If you have chickens and are looking for a herding dog, you’re not going to go wrong with a Border Collie. Or maybe you’re here because you have a Border Collie but don’t want their herding abilities to come out on your chickens.
Whatever the reason is, we can answer this question for you and help you put something in place to make it easier for you, your Border Collie and your chickens.
Border Collies are good with chickens. Herding is bred into them to round up animals and control which direction to take them in. If they are well trained, they will either herd the chickens or, with your instruction, leave them alone. Border Collies don’t see chickens as a prey target, more as a job role to flourish and make their owners proud.
We now know that, in general, a well trained Border Collie are good with chickens.
The main thing to remember is that a well trained Border Collie will never hurt a chicken.
What you want to achieve for your chickens and Border Collie will depend on their training and how you introduce them.
Let’s first understand and learn of this fascinating breed herding capabilities.
Herding Capabilities: Border Collie
Herding is considered an important role to a Border Collie. Their capabilities are outstanding, and in fact, Border Collies are considered the best dog for herding period! They never leave an animal out, and a well-trained Border Collie can move an entire flock or herd into specific areas with ease.
Un-trained Border Collie
Since that herding is a big part of the Border Collies heritage, it doesn’t just disappear because they dont herd or haven’t been trained to herd. The fact is that it is there!
An untrained Border Collie on the outside can look like they have a high prey drive, but in fact, it’s more an untrained instinct. They get the excitement of chasing an animal around without knowing why or getting any sense of achievement. So they will continue to pursue any animal that they feel they can dominate.
- Rated 10/10 – Herding
- Dominant Behaviour 5/10 if not trained can be much higher
- Aggression 2/10 if not trained can be much higher
There are four reasons you would like an answer to this question: Are Border Collies good with chickens?
The below are the four possibilities I think your situation might be, and I can explain how you can handle each one and what you need to do to moving forwards to achieve your goal, be it herding or not herding.
Pick your situation from the below for advice:
1. I have a Border Collie and want to get chickens as a pet, and I do not want my Border Collie to herd them.
In this instance, you will need to have a well-trained Border Collie on the basic commands. You usually know this yourself if your dog is well behaved, for example, if your Border Collie is a known flight risk when out walking and tends to run off chasing all sorts and doing as they please.
This is your indication that your Border Collie isn’t trained correctly. The first step to having chickens as a pet would be to train your Border Collie to listen to your commands first.
If you have a problem training your Border Collie, then a local dog trainer in basic commands would be the right path to take before getting chickens.
Then, on the other hand, you know you have a very well-trained Border Collie. Your introduction is of the most importance.
In their first introduction between the chickens and your dog, you need to use the basic commands like stay, leave it and sit.
Your Border Collie will have a natural excitement in this case. Make sure your Border Collie is on a leash, and it would be best to use a slip collar. This type of collar is a correction collar. It’s not punishment. It’s a correction. If used properly can be a useful tool.
It’s only natural that your Border Collie will be excited and keen to get to the chickens. Having this collar on, you can gently snap them out of this behaviour.
Be confident in your approach. The aim is to desensitise your Border Collie to the chickens.
Another good tip is to up your Border Collies mental and physical training and exercise during the first few days or weeks whilst your chickens settle in.
Never leave them alone together until you are confident that your Border Collie sees them as living, breathing chickens, going about their business as you require and not needing your dog to herd them.
2. I have a Border Collie, and I want my dog to herd my new chickens.
Firstly your dog should be well trained and not be dominant over you. It would be best if you had clear leadership when it comes to your Border Collie. If not, then herding chickens will not go to plan. In this case, a chase will break out in your back garden or farm.
It would help if you waited to adopt chickens until you have trained your dog to listen to your commands and learnt the complex herding commands.
Remember, your Border Collie works for you, not for themselves; an untrained Border Collie will not understand this.
The majority of the time, it’s not the dog that needs training; it is the owner that needs training on how to manage and act around the dog. Body language of you is vital, be confident, persistent and precise.
If you have never trained for the complex herding commands, you will need to find a dog trainer specialising in herd training. It is hard to get this knowledge just from reading steps from articles online.
You can find them by searching online. Some training will involve new commands such as Come-bye, Stand, Hold, Look back, and That’ll do.
A well-trained Border Collie will quickly round up your chickens and direct them into the chicken coop easily. You should have no trouble with prey drive or any killings of the chickens. They don’t have a physical attack drive in them to do this. Since your dog is well-trained, they know right from wrong. Your Border Collie will flourish each time they round them up successfully.
3. I have chickens already, and I want to adopt a Border Collie not to herd.
You already have chickens, and you’re adopting a puppy over a fully trained, known to herd adult dog. In this case, a puppy would be the best option for you. You will be able to manage their training away from their herding tendencies.
It would help if you only introduced your new puppy to the chickens when training for the basic commands have been completed successfully. Most importantly, the “leave it” command and “stay” command. However, knowing the complete set of commands should be in place, sit, stay, come, down, heel, and leave it.
Start straight away with the training. Dont take a few weeks showering your new puppy with love and kisses or carrying them around from room to room and smothering them. We are all guilty of this; however tempting it is, you need to put some of the love aside as you want your chickens and Border Collie to live together without herding.
As at this puppy stage, they need clear leadership from you, direction and training.
When training is complete, the introduction can happen. If you need to introduce your puppy beforehand, then a slip collar would be perfect for this, its a type of collar you can slightly pull, kind of like a pop you would do with the leash. it just basically says to your dog, “Hey, you can’t do that.”
Use the collar and leash until the puppy is desensitised by the chickens and understands that they can’t go chasing the chickens in an attempt to herd.
Maybe you are adopting a fully trained herding dog that has been used for herding chickens or cattle in the past. This will be tough to take the job role away from the Border Collie in this instance.
