Dogs That Protect Chickens: The Chook Guardian Breeds
Growing chickens is quite rewarding, but the main challenge is to keep them safe and alive.
Secure fencing won’t do the trick. What you need is a guardian dog.
Now, don’t expect your cousin’s fluffy couch potato will be up for the task. But some breeds are born protectors and will do it without much training.
Let’s dive in.
Why Do You Need A Chicken Guardian Dog?
There’s a long list of predators your chickens need protection from. These include foxes, dingoes, cats, owls, Tasmanian devils, quolls and even snakes. The list of predators, of course, varies depending on the area you’re living in.
And while some of these animals, such as snakes, won’t exactly go around and strangulate your chickens, they might kill them to get to their eggs. But whatever the case, it’s clear that your flock needs protection.
What Makes A Breed Suitable For Guarding Chickens?
You can’t expect just any dog to be able to guard chickens. In fact, try leaving a Greyhound or an Alaskan Malamute alone with the flock, and there might not be a single chicken left when you come back.
Any dog will require at least a bit of training to learn how to behave around chickens. But some dogs have a natural predisposition to protect other animals. These are known as livestock guardian dogs, and they have a low prey drive and strong protective instincts.
Guardian dogs do come in all sizes, and that’s something to consider depending on the predators living in your area. If your biggest issues are cats, then a small dog will do the job just fine. But if dingos and foxes are your main worries, then consider getting a larger breed.
11 Best Chicken Guard Dog Breeds
Considering that the Border Collie is known as one of the best guard dogs out there, it’s no wonder this breed is great for guarding chickens as well. With a low prey drive, you don’t have to worry about your pooch suddenly seeing your chicken farm as a buffet.
Young Border Collies are often taught how to herd with chickens, because they flock in a similar way to sheep, except that they’re smaller in size and slower at moving. Of course, teaching a Border Collie pup to do this will require a bit of training. But being one of the most intelligent and hardworking breeds out there, that won’t be a difficult task to master.
And these dogs aren’t here just to supervise. You can teach your Border Collie to gather your flock or even search for lost ones (1). Of course, this goes for any other animals you might have on your farm.
The Great Pyrenees
This French breed of guardian dog has been used for centuries to protect flocks from predators like bears and wolves. Keeping your chickens safe is simply in their blood.
The Great Pyrenees is a typical example of a gentle giant. These dogs are huge, some of them growing to be 80 cm high and weighing over 70 kg. But while their size works well for intimidating predators, the Great Pyrenees are best described as laid-back, chill dogs.
With that being said, they take their job seriously. When properly trained, the Great Pyrenees will always be on the lookout to protect the flock from potential danger.
Since the breed is so large, you might have to take a careful approach when training your puppy. While aggression towards chickens is not something you need to worry about, your pup staying gentle towards them might be. Luckily, the Grand Pyrenees is a dog that loves to work and learn, so your pooch will quickly get the hang of it.
One thing you should keep in mind when considering getting the Grand Pyrenees is the climate in your area. These dogs have thick double coats, so they’re not suitable for the extremely hot weather we experience in certain parts of the country.
Old English Sheepdog
This breed of dog is well known for its guardian skills, but also appearance. These sheepdogs have long, shaggy coats with fur covering their eyes like a fringe. And while they look like fluffy, stuffed animals, these dogs are no joke when it comes to herding.
Historically, the Old English Sheepdogs were used as “drovers,” meaning they took livestock over long distances, usually to market (2). Now, this was quite an important task back in the day, as the food was sourced from very distant supplies. But the Old English Sheepdogs were reliable enough to be entrusted with this assignment.
Whether it’s cattle or flock, this dog doesn’t care. The task is to protect the animals from predators and keep them on watch, and that’s what the Old English Sheepdog excels at. And even though they’re not very large guardian dogs, they won’t get scared by any potential predator, no matter how big. While they might not look like it, these dogs are extremely athletic and light on their feet.
Kangal is one of the oldest guardian dog breeds that dates back to around the 12th century. These dogs aren’t your typical herders, like a Border Collie or the Old English Sheepdog. But they take their guardian role very seriously.
This Turkish breed, which weighs around 60 kilograms, is strong enough to keep wolfs and bears away. While these predators aren’t something you need to worry about on Australian soil, it’s good to know that your guardian dog is up to the task.
Kangals have a short double coat, which allows them to withstand both hot and cold weather. This makes them a suitable option for parts of the country with a warmer climate. As long as there’s shade available, your Kangal should be fine during the hotter months.
Kangals are pretty calm and chill during the day, but active and alert at night (3). During this time of the day, they’ll be patrolling their yard and barking in case any potential danger arises.
Traditionally bred to guard sheep, this Italian breed excels at keeping the flock safe as well. Remember the family movie Oddball with the big white dog? Well, this movie was inspired by the true story of Maremma Sheepdogs that saved the penguin colony from fox attacks.
These dogs have a rather calm nature, which allows them to easily bond with any animal they’re tasked with guarding. They’re always on the lookout, be it day or night, which makes them a great line of defence against eagles and owls. Maremma Sheepdogs only bark when needed, but their bark is loud enough to scare away the largest of predators.
These long-haired dogs can tolerate both hot and cold temperatures. Their heavy undercoat keeps them warm during winter, but they shed heavily during summer, leaving a thin coat that allows them to regulate body temperature in heat.
If you live in the Northeast, where it rains way more than any other part of Australia, then Puli might be the right choice of guard dog for you. This Hungarian breed is known for its unique look, with a curled waterproof coat resembling dreadlocks.
