Protecting chickens from stray dogs

I've been raising chickens here since 2010 and we've only had 2 major predator attacks and they were both dogs. Yes, we've had our share of persistent foxes or raccoons over the years, but dogs take the prize for the sheer amount of casualties they cause in one go.

Dog trying to get into chicken coop

The worst part about dogs, is that they run chickens down for fun! I can at least understand a fox or coyote that has to eat, but dogs just chase chickens for sport and somehow that's twice as devastating! 

The first time it happened was about 7 years ago. It was 3 dogs that someone had brought with them to visit one of our 'neighbors' and they just let them run every morning. Their excuse was that the dogs never get to run off leash in the city and they didn't think they could get into any trouble, it's just woods. *sigh* 

Except farmers live in between those stretches of woods and homesteaders actually live on acreage in the woods! They never even considered that some of us have farm animals and the dogs had never seen them before so they would be curious. Spoiler alert...if your dog chases cats and bunnies in the city, they're chasing livestock in the country when they get the chance! 

The chickens were free ranging that morning and we were home, so as soon as we heard them we ran out...but it was 6 chickens too late! 3 dogs can work FAST!

The second dog attack was a neighbors dog that had got through their electric fence because the collar battery died (as batteries do) and he actually broke through the guinea run fence! Once in the run he ran down everything in there, then squeezed through the pop door and started inside! 

The only chickens and guineas who survived were on the top roosts. The 3 regular roosts were about 4' off the ground and the dog could reach them by jumping up. He even broke into a large dog crate for the littles! We lost 11 laying hens and guinea fowl with 1 more injured with a big gash under her wing. 

Protecting your chickens from stray dogs

One of the advantages dogs have is their size. They can easily break into things like cages because they put their weight into jumping or pouncing on it till it caves in or breaks open. So it's more like predator proofing against bears than foxes even though both dogs and foxes are in the canine family. 

Fencing will always be your best defense against this type of predator! The stronger the fence, the better it protects your chickens! This can get a little tricky though because the best fence to keep a dog out is a chain link fence. They are heavy & sturdy and if installed correctly can keep dogs, coyotes, foxes and bears out! 

The one downside to a chain link fence is that snakes can crawl through the big holes in the fence. Young opossums, squirrels and young raccoons might be able to fit through too. Plus, you'll have to get a taller chain link fence as one of the most common sizes is 4 ft, and some dogs can jump that! 

Also animals like raccoons can just climb right over.

If stray dogs are problem in your area then you're going to have to use both chain link and welded wire fences. Some people like to build a big chain link fence around the outside of the coop and run, then use a smaller chicken wire type fence on the run. 

You can buy chain link fence enclosures pre made with a roof on it (just assemble) that will keep large predators out. 

The run fencing will keep smaller predators that can get through the first fence out of the coop. You always want to use welded wire on the run to keep predators out. I like the 1" square stuff. Just staple it on with a staple gun and heavy duty staples. 

If you're using both chain link and a smaller size fence next to each other you may be able to get away with chicken wire, just be aware it rusts must faster than welded wire so will need replaced more often.

chain link and chicken wire fences together with chickens inside

While we're on the topic of welded wire, I like to bury welded wire at least 8" deep along all the edges of my fencing. Dogs, foxes and raccoons will all dig to get under a fence. The welded wire fencing in the ground will deter them as they can't dig through it. 

Alarms to keep chickens safe

There are lots of motion activated products that can help keep your chickens safe. You can buy driveway alarms that ring in the house when someone or something crosses the line. You may need a few around the coop, but by being alerted immediately when a predator is outside the coop you can run out and scare it away or stop it before it causes trouble.

There are lots of trail cams in all different price ranges that will email or text you when it takes a picture of something. You can then look at the picture and decide whether you need to go out and take care of the problem. 

Cameras inside the coop will let you know if something manages to get in. I wouldn't try to use an indoor camera inside the coop because they're not made to withstand extreme temperatures, but they do make lots of outdoor cameras that can be put inside the coop or outside on the coop, facing the run fencing.

Also some of these cameras allow you to speak through them, and sometimes yelling at wildlife or stray dogs can deter them. I just opened up a window and talked to a bear the other day and it ran! 

They make electric poultry netting for use outside your coop. The only downside of this is you're going to need to turn it off every time you let the chickens out to free range, because those sillies will walk right into it! But if you have electric fencing around the outside of your coop and run it can help keep all types of animals away.

A dog to protect chickens from stray dogs

A livestock guardian dog will protect your chickens from all predators including stray dogs. Sometimes the very presence of an LGD will have predators turning and walking away! Most times though, the dog will have to give a warning bark or growl to get the predator to leave.

Hopefully you can hear the commotion from where you are and come to assist.

Guinea fowl as alarms against chicken predators 

Guinea fowl are great for screaming their silly heads off over absolutely everything! Lol They will go off with their alarm call whenever they see or hear a predator nearby. 

Unfortunately guinea fowl themselves are not a very good predator deterrent, but if you use them as an alarm they can help you to know when something is in the chickens area that shouldn't be. 

Ultimately you'll want to use a few of these methods. Great fencing along with an alarm and some cameras should give you enough time to get out to the coop and chase off any stray or even feral dogs that get near your flock!

Related reading: Having problems with other predators? How to keep various predators away from your chickens


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