You may want to rethink getting an already trained adult Border Collie if you don’t want them to herd your chickens unless you can replace their role with something else within herding.
Although if you live on a farm and have other cattle, they can take on the role of herding, this would be ideal.
If you are still adopting a known herder and not replacing their role. In that case, a slip collar should work to correct them on specific behaviours such as herding that you dont wish for them to do if they don’t respond to the basic commands.
You should ask the previous owner if they have been trained to only herd on command. If so, then this is perfect, and it should be a lot easier for you, your chickens and your Border Collie.
4. I already have chickens, and I want to adopt a Border Collie, and I want my Border Collie to herd them.
It can be tricky when you already have chickens, as it depends on whether you’re getting an untrained puppy or a fully trained adult Border Collie.
If your getting a puppy, then you should straight away start with training, showing leadership and providing them with mental and physical exercise. In this time, you should keep your Border Collie away from the chickens until training is complete.
After successfully training your dog’s basic commands, such as sit, stay, come, down, heel, and leave it. You can introduce them. At this stage, they won’t know to herd properly. Your dog will try but will be all over the place.
Herding requires more commands, such as Come-bye, Stand, Hold, Look back, and That’ll do. If you cannot complete this training yourself, dog trainers specially train herding dogs that you should contact.
After this, your new Border Collie puppy will be able to herd chickens with ease.
If you’re planning on adopting a fully trained Border Collie, then you are in for an easy ride. By this time, the dog will already have the skillset to herd. You will need to learn the commands to give them yourself.
A gentle introduction would be wise to make sure.
You can use a lead and a regular collar to do this, and once you are confident, you know the commands. Your Border Collie is not pulling on the leash to get to the chickens. You can let your new Border Collie do the job they love.
The Basic Commands Every Dog should know.
- Stay or Place
- Come or Here
- Leave it
Keep your commands clear. Dogs can’t understand the differences of some words like sit, sat or set. So with knowing this, they need to have clear and precise short words. Read here my piece on why dogs can’t talk like humans.
List of Herding Commands
Commands are often used with body language and a whistle.
- Come-bye or just bye – dog to go left of the livestock, or clockwise around them.
- Away to me, or just away or way – dog to go to the right of the livestock, or counterclockwise around them.
- Stand – firmily spoken means stop
- Steady or take time – slow the dog down.
- Cast – gather the livestock into a group.
- Find – search for livestock. A good dog will hold the livestock until the shepherd arrives. Some will bark when the livestock has been located.
- Get out or back – move the dog away from the livestock. Used when the dog is too close to the livestock.
- Keep away or keep – Used by some handlers as a direction and a distance from the sheep.
- Hold – keep livestock where they are.
- Look back – return for a missed animal.
- In here or here – the dog will go through a gap in the flock. It is used when separating stock.
- Walk up, walk on or walk – move in closer to the livestock.
- That’ll do – job complete, dog to stop working and return to handler.
Body Language Displayed Of An Un-trained Border Collie Trying To Herd:
- Low to the ground: the best position to be in for quick movement and to creep up on an animal to get them to move when ready to be seen.
- Dog running away from the owner: the excitement of the chase outruns their owner’s leadership.
- Chasing animals, exciting and built into them
- Growling: they can’t contain their voice as they aren’t trained.
- Swift movement: being alert is a trait, and seeing an animal will show this body movement
- Dog going to the front or head of the animal: by doing this, they are trying to make them change their direction
Herding dog Fact
If more than one dog is working on a field, individual dogs will have a set of different commands. By giving indivual commands, it will avoid any confusion for the dogs.
- Herding breeds include the following:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Australian Kelpie
- Australian Shepherd
- Basque Shepherd Dog
- Belgian Shepherds
- Bergamasco Shepherd
- Berger Blanc Suisse
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Can de Chira
- Caucasian Shepherd
- Can de Palleiro
- Cão da Serra de Aires
- Carea Castellano Manchego
- Carea Leonés
- Canaan Dog
- Catahoula Leopard Dog
- Catalan Sheepdog
- Chiribaya Dog
- Croatian Sheepdog
- Cumberland Sheepdog
- Dutch Shepherd
- English Shepherd
- Finnish Lapphund
- Garafian Shepherd
- German Shepherd
- Gaucho sheepdog
- Icelandic Sheepdog
- Kangal Shepherd Dog
- Lancashire Heeler
- Lapponian Herder
- Magellan sheepdog
- Miniature American Shepherd
- New Zealand Heading Dog
- Norwegian Buhund
- Old English Sheepdog
- Pastore della Lessinia e del Lagorai
- Picardy Shepherd
- Polish Lowland Sheepdog
- Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Portuguese Sheepdog
- Puli dog
- Pyrenean Shepherd
- Slovak Cuvac
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Swedish Lapphund
- Swedish Vallhund
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Thanks to Wikipedia, the above list is located here. It also includes a piece of information on each breed.
Do Border Collie’s attack chickens?
No Border Collies don’t have a killing desire. They want to chase and control an animal rather than kill it. However, in some instances, depending on the dog, especially if not fully trained, this could happen, but it’s rare.
Will a Border Collie herd chickens?
Yes, a Border Collie can herd chickens, and they do the best job doing it compared to other dogs. A Border Collie will flourish herding chickens just like any other livestock.
Remember, if you want a herding dog, your Border Collie works for you! With good training by either you or a herding dog expert, they will make perfect chicken herders.
Their first introduction to your chickens is vital if you don’t want your Border Collie to herd. Manage it using the leash to desensitise your Border Collie.
All in all, the Border Collie is a fascinating breed, I have spent a lot of time with Border Collies, and they amaze me every time.
Good luck, and I hope having chickens and a Border Collie works for you.