Can Silkie Chickens and Dogs be Kept Together?

Dogs are man’s best friend, but can they be silkie’s best friend as well? Before you let the two species mingle, you might want to look into whether, how, and when it will be okay to let pooch and poultry share the backyard.

Silkie chickens will not get along with all dogs. Dogs with high prey drive will be more likely to chase, injure and kill silkies. Certain dog breeds have a higher prey drive than others, but they can vary within a species as well. Silkies are docile birds and will be defenseless against a dog attack.

Understanding the natural instinct of different breeds of dogs and knowing which warning signs to look out for indication that your dog might think that your silkie looks like a tasty snack will be invaluable in maintaining harmony in your backyard.

Dog Breed and Type: The Most Important Factor

Temperament, size, and age all play roles in whether your dog will tolerate sharing the backyard with the silkies, but all things considered, the breed of dog is probably the overruling factor.

Over many centuries humans bred dogs with a specific purpose in mind. Dogs were not only used as companions but to assist humans in some way or another. There are 7 recognized breed groups in which dogs can be divided. If you would like more information on this topic, feel free to have a look at the American Kennel Club’s website. Here, we will have a look at how a breed type plays into their ability to get along with small fluffies.

Three of the seven breed groups are the least likely to get along with your silkies. Sporting dogs (e.g. retrievers and pointers), Hound dogs (beagles, greyhounds, and Daschunds), Terriers (Jack Russels and Scotties) have all been bred to have a natural instinct to hunt. This means that if something prey-like and small runs, they will try to catch it.

Prey drive is not the same as aggression and even the most docile dogs can have an exceptionally strong prey drive. Sure, there will be exceptions to the rule but be wary before letting them mingle unattended.

Dogs With Low Prey Drive

Dogs with low prey drive will not be bothered by the squirrel running by. They are not lazy or low energy per se, but they will never really get the point of playing fetch and will much rather cuddle with their owner or go on walks.

In general terms, toy breeds and dogs from the non-sporting group will be a better choice. Dogs such as bulldogs, Pomeranians, Pyrenees, and Maltese are all dogs that are known to have a low prey drive. Even if your dog falls into this category by breed, I would still carefully consider whether your individual dog does indeed follow the breed guidelines. Not all dogs read the breed guidelines and the same goes for mixed breeds.

Signs of a Strong Prey Drive in Dogs

Watch out for any of the following signs in your dog when the silkies are in view. If he/she exhibits one or more of the following, your silkies are safer off behind fencing.

  1. He/she loves to chase moving things: the ball, the mailman, a jogger.
  2. He/she loves to play fetch. In contrast, a dog that will just lie there and watch the ball roll by, does not have a high prey drive.
  3. They will stare intensely at small animals (in this case, the silkies). They will often crouch or lie motionless and ignore being called their owner.
  4. He/she will forget all training when something moving is in view, pulling at their leash and ignoring all commands.

If your dog exhibits one or more of the above-mentioned signs, I will advise that unsupervised access to free-ranging silkies be avoided.

Managing Strong Prey Drive in Dogs

There are a few things you as the owner can do to help minimize the effects of a high prey drive, but it often proves very hard to override a strong natural instinct to hunt.


Exercise is one of the best ways to avoid unwanted behavior in dogs with a high prey drive. A dog that is exercised regularly is usually a calmer, more easily managed dog at home. Burning off excess energy by going on walks or runs or playing fetch may help to reduce the temptation to try and play with the silkies.

Obedience Training

Obedience training with the help of a dog trainer can make the world of a difference in a dog-owner relationship. Interestingly, a recent study by Dorey et. al (1) investigated whether using clickers or primary reinforcement by praise or treats proved to be more effective in training puppies. They found that using a clicker did not increase the effectiveness of the training. In one experiment, the group of pups receiving primary reinforcement (a treat when a command is obeyed) outperformed the clicker training group.

If you are interested, I have linked 2 more interesting articles on dog training in the resources list below. Basically, even though clicker training has gained a lot of popularity, training using treats as primary reinforcement when a command is obeyed is just as effective. The one study also proved that it is indeed much harder to learn an old dog new tricks and younger dogs caught on to training much quicker and retained the skills much longer as well (2).

When a dog has reached the point where they are familiar with a few basic commands, you can start to slowly introduce them to the silkies using the following steps:

  1. With the silkies locked up in their coop, take your dog to about 10 feet from the coop and practice a few basic commands. If he/she seems distracted by the silkies, move farther away and try again. If all goes well, move closer and repeat the steps until he/she can obey commands with the silkies in view and without becoming distracted.
  2. Let the silkies free range and have your dog on a six foot leash (you can add a basket muzzle for this exercise, just to be safe) and repeat step 1, gradually moving closer to the silkies.
  3. If steps 1 and 2 where successful, you can practice doing commands without a leash. If he/she obeys you and does not become distracted, move closer to the silkies.
  4. You can place a muzzle and walk slowly among the silkies. This step is also to help the silkies get used to your dog. Spend a lot of time on supervised interaction between your dogs and silkies. When you feel comfortable, you can remove the muzzle and keep observing. If your dog at all starts showing signs of being overly playful or running after silkies, go back to leash training.

Tips to Help Your Dog Get Along with Your Silkies

There are a few things you as the owner can do to help minimize the effects of a high prey drive, but it often proves very hard to override a strong natural instinct to hunt.

