Collies have been working with chickens, ducks, sheep, and other farm animals for hundreds of years. Their unique intelligence and herding ability make them the perfect dog breed for working with chickens.
Collies are often used for chicken herding, and also as watch dogs to scare away any foxes or other chicken predators.
Are Border Collies good with chickens?
Collies are good with chickens, both in a protective capacity and in a herding capacity. Chickens are often used to teach young collies how to herd, because they tend to flock similar to sheep, but they are smaller and slower moving.
Like ducks, chickens are often kept on small home farms and your collie will be the perfect protector for you and your chicken flock.
Do border collies round up chickens?
Most Collies have a natural herding ability, however they will need some training before they are able to round up live animals like chickens.
Thankfully, collies (especially Border Collies) are some of the most intelligent breeds there are, and take to new tasks much quicker than other breeds.
Collies’ intelligence stems from the fact that they can work out complex situations and tasks they haven’t seen before, often called dynamic intelligence.
How to train your collie to herd chickens
- Keep your collie calm
Before you start any training, it’s important to keep your collie calm. If they are too excited they will think they are playing a new game.
- Keep them on the lead before you start training them
Before you introduce your collie to the chickens for the first time, keep them secured on their lead with a harness or collar. This is to ensure the safety of the chickens should your collie not understand what’s happening.
- Give them the walk or forward command
Your collie will get used to this command when you repeat it often enough, so pick something and stick to it. This will be the same command you use to get your collie to herd the chickens in future.
- Get them used to being calm around the chickens
Introduce your collie to the chickens, but don’t make a big fuss about them. You want your collie to understand the chickens aren’t a game or plaything, and also not to be scared of them.
- Repeat this process several times until your collie is comfortable around the chickens
Without this base level of comfort around the chickens, your collie will not be able to focus on the commands and learn what you are asking them to do.
- Walk around chickens clockwise and give the “come by” command
If your collie is new to herding, you will need to teach them the come by command. Walk clockwise around the chickens and have your collie run clockwise around with you.
- Stop and the end of the circle and reverse directions and give “away” command
As you teach your collie the “come by” command, it’s important to teach them to run anticlockwise too. Stop and change directions, and hold out your arm to indicate to your collie you want them to change directions.
- Repeat for several weeks until your collie knows the herding commands
Through repetition and positive reinforcement, your collie will learn the “come by” and “away” commands which are necessary for herding. If you’re struggling, consider buying a herding ball to train away from the chickens and other distractions.
- Put it all in to action and herd the chickens in to a pen
Through repetition, your collie will learn the objective, whether that’s putting the chickens back in their coop, or herding them through a gate. This behavior is innate in collies and you’ll be amazed how quickly your collie picks up herding abilities.
- Be patient
You want herding to be something your collie can enjoy, so it’s important to give them plenty of time to learn. Although collies are extremely intelligent, they are still dogs and you can’t expect them to understand what you want them to do without plenty of positive reinforcement and repetition.
How to know when your border collie is ready to herd chickens
You will know your collie is ready to herd chickens once they have learned to be calm around them, and once they have learned the basic “come by” and “away” commands for moving left and right which are required for all herding activities.
You can teach all the required commands with a herding ball if you don’t feel comfortable training your collie with live chickens.
What to do if border collie bites a chicken?
If your collie is aggressive towards chickens, it’s probably best to confine the herding training to inanimate objects. Herding balls are a great option, but even a regular rubber ball is fine for teaching herding commands.
Unfortunately, even among purebred working collies there are occasional duds in the litter who are too boisterous or too playful to get used to herding. These dogs usually end up being sold or given away as family pets, or used as watch-dogs instead of herding dogs.
If you have a collie as a pet, the chances are their lineage isn’t that of a working sheepdog, but instead is descended from a defective collie who couldn’t handle farm work.
If your collie is being aggressive with chickens, they may be scared, or they may lack the herding instincts required for live animal herding.
Herding chickens vs herding ducks
It’s common to use chickens or ducks for herding competitions, and to teach collies herding skills without using sheep.
Both chickens and ducks are slower than sheep, and tend to flock together in a similar fashion so they are both ideal for learning herding skills.
Ducks are a bit slower than chickens and tend to be less aggressive, making them a better choice for beginner herders, although it depends on the specific breed of bird.
can border collies protect chickens?
Although collies aren’t naturally aggressive, they are very loud and protective so they make effective watch dogs. Their high intelligence and excellent sense of smell gives them the edge over other breeds when it comes to protection duty, their loud bark will scare away any predators.
Any would-be predator will be in for a shock if your collie so much as detects their presence. The neighborhood will all be alerted and any fox, cat, or other predator will be sent on its way.
Are other collies good with chickens?
Welsh collies with chickens
Welsh Collies were bred for sheep herding on the hills and valleys of North Wales, however they share the intelligence and trainability as other collie breeds, and work well with chicken and other poultry, either as a protector or as a herder.
Rough Collies with Chickens
Rough collies sometimes look like fluffy couch-potatoes, but they are agile and intelligent herding masters. If it moves, a rough collie can herd it.
Rough collies are great at both herding and protecting chickens, they excel at watch dog duties, their loud bark is enough to scare off predators or alert people to any danger.
Smooth Collies with chickens
Smooth Collies (like Luna) are no different to rough collies in any meaningful way besides their coat. Like their rough coated cousins, smooth collies are excellent herders and watch dogs, and will have no problem protecting or herding chicken or other poultry.
bearded collies with chickens
Bearded collies are undeniably cute, looking like fluffy teddy bears, but beware false collies in sheep’s clothing, for inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Beardies are as agile as any collie and just as intelligent. They can turn their hand to any task, including chickens. Bearded Collies are adept at chicken herding, and can make excellent watch dogs to protect your chickens from would-be predators.