Problem: You have a bird dog named Speckles and you really want backyard chickens. She is a German Shorthair, and her breed is known for its superb hunting abilities.

Solution: Slow and thoughtful integration.

Yes, you too, can have various life forms living harmoniously in your backyard. When you bring home day old chicks you need to keep them safe. There are three predators who, if unsupervised, will “do in” your new feathered friends:

1) Kids

2) Cats

3) Dogs

There are other predators. But, these are the most frequent offenders.

Kids

Always supervise little ones around chicks. Do not leave them unattended. Chicks will die and kids will cry. Children should always wash their hands before and after handling poultry (as should adults).

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Cats

Just keep chicks and cats separated. It’s that simple. Once the chicks feather out (at 6-8 weeks) the cats usually are no longer a threat. Chickens have great survival instincts and can fend off domesticated cats. In fact, my friend, Anjel, has a cat who thinks he is the rooster. It’s a cooperative relationship.

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Dogs

Start by bringing in Speckles, as her owners, Tony and Robin Wilson have. They’re letting her check out the flock from a bit of a distance. Then, Tony and Robin should give them all an up-close meeting. I’ve had great luck by holding chicks in my hand while my dog checks out the little peeper. I tell my German Shepherd, Harley, to be “gentle.” I let him sniff the chick all he wants. And, when he reacts gently, I praise Harley. This is a daily drill until the girls feather out and go from brooder box to coop. Harley is smart enough that he understands and actually has become a great protector of our flocks. Our Bichon Frise, in typical French Fashion, prefers not to be bothered by poultry and resents integration.

The best and most successful acclimation process in slow and mindful. Eventually, your dog and all the girls will coexist in the backyard with nary a chicken fight.

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