. But we only let Ruby, the calmer female Aussie, out with them. Teddy, a little wilder, will get his test run later. Harry took Ruby out on her leash and I let the chickens out. The chickens were really busy with their foraging at first and didn't notice the dog. Ruby just sat and watched the chickens. Harry got one of their tennis balls and started tossing it to her. He finally got comfortable with her behavior and took the leash off. I was biting my fingernails down to the quick while all this was going on. The chickens were watching Ruby but not with any type of anxiousness the they might be in danger.

Taking cues from the chickens and the dog, we slowly let them begin to mingle. They were okay with each other it appeared (Ruby only got her nose pecked once)!  I really feel if it ever came down to any kind of danger for the chickens, they would have Ruby running for cover…she's just a big chicken herself.

Okay,Teddy's turn coming soon ...

NOTE :  We do not and will never leave the dogs and chickens out together unsupervised.  Even the chickens, alone, don't get to free-range without supervision!


1 comment:

  1. Cute photos! We did a very slow integration with our great pyr/sheepdog and she has become a fantastic guard dog. They all get along well! Even our cats like the chickens :)

    Visiting from farmgirl blog fest. Have a great weekend!



Comments please ... comments are the learning part for us!