Retraining a Bird Dog to Leave the Chickens Alone

After giving the recently adopted chickens two and a half weeks to acclimate to their new home we started introducing our Labrador, Sassy, to the chickens today. We had been keeping them separated until the timing was right and the initial rush of the move-in was over and some of the chicken re-homing work was done.

Sassy Gene coop USE 11-2-14

Sassy being introduced to our new chickens.

While these adopted chickens came from a home that had a tame dog that walked among the chickens everyday our Sassy is a trained upland bird retriever. She lives to hunt, and shall we say, bring home the bacon.

Sassy looking use

Sassy is greeting the chickens for the first time.

I admit I have been nervous about the thought of mixing a bird dog with my pet chickens, especially a dog with Sassy’s energy level.

Most people know Labs as laid back, soft natured and loving family dogs. But Sassy is from a different kind of breed altogether. She was bred for endurance from along line of field trial dogs who job it is to run, compete and to win. She is little in size, only 55 pounds, but definitely has a drive to get it done and a AAA type personality and energy level to make that happen.

Clover snowball in sun USE

Momma clover and four-week-old baby Snowball enjoying the sunshine.

On the positive Sassy is 6 ½ years old and is hopefully enough to be retrained to “leave it.” On the negative end she has an amazing prey drive for birds – her normal target. She is trained to seek out, flush and retrieved grouse, woodcock (which look a LOT like a chicken baby) and pheasants. She has a fierce natural drive bred into her to never EVER give up the bird. Sometimes the bird is shot and hit but not dead, her job then is to dispatch of the bird and bring it home.

So understandably I am a bit nervous about the retraining process.

We began today by walking her around the chicken pen on her lead while the chickens were out. And telling her to “leave it.” The first time she saw them move she froze, began to tremble in excitement – one of her normal reactions when she sees a bird. We did this process multiple times today and will do so every day this week that we can.

Cross your fingers for the chickens!!

Small House Homesteader, Donna


2 thoughts on “Retraining a Bird Dog to Leave the Chickens Alone

  1. Sounds like quite a task but I’ve had Labs and I know how very smart they are as well as how driven they are. That drive also (usually) extends to master-pleasing as well. Good kick!


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