1. Do not leave them unattended

Even if Frodo seems to love looking at the silkies but does not touch them while you are around, I know of a few too many incidents of a trusted dog chomping chickens when their owner is away. Dogs will often try to provoke playing from other animals and silkies may just find this a tad intimidating if done by your silly 70 lb golden retriever. The silkie will try to get away from the intimidation and the goldie will inevitably run after and before you know it, try to catch as well. At, least when you are around, you will be able to tell him that he’s being a bad dog and stop your dog from chasing after.

2. Keep young silkies locked up

Apart from the fact that they might look a lot like a fluffy toy, young silkies scare easily which can very easily lead to a situation that will trigger prey drive in dogs. The older your silkies are when introduced to the dogs, the better they will be able to stand their ground and even defends themselves. Keep silkies younger than 6 weeks away from dogs, and preferably don’t let them out before they are able to deliver a mean defensive peck (this will be closer to 6 months old)

3. Know the exception to the rule

Small dogs, very old dogs, or dogs raised with chickens since puppy-hood (I still won’t completely trust the terriers, hound dogs, and working dogs). Are more likely to live in harmony with the silkie flock. So, your toy poodle and laid-back chihuahua will be less likely to go for it compared to a busy Jack Russel terrier but I would still spend many hours supervising the interactions to avoid regrets later on.

Dangers of Keeping Dogs and Silkies Together

Apart from your silkies being vulnerable to an attack or overly playful gesture by your dog, your dog is susceptible to a few diseases carried by silkies and vice versa.

Salmonella in chicken poop and your dog

Dogs love to eat chicken poop. We really wish they didn’t but most dogs can not resist the seemingly tasty, but gross snack. Most chickens carry salmonella in their gastrointestinal tracts and excrete it in their feces, Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal disease in some species. It is also commonly known as the main reason why you should cook chicken meat and eggs thoroughly before eating them.

Dogs are less susceptible to salmonella than, for example, humans are, but when they ingest a large number of bacteria or have a compromised immune system (due to ongoing health conditions or illnesses or old age), they can become ill. Typical clinical signs of salmonellosis are vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes containing blood) and lethargy. If you suspect that your dog may be ill due to salmonella, it is best to take them to the vet as soon as possible as salmonella can cause fatal dehydration if not treated appropriately.

Internal parasites in dogs and chickens

Dogs and chickens both have their own collection of internal parasites or worms, most of which are transmitted when one species ingest fecal matter from the other. This scenario is not hard to imagine in a setup where dogs and chickens share the same area. I do not know of a worm that has both chickens and dogs in their natural life cycle, but many internal parasites are capable of infecting other species with varying degrees of ‘success’. These infestations are usually not fatal if the parasite burden is low. The best will be to deworm all your dogs every 3 months and treat your chickens with Fenbendazole which is usually given in the poultry feed for a 7-day course. Chat to your vet about the appropriate deworming for your flock of silkies as well as your dogs.

A Word on a Common Old Wives’ Tale

Tying a dead chicken around your dog’s neck after he has killed a chicken in order to ‘teach him to not do it again is like planting a feather and thinking that a chicken will grow.

First of all, you will put your dog at risk of getting sick. Decaying meat can have a plethora of pathogenic bacteria that will in essence cause your dog to get food poisoning if he gets it in his mouth, or severe infections if it comes into contact with open wounds on his skin. Secondly, it grinds my gears when people think that dogs can argue and realize consequences the way adult humans do.

Yes, dogs are extremely intelligent beings but for them to associate an outcome with an action, the consequence needs to be immediate. Following basic dog behavior principles, in order for a dog to associate a deed with a positive or negative outcome, the reward or punishment needs to be within one second of the action.

Dogs do not feel guilt- they only anticipate anger from owners based on the human’s body language, tone of voice, and past experience. This is a whole other topic on its own, so I am not going to go into too much detail here. It basically comes down to this: if you want to rebuke your dog for doing something bad, you need to do it as soon as he showed inappropriate behavior. The same goes for rewarding good behavior- this is the fundamental recipe of dog training. This, and being consistent in how you interact with your dog.

In Conclusion

Having dogs is a huge responsibility. Having silkies is a huge responsibility. Having both dogs and silkies is an enormous responsibility. I would always err on the side of caution if there is at all any doubt that your dog might run after a silkie, no matter how sweet your pooch is.

Avoiding temptation will always be the safest and best option. If you have a dog that has been happily living alongside your silkies- that is amazing! And I am overjoyed that you can have perfect harmony and peace in your backyard.

You don’t have to look far to find heartwarming stories on the internet of chickens and dogs who are best buds. Just know that silkie-doggy friendships are the exception rather than the rule. It is not impossible- but proceed with caution!


  1. DOREY, N. R., BLANDINA, A. AND UDELL, M. A. Clicker training does not enhance learning in mixed-breed shelter puppies (Canis familiaris)
  2. SMITH, S. M. AND DAVIS, E. S. Clicker increases resistance to extinction but does not decrease training time of a simple operant task in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)
  3. FUGAZZA, C. AND MIKLÓSI, Á.Social learning in dog training: The effectiveness of the Do as I do method compared to shaping/clicker training

Dr. Annerien de Villiers

Dr. Annerien de Villiers graduated as a veterinarian from the University of Pretoria in 2018. She has since worked full-time in clinical practice tending to all kinds of companion animals in general practice. Serving the human-animal bond with care and compassion and making accurate information accessible to pet owners is at the heart of her driving force as a veterinarian.

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