Do you own chickens, are considering a Chihuahua but wondering whether your Chihuahua will attack your chickens?
As a Chihuahua and chicken owner for several years, I’ve learned a lot over the years about dogs and chickens living harmoniously. In the article below I’ll firstly discuss, if Chihuahuas will attack your chickens, the harm this might cause, and what you can do to prevent it.
???? Chihuahuas, like all dogs have natural hunting instincts which may cause them to attack chickens, harming or potentially killing them. There have been several reported cases of Chihuahuas killing chickens, but it depends on the instincts of the individual dog, as much as the breed and how well they respond to training.
Domestic dogs are the number one predator when it comes to backyard chickens. And while it’s true Chihuahuas can and have killed chickens, it largely comes down to the nature of the individual dog, how effectively they are trained not to attack chickens, and how much access they have to your birds, more so than the nature of the breed itself.
When it comes to Chihuahuas and keeping chickens there are four main questions we need to ask ourselves:
- Will a Chihuahua attack a chicken?
- If so, are they capable of harming or killing your chickens?
- Can they be trained to leave your chickens alone?
- Can a chicken, as a result of defending itself, harm your Chihuahua?
Will your Chihuahua Attack Your Chickens?
Dogs generally don’t kill chickens for food.
This is why when a chicken has died at the hands, er paws of a dog, they often won’t appear badly mauled. e.g. their fragile necks may be broken, but normally there isn’t a lot of damage otherwise, and in many cases there may not be any obvious visual indication of a dog attack at all.
Some dogs are natural shepards, and killing your birds will be the last thing on their minds. In fact some breeds, including Mastiffs and Sheepdogs will even protect them from predators.
Chihuahuas however, are inquisitive and are far more likely to show an interest in your birds. And, despite the chicken being larger than the typical Chihuahua, Chihuahuas are brave and smart.
On the other hand, Chickens are not known for their intelligence, and are anxious animals at hte best of times. Considering they are most often seen as a food source, can’t fly terribly well and in general lack the ability to protect themselves, at least from larger predators this is understandable.
While your Chihuahua may not even set out to intentionally harm or kill your chickens, they do love chasing other animals, and if this occurs, the bird will assume it is being attacked, and in some cases might die as a result of shock. Otherwise if they do attempt to hunt your chickens, their bites are more than capable of breaking the neck of a chicken.
Why Chihuahuas might be more Prone to Attacking Chickens
In my experience as someone who owns 7 chickens, two large dogs and two Chihuahuas I found it relatively easy to train my larger dogs to leave the chickens alone, compared to my Chihuahuas.
While there was an initial ‘incident’ that resulted in a loss of several tail feathers and some trauma resulting in one of our girls not laying for a few days thanks to my American Bulldog I am proud to say we are yet to lose a chicken to a dog and have no intentions of letting this record slip.
However unlike our two larger dogs the Chihuahuas are more interested in our birds, I assume because they are a similar size, unlike most other animals. They are also more interested in the chicken’s food, particularly the lay mash, which is a problem in itself as this can cause digestive issues in some dogs.
But perhaps the biggest reason your chickens may be at greater risk of attack by Chihuahuas is due their owners tolerating aggressive behavior. We don’t tend to treat aggression in smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas as seriously as we might in larger breeds. This can result in the dog not being well socialized with other animals.
If the dog feels there are no consequences for its aggressive actions, it’s likely to develop them further.
Can a Chihuahua Harm your Chickens?
Of course, the question must be asked. How much damage can a Chihuahua even inflict on a chicken?
While some breeds have more refined hunting instincts than others, all dogs can potentially be a menace if you own backyard chickens, as many dogs harm or kill chickens without intentionally doing so.
What tends to happen is the dog will start chasing the chicken, the chicken will run away frantically, which only makes the dog more excited.
The dog, will eventually catch up to the chicken and from there a range of possibilities may occur:
- The chicken will protect itself by pecking the dog which might prove harmless or result in injury to the Chihuahua particularly if pecked near the eye (more on this shortly)
- The chicken may simply die of shock
- The chicken may be bitten around it’s rather thin neck resulting in death or injury
- The chicken will be shaken, resulting in death or injury
- The chicken will get away and live to fight another day
Even if a chicken does not die of a dog attack they can be deeply traumatized and stop laying or develop other problems.
