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  1. #1
    Road Dawg

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

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    May 2017
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    Canada
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    Default Chicken Desensitizing

    Hey everyone,

    So come spring I am thinking about adding some chickens to the backyard. I am planning on starting with chicks and raising them up as laying hens. They will have a coop with an adequate sized run and I also hope to free range during the daylight hours while Iím home.

    Iím not overly concerned about Judge with the chickens as he has very low prey drive but I am still wanting to start him off on the right foot from the start. I donít necessarily NEED him to protect the chickens (although that would be a bonus) I just donít want him to stress them out or maim them. This is where Iím asking for anyone with experience of introducing these LGB dogs to livestock (particularly poultry) to chime in with any tips or tricks.

    This is what I kind of have planned right now:

    1) I will be raising the chicks in a brooder in my house. I plan to every day a couple times a day to have him come in and smell/see them for a couple minutes then work up the amount of time as I see fit. Obviously making sure the chicks arenít stressed with the encounter. This will go on for weeks until the chicks are ready for the coop/run.

    2) once the chickens are in the coop/run I plan to start them in there with a tin barrier on the bottom of the run all the way around tall enough that he wonít be able to be eye to eye with them. ( Note: the run will be predator proof so digging in shouldnít be possible) If he shows no interest or at least not obsessive interest then I will begin removing the tin 1 panel at a time until all panels are removed. If he starts trying to get them through the fence Iíll add back a panel.

    3) hopefully if all goes right and all the tin gets removed I hope to take one chicken out at a time and hold it outside of the run and try a supervised visit(Judge on leash) working our way up to the chicken walking around the yard. Iíll also increase the # of chickens free ranging if he does well until all the chickens are out around him while he is leashed.

    4) the next step will be letting him off leash while the hens are free ranging.

    Judge is super protective of the backyard. Stray cats canít even cross our front yard with out him barking at them. This is where I canít see us having a predator problem with him around except perhaps a hawk from above while the hens are out of the run.

    Any other suggestion or tips?

  2. #2
    Old Dawg (Senior Member)

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

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    Jun 2018
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    Fort Worth
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kholts View Post
    Hey everyone,

    So come spring I am thinking about adding some chickens to the backyard. I am planning on starting with chicks and raising them up as laying hens. They will have a coop with an adequate sized run and I also hope to free range during the daylight hours while Iím home.

    Iím not overly concerned about Judge with the chickens as he has very low prey drive but I am still wanting to start him off on the right foot from the start. I donít necessarily NEED him to protect the chickens (although that would be a bonus) I just donít want him to stress them out or maim them. This is where Iím asking for anyone with experience of introducing these LGB dogs to livestock (particularly poultry) to chime in with any tips or tricks.

    This is what I kind of have planned right now:

    1) I will be raising the chicks in a brooder in my house. I plan to every day a couple times a day to have him come in and smell/see them for a couple minutes then work up the amount of time as I see fit. Obviously making sure the chicks arenít stressed with the encounter. This will go on for weeks until the chicks are ready for the coop/run.

    2) once the chickens are in the coop/run I plan to start them in there with a tin barrier on the bottom of the run all the way around tall enough that he wonít be able to be eye to eye with them. ( Note: the run will be predator proof so digging in shouldnít be possible) If he shows no interest or at least not obsessive interest then I will begin removing the tin 1 panel at a time until all panels are removed. If he starts trying to get them through the fence Iíll add back a panel.

    3) hopefully if all goes right and all the tin gets removed I hope to take one chicken out at a time and hold it outside of the run and try a supervised visit(Judge on leash) working our way up to the chicken walking around the yard. Iíll also increase the # of chickens free ranging if he does well until all the chickens are out around him while he is leashed.

    4) the next step will be letting him off leash while the hens are free ranging.

    Judge is super protective of the backyard. Stray cats canít even cross our front yard with out him barking at them. This is where I canít see us having a predator problem with him around except perhaps a hawk from above while the hens are out of the run.

    Any other suggestion or tips?
    Well, this would be ideal if you want him to become friends with the chickens. Because getting excited and showing him your cool new thing might shape him paying close attention to the chickens. Max's parents were quail protectors and they actually ignored the quail entirely and just watched for predators. They must have taught Max this as a pup, because he will pointedly ignore rabbits, squirrels, stray cats and ducks. Even possum, he just checked to see if it was a predator, and decided it wasn't and lost interest. For that result, I would think you would put Judge in the brooder room and reward him for totally pretending the chickens aren't there and try to shape toward that. Then rather than introduce the chickens, have something else wonderful to keep his attention and add chickens as background noise. Where you pretend the chickens are super boring whenever you are working with him. Then when you remove the tin, again your supervision should be to encourage ignoring rather than friendship.

