The Australian Cattle Dog (Blue/Red Heeler) is a hard-working herding breed with a strong chase instinct. With the proper training and socialization, they are good with other dogs. See here for more on socializing a Blue Heeler with other dogs.
They are also fine with a cat in the home as long as steps are taken to introduce them. For more on Blue Heelers and cats see here.
But how well will a Blue Heeler do with chickens? After all, they are part Dingo. Will they chase them, herd them, or even kill them?
Are Blue Heelers good with chickens?
It is possible to train and socialize your Australian Cattle Dog to be good with chickens as long as they are introduced correctly. Part of the required training should include good impulse control and response to a leave command. Ideally, your Blue Heeler should be introduced to chickens when they are a puppy. Ultimately it will come down to the individual Blue/Red Heeler if you are able to keep chickens without your Heeler doing them harm.
There are a number of possible reactions a Blue heeler may have towards chickens.
- Your Blue Heeler will herd the chickens.
- They will chase the chickens thinking it is a fun game.
- The Blue Heeler may attack the chickens causing injury or even killing them.
- They will be fine and have no interest in the chickens.
Will a Blue heeler herd chickens?
Blue Heelers have a very strong instinctive herding drive particularly if the chickens are running around loose. They also have a natural desire to protect livestock and will guard them against potential harm from predators. Usually, they are driven to herd larger animals such as cattle but it is more than possible they will want to herd and control the chickens.
The problem with a Blue Heeler herding such a small animal is that their herding technique may be too rough for the chickens. Blue Heelers will nip at the hock of a cow to get them to move which could cause harm to a chicken. They may also run around the chickens barking which could be too stressful for the chickens.
Will a Blue Heeler kill chickens?
Yes, it is possible that a Blue Heeler will kill chickens. They easily have the power and strength to make short work of a chicken. If you are concerned that your Blue Heeler will kill your chickens or have done so in the past you will need to take precautions.
There are generally two types of solutions to this type of problem – a hard solution and a soft solution. A hard solution is any sort of physical deterrent. this could be keeping the chickens in a coop or hen house or to fence off the area so your Heeler can’t get access. Alternatively, keep [ your Blue Heeler on a leash and never leave them unsupervised around the chickens.
A soft solution relates to training and socializing your Blue Heeler with the chickens. This is ideally done when they are still young and have frequent exposure to the chickens
How to train a Blue Heeler to be good with chickens
The first thing to consider regarding whether your Blue Heeler is going to be OK with the chickens is to ensure they are obedient and responsive to commands. You need to be able to call them off if they look like they may attack a chicken.
They will also need to be calm and have good impulse control. This requires that they are receiving adequate exercise (both physical and mental) and have been taught calmness. If they are overexcited it will be more difficult to control them around the chickens. For more on keeping a Blue Heeler calm see here.
The key to successfully training your Blue Heeler with chickens is to introduce them slowly. Before beginning the introduction process ensure your Heeler is in a calm state of mind.
Put your Blue Heeler on a leash and have them sit. Allow a chicken to move around the area freely and explore. Reward your Blue Heeler with treats for being calm and showing good behavior. It is better if your Blue Heeler acts more interested in the treats than the chicken.
Repeat this process several times a day and keep it for short periods of time. Short frequent meetings are better than a long session where either animal may become stressed or agitated.
Your Blue Heeler may try to test how the chicken reacts when they get close. If that happens tell them to stay and give them a treat. At first, you will need to supervise all interactions together.
As they get more comfortable with each other you can allow more close contact. This whole process will persistence and patience. All going well you should be able to have your Blue Heeler off leash around the chickens within a few weeks. However, you would always supervise them.
Another option is to put your Blue Heeler in a crate and allow the cat to roam freely in the room.
Summary – Blue Heelers and chickens
With an early introduction and socializing a Blue Heeler can learn to be good with chickens. They do have a strong herding drive which may need to be controlled. Heelers are also very protective of livestock and can help keep your chickens safe from potential predators.
Ultimately it comes down to the individual Blue Heeler and the training they have had as to whether they are going to be OK with chickens.