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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Training Dogs Not To Kill Chickens

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When our German Shepard Sara displayed a predilection for eating our laying hens, I admonished her sharply. She killed another, and I admonished her more sternly. I chained her up, but she wanted to run, and as soon as we trusted her and she knew we were distracted, she’d sneak off and prey on another hapless bird.

Complaining to an old farmer about this unfarmerly dog’s behavior, he shrugged and advised simply (with a New England drawl). “Tie it to ‘er neck.”

“What?” I asked, with a little surprise.

“Tie the dead chicken to ‘er neck. She’ll stop.” the old Vermonter advised.

“How long?” I inquired.

“ ‘Til it falls off,” he dryly answered.

“What?” I repeated, more surprisedly than when I first posed the question. “You can’t do that -- it’s cruel.”

“It works,” replied he. “What else you gonna do?”

So I did it. I employed no growling or angry words. I just said “Sara, now you have a new necklace,” and tied her most recent kill to her collar with a piece of bailing twine. She was immediately unhappy with this adornment, and for the next several days she had a new skulk about her. And a new smell. “Pew,” I’d remark to the poor creature, who could not escape the yet poorer creature draped about her neck. She looked guilty, or mortified.

But she stopped killing chickens. After a few days the rotted bird rotted off, and so did Sara’s hitherto incurable habit. She never attacked another chicken. In fact, she’d skulk away from them, and they were free to range. She seemed to apprehend that one of them might grab her around the neck, and not let go for dear life.

Sadly, Sara later displayed a comparable inclination toward sheep. Though she didn’t kill any, she mauled a few. Rather weightier than chickens, and still alive, I decided against strapping a sheep to the dog’s neck. We found another home for Sara, and bought a Border Collie. I never had to tie any animals around the Border Collie’s neck.

My wife says I shouldn’t post this article because of animal cruelty concerns. I leave that judgment to my readers -- perhaps it would be cruel to the remaining chickens not to tie their erstwhile comrade to the attacker’s collar….

 Photo by Emily Klar


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