But don’t let the silly appearance fool you, as these dogs are extremely intelligent and agile. They have a very strong herding and guarding instinct, so you don’t have to train them for that purpose. However, Pulis can be quite independent and strong-willed, so adequate obedience training is required at an early age. Adult Pulis are extremely difficult to train.
Pulis can withstand extreme temperatures, but their corded coat requires regular maintenance. The dreadlocks easily collect twigs and dirt, especially when at full length. You need to trim the cords every month or two, to prevent them from reaching the grounds. Some owners even shave their Pulies, which is okay, although that way the dog loses the defining characteristic of the breed (4).
This breed originates from the Spanish side of the Pyrenees Mountains, where it was traditionally used as flock guardian during the annual transhumance to high pastures in summer, and return to lower ground during winter.
Their main role was to keep the flock safe from the wolves, which they easily intimidated by their appearance. An adult Pyrenean Mastiff has a height of over 70 centimetres and a weight that varies between 60 and 90 kilograms. They also have thick fur that keeps them warm in harsh winters. While they can tolerate hotter weather, Pyrenean Mastiffs should be in the shade when the temperature hits 30 degrees.
This breed isn’t known for excessive barking, which is great if you have neighbours. They will, however, alert you in case of danger. Their guarding strategy revolves around perimeter patrols, so you can rest assured they’ll always be around their flock.
While a Komondor looks like an enlarged version of a Puli, these are two distinctive breeds. Aside from their mop-like appearance, another thing these two dogs have in common is their Hungarian origin.
These two guardian dog breeds used to work together to guard and herd livestock, although at different times of the day. Generally, a Puli would be on duty during the daytime, while a Komondor would work at night. This guarding schedule makes sense, given the fact that larger predators are usually actively hunting at night.
Komondors have a calm nature but become fearless when it comes to defending. Being quite an independent breed, Komondors usually make decisions on their own. For that reason, proper obedience is required from an early age.
Akbash is yet another Turkish breed of dog that has a long history of guarding flocks. Interestingly enough, while an Akbash looks much like a Kangal except for the colour, these two breeds aren’t close relatives.
An Akbash is not a herding dog, so don’t expect them to search or chase after the chickens. But this breed’s guarding ability is impeccable, so you can rest assured your flock is safe from any potential predator. With a height of 75 centimetres, this dog easily intimidates any animal preying on your flock.
Given their working background, these breeds can be quite suspicious and protective. They’re often left to make their own decisions without human guardians, so their independence also means they’re a bit harder to train. But with a firm hand, these dogs can also be great pets. With that being said, they don’t usually enjoy the company of other dogs, since they can see them as a potential danger to their flock, which is kind of like their family.
While nowadays you can often find the Kuvasz held as a pet in homes, this Hungarian breed has historically been used for guarding livestock. Kuvasz is quite an old breed, believed to be brought by Magyars when migrating onto the territory now known as Hungary back in the 9th century.
With 76 centimetres in height, this is the tallest Hungarian breed of guardian dog. But while big, these dogs have a gentle side as well. They don’t like to be left alone, away from their family for too long. Of course, by family, they consider everyone they spend time around, be it a flock or humans.
Kuvasz is an intelligent breed and responds well to training, but keep in mind that these dogs require tons of exercise. Without it, they can get bored, which is a recipe for chaos. But don’t worry, they’ll always be gentle to their flock.
Polish Tatra Sheepdog
While at the first glance this dog might look just like the Great Pyrenees, these two breeds aren’t closely related. But since both are believed to be brought from Asia by nomadic pastoralists, their origins can’t be traced way back.
This giant white fluffy ball is a great guardian dog, be it sheep or chickens. While they might have a very friendly appearance, you don’t come close to their flock without the approval of their master, as they take their duty very seriously. These dogs build strong bonds with both their human and animal family, and they’ll go above and beyond to keep them safe.
Polish Tatra Sheepdogs aren’t the most active dogs, so they’ll spend most of their daytime laying around. But even while napping, they’re constantly on guard for predators.
You have quite a lot of options when it comes to dogs that protect chickens. While all the breeds we mentioned excel at keeping your flock safe, they have tons of different characteristics, including heat tolerance and exercise requirements. Therefore, the final choice comes down to which breed is most suitable for your conditions.
One thing you might not know is that you can find most breeds from our list in shelters and rescue groups. With their strong protection instinct, even an older dog will learn the job quickly. If adopting is something you’d consider, check out organisations in your state or browse the official Australian adopting platform.
- “Are Collies Good With Chickens? Collies & Chickens Guide.” Howling and Growling. Retrieved September 18, 2022. https://howlingandgrowling.com/border-collies-and-chickens-are-collies-good-with-chickens/
- June 16, 2020. “The Old English Sheepdog.” Old English Sheepdog Club of America.Retrieved September 18, 2022. https://oldenglishsheepdogclubofamerica.org/articles/article-the-old-english-sheepdog/
- April 25, 2018. “The Kangal Dog.” Kangal Dog Club of America. Retrieved September 18, 2022. https://www.kangaldogclubofamerica.com/post/the-kangal-dog#:~:text=They%20often%20take%20a%20remote,night%2C%20both%20patrolling%20and%20barking.
- April 5, 2017. “Is it possible to cut the coat or do you have to shorten the coat?” Deutscher Puli Club. Retrieved September 18, 2022. https://www.puli.de/en/faq/is-it-possible-to-cut-the-coat-or-do-you-have-to-shorten-the-coat/