  3. #3
    Puppy (New Member)

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

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    Mar 2019
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    Carrollton, Georgia, USA
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    Hello,
    Just adopted a female Pyr/Lab mix yesterday from a rescue group. She is ~ 10 months old. We have a small coop with 4 hens in my fenced backyard. I normally let them out 3 - 4 times a week to 'free range' but am very concerned about how to deal with my new girl Zeva's interest in them. She went and smelled all around the coop this morning and seemed to be looking for a way into the coop. Do you have any suggestions on how to go about introducing her to the chickens and training her to not chase them? (she chases my indoor cat Sasha - which is another thing I have got to figure out how to correct). Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions.

  4. #4
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Antonia's Avatar

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

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    Many LGD breed pups are not reliable with chickens until well past age 2... Birds are much harder for dogs to bond with as opposed to other livestock. Your best bet right now is make sure your pup cannot access the chickens when she is alone and take her out for periods of interaction with her on a leash and reward calm appropriate behaviors and redirect when she shows inappropriate behaviors. It can take a lot of time and patience. The lab part of the mix may make chicken safety more challenging than a pure Pyr but will depend on the make-up of the genes she got from her parents.

  5. #5
    Puppy (New Member)

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

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    Apr 2019
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    Stanton, KY
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    Hello all, new to this site but came on here specifically for this thread, so no need to start a new one. I am in the same boat as lovemypyrgirl. Two days ago I rescued a 10 month old full blooded GP (double dew claws). Initially he was sold to a young fella who lived in an apartment and when that didn't work out he sold Hank (Woodrow?) to a person in poor health who couldn't care for him and he lived on a short chain. So I drove halfway across the state to bring him to his new forever home, where I have nearly 500 acres he can explore, and 8 acres of ranch to protect.

    Upon arrival to the ranch I put him in a large kennel to train as his home and keep him from running away while I'm not working with him. My plan was to walk him on the leash around the chicken run as many times a day for as many days as it takes to desensitize him from my 10 hens and 2 ducks. This morning, upon entering my kitchen I saw his big sweet face staring back at me! He had Houdinied his way out of the kennel and explained to me he loves his new home and doesn't need confinement. he stays by my side when I'm outside and mostly listens.

    But when we get around the chicken coop/run he excitedly runs around it. Not necessarily looking for a way in, just excited to see movement, which in turn disturbs my birds. When I catch him and hold him by the collar and make him sit he relaxes as we sit in front of the run and watch the birds.

    This is currently my acclimation technique, but I wonder if I am skipping a step by having to catch him first after he's already pounced around? Would it be more effective to put him on the leash before walking up to the chicken coop and keep him on a short leash so he can't scare the chickens? I am a believer in positive reinforcement versus scolding as much as possible. I reward him for not chasing chickens, jumping on me, etc, so I don't have to punish him for misbehavior. None of this accounts for what he could do when I'm inside and he's on his own. Right now he is dutifully laying on the front porch by the front door, 8' from where I sit and type. He want's to be with me. I am afraid there's a good chance when he gets bored he'll find his way over there and make his way through the chicken wire even easier than he made his way out of the chain link kennel!

    Like Antonia said, I only have 14 months or more to go until he's an asset, not a liability! I had better make them count. Thanks for any tips and tricks you experienced GP owners can share!

  6. #6
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Jewel's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluecreekranch View Post
    But when we get around the chicken coop/run he excitedly runs around it. Not necessarily looking for a way in, just excited to see movement, which in turn disturbs my birds. When I catch him and hold him by the collar and make him sit he relaxes as we sit in front of the run and watch the birds. but I wonder if I am skipping a step by having to catch him first after he's already pounced around? Would it be more effective to put him on the leash before walking up to the chicken coop and keep him on a short leash so he can't scare the chickens?
    We don't have working LGDs but the from the principle of general acclimation process, your instinct is correct that it would be better to have him on a leash so that you can work with him to not get excited when he sees the birds. The goal is to teach him to remain in a relaxed state in the first place. He's already doing really well by being able to settle after the initial excitement so he should be able to learn remain relaxed with more practice with you.

    Whether he'll eventually learn that his job is to be a LGD and not your personal companion, only time will tell. As you continue to work with him and as he matures, his guardian instincts may very well take over and he will see the birds as his charges and stay with and guard them. But not all pyrs have the same work instinct and some do prefer humans over the livestock.

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