Can a Chihuahua be trained to leave your Chickens alone?
All dogs, but especially Chihuahuas need to be socialized.
Chihuahuas despite their size can be aggressive toward other animals. They are a stubborn breed, as evidenced by their low ranking in obedience intelligence which is probably more a result of them being unwilling participants in obedience training than lacking the intelligence.
Chihuahuas are not toys, they’re real dogs, just much smaller.
They have the same natural instincts as other dogs. They also have no regard for their own size, so don’t think your Chihuahua won’t attack your chickens despite being smaller than them.
The good news is however, while they don’t mark highly in terms of obedience intelligence, they can definitely be taught to leave your birds alone.
My eldest Chihuahua understands not to attack our chickens and is very dependable in this area, despite his natural instincts.
For example, if a wild turkey dares enter our yard it knows the difference and will do everything within its power to hunt it down, however will leave our chickens alone.
And, while it did take some training, I have no issue allowing my dogs and chickens to roam freely around our backyard nowadays. And, while the chickens remain cautious they don’t limit their movements or behave differently around our dogs.
But it wasn’t always like this.
We had to actively discourage our dogs chasing the chickens which was done using a combination of verbal commands and positive reinforcement.
For example, the method below, while simple, was one I used and found to work quite well:
- Have your dog on a leash and bring them around your chickens. (Your chickens may need to be contained for this to be possible as they will generally move away if given the option)
- If your dog shows any sign of aggression or rushes at the chickens, loudly and clearly say ‘No!’
- Repeat the process until the dog begins to comprehend.
- Monitor and continue to discourage any signs of aggression and reinforce good behavior.
As a rule, your Chihuahua is more than likely simply fascinated by your chickens.
With this in mind another training option is to keep your chickens in their coop but let the dogs get up close to the coop and see what’s going on inside.
Over time, they will begin to lose interest in which time you can then slowly give the chickens more freedom by allowing them to access to your backyard while monitoring the situation and providing positive or negative reinforce as required.
In my experience, both methods can be effective, but it will take a few days before you will have the confidence to not be actively keeping an eye on the situation.
Keep Them Separated
Of course if you are away from home for long periods of time the best thing you can do is keep your dogs and birds separated.
Your Chihuahua shouldn’t have free roam outside anyway while you are away due to predators such as hawks, snakes and other dogs. The best practice is to keep them inside while you are not home. Chickens will go to ground if a hawk is in the area for example, but your dog unfortunately doesn’t have these same instincts.
Also, keep in mind, dogs will dig their way under barriers or find imaginative ways to get to your birds if they are left out and your chicken coop is less than secure, so if in any doubt ensure they are separated.
Can a Chicken harm a Chihuahua?
Your Chihuahua is unlikely to have it all one way when it comes to backyard conflict.
Chickens might appear timid, but anyone that has seen what happens to a mouse, small lizard, or even another small bird if it is stuck inside a chicken coop (it doesn’t end well) will know those long beaks and large claws can inflict quite a bit of damage.
My youngest Chihuahua was pecked by a chicken on the snout and while this perhaps resulted in a new-found respect for the chickens, the fact is we were fortunate it wasn’t pecked nearer to the eye.
My son wasn’t so fortunate and had a small section of his Sciera (the white part of the eye) removed by a chicken he was holding.
Chickens will peck if they feel threatened and this means sensitive areas such as the snout, eyes and paws are potential targets and can hurt your dog.
While temperament does relate to breed, some Chihuahuas will be more interested than others when it comes to backyard chickens. The most effective thing you can do is socialize them early and make it very clear to your Chihuahua that the chickens are pets also and it is unacceptable to chase or attack them.
Reinforce this verbally and discourage even the hint of aggression toward your birds. Over time, at least in most cases, your chickens and your Chihuahuas can live in harmony but always keep in mind, all dogs have natural hunting instincts, some more than others, so you should ensure you have complete confidence in your dogs before taking your eye off the situation.