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Whether you are considering adding chickens to your life, and already have a Labrador Retriever, or are looking to add a Labrador Retriever to your farm that already has chickens, it’s important to know if they might kill your chickens.

While each dog is an individual, there are some genetic tendencies that can help you decide if a Labrador Retriever is a good mix with chickens.

We will explore the background of a Labrador Retriever, how to introduce a dog to chickens, as well as how to find a well-bred Labrador Retriever that has the ideal Labrador personality.

Labrador Retrievers and Chickens

The history of and purpose of the Labrador Retriever lends them to have a soft mouth, and to not kill birds. Instead, they are specifically trained in many instances to bring back dead or injured birds without causing any harm to them.

Thus, the majority of Labrador Retrievers that have the typical “soft mouth” for the breed should not have a high prey drive that leads them to killing chickens.

In fact, some Labrador Retriever owners have been brought live birds that their dog found, such as a pheasant or chukar!

However, there are many different lines of Labrador Retrievers, and this is certainly not the case for all of them.

There’s a variety of skills a Labrador Retriever is bred to do, from:

  • Service and guide dog work
  • Hunting and retrieving
  • Show lines
  • Other sports
  • Or to be a family pet

It makes sense that you will have to look deeper than the breed alone to find a Labrador Retriever that isn’t likely to kill chickens.

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If you already have a Labrador Retriever, you should consider their reaction to birds and other small animals. Are they known for killing squirrels that venture into the yard, or do they only have quiet curiosity about the ferrets that live in your home?

There is no guarantee that a dog of any breed will not kill chickens, especially dogs with any prey drive.

Even a dog that is trying to play can accidentally harm a chicken.

Introducing a Lab to Chickens

The safest way to have dogs and chickens, especially at first, is to keep the chickens in a pen or behind a fence.

Allowing your chickens and Lab to mix right away, no matter how confident you are that things will be fine, can turn deadly for your chickens.

When a chicken is being still, your dog is likely to just be curious. If possible, introduce your Labrador Retriever to the chickens when they are in a smaller pen and less likely to run. Running often triggers a dog’s prey drive.

If you are introducing your dog to chickens when they are still little chicks, you can even hold the chicks while your Lab meets them.

It’s also best to introduce your dog to chickens after they have a strong leave it cue, and are able to work around distractions.

Watch my video on training a dog to “Leave it” here:

If your Lab does get excited about the chickens, you’ll want to keep them away from them until they are well-trained enough to listen to you around the flock.

Besides keeping the chickens in a pen, you can add a layer of safety by keeping your dog on a leash during introductions.

This is even better if you can have someone help you introduce your Labrador Retriever to chickens, so that one of you can monitor the dog and the other can monitor the chickens.

Keep in mind that introducing your Labrador to chickens is not a one-time event, and you may need to do several, small, short introductions as you assess your dog’s reaction.

Living With Chickens and a Lab

Your Labrador Retriever, no matter how friendly and calm they are with the chickens, should still not be left alone with them unless you are willing to have accidents happen. Dogs and chickens are not robots, and their behavior may change in a different situation.

Keeping your chickens in a run, or allowing them to free-range while keeping your dog on a leash or in a run, is the easiest way to keep both parties safe.

You may also find that your Labrador Retriever is good with the chickens when you are there to supervise, but it’s best not to test the boundaries and leave them alone together.

Chickens are also prone to heart attacks when they are stressed by being chased or cornered. Letting your dog chase the chickens, fenced or not, can result in the death of your flock.

Finally, keep in mind that there are a few things to avoid when mixing chickens and dogs.

You always should assume there is some risk to your chickens when a dog is present – no matter how much training you have done.

There are also, unfortunately, a lot of harmful training methods out there regarding how to teach your dog to leave chickens alone.

It’s never a good idea to utilize a shock collar to keep your dog from chasing chickens – you’ll only suppress the behavior in the meantime.

It’s also not a good idea to tie a dead chicken to your dog’s neck – yes, that’s actual advice that some people may give!

Instead, if you are having troubles, you should reach out to a qualified professional such as those you can find through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

You also may need to accept the fact that not all dogs and chickens mix, and you may simply need to keep your dogs and chickens separate to ensure safety for all.

Finding a Quality Labrador Retriever

If you are looking to add a Labrador Retriever to your family that already has chickens, finding a Labrador Retriever that comes from lines with soft mouths and the typical Labrador Retriever temperament is critical to success.

Since Labrador Retrievers are the most popular breed in the USA, it stands to reason that there are many being bred that do not comply with breed standard.

They may look like a Labrador Retriever, but their temperament is a different story.

I have seen hundreds of Labrador Retrievers over the years, with a variety of temperaments – and physical traits, too.

In some cases, they even lack traits that are quintessential to the Labrador Retriever, such as a coat that water easily rolls off of, because they were bred simply because they were Labrador Retrievers and not with any purpose, temperament, or physical considerations in mind.

The first thing to check when looking for a Labrador Retriever is if both parents have had adequate health testing done.

The health testing recommended by the Labrador Retriever Club of America includes:

  • OFA Evaluation for Hip Dysplasia
  • OFA Evaluation for Elbow Dysplasia
  • OFA Registered Eye Examination
  • Exercise Induced Collapse DNA Test
  • Dilute D Locus DNA Test

Additional tests, such as cardiac evaluations, are optional but recommended in many cases.

Without these health tests, there is no way to know the genetic code or internal structure of a dog. There are many dogs that have enough muscle to not show signs of hip dysplasia at a young age, but that shouldn’t be bred in case they pass it on to their offspring.

You’ll also want to check with the breeder on what her dogs do, and what their temperaments are like. You’ll want to do your research to ensure your future Lab is going to get along with your chickens!

A Labrador Retriever with hunting experience is likely to have a soft mouth, and even Labrador Retrievers bred for shows may have competed in field trials or hunt tests where their skills have been tested.

You may even seek out owners of chickens who also have Labrador Retrievers as a starting point, in order to set you and your future puppy up for success.