Will German Shepherds Kill Chickens?

Warning: This introduction video between a German Shepherd and a chick may give you a heart attack. Please do not try this at home.

In general, German Shepherds have a natural instinct to chase running animals. And GSD will grab, bite, injure, or accidentally kill chickens out of their prey drive. But this behavior can be changed if your dog is trained properly.

In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the common causes for dogs killing chickens or chicks. We will share some methods on how to deal with the situation – to prevent this from happening.

Read on if you are a German Shepherd owner with chickens in your farm or backyard or at your neighbor’s.

Also read:

Will German Shepherd Dogs Kill Cats?

Can a German Shepherd Kill a Coyote?

Can a German Shepherd Dog Kill You? (With Stats and Real Cases)

German Shepherd vs Wolf – What is the Difference?

7 Things You Didn’t Know Your Dog Can Sense

Understanding a Dog’s Instincts

First thing first, dogs, like any other animals, do not kill out of rage or revenge.

Even though the action is outrageously horrible, it is really not the dog’s fault. They are predators by nature and it’s hardwired into their blood and their genes to physically attack for good reasons (in a dog’s view).

Let’s look into the dog’s mind to better understand the reason behind the act of killing:

Prey Drive

Prey drive is inherited in all carnivores, including dogs. It works to motivate them to hunt for food. While pet dogs rarely need to prey on other animals, this instinct remains in their trait.

Their target is usually a small animal, such as a cat, frog, squirrel or bird (a chicken or chick to be specific in this context).

What fires a dog’s prey drive is movement. Sudden and quick movement triggers a reflexive response in your German Shepherd. If your GSD sees a running chicken, his prey drive could have triggered him to chase. 

Protective Instinct

German Shepherds are known to be more protective than others. 

GSDs’ natural instinct is to protect their owner and family. A roaming chicken in your farm or backyard is considered by your dog as an intruder into his territory. He is bound to protect as a German Shepherd would normally do.

Moral Boundaries

Unlike humans, dogs do not have moral boundaries to tell them slaughtering is an act of evil. 

If your dog started chasing after a fleeing chicken and ended up fatally wounding the chicken, you have to accept that your dog is only acting out of their basic instants – it is totally normal behavior. 

Just as killing mice may be part of being a cat.

Why do German Shepherds kill chickens?

There may be many different causes for a dog to kill a chicken. Let’s take a closer look:

1. Your German Shepherd has a strong prey drive

Prey drive is hard-wired into their blood. And usually follows a sequence of behavior –  searching, stalking, chasing, grab-biting, and kill-biting. 

Thus, a German Shepherd with a strong prey drive will chase and eventually kill small animals, including chickens.

2. Your German Shepherd reacts to its natural instinct

German Shepherds, if not properly trained, may chase every moving object, like cats, birds, rabbits, or squirrels. He is just being a dog.

Chasing doesn’t apply to chicken alone.

They chase other running animals as a natural instinct as well. It just happens to be a roaming chicken in his territory.  And your German Shepherd is acting out of his instinct to chase.

3: Your German Shepherd is bored

German Shepherds are working dogs. If there’s no work to do, they look for work or things to entertain themselves.

If you’re unable to spend enough time to exercise or play with your dog, then they’ll find a way to play with others. Your cats, for example.

This could be the reason for your dog’s going after chickens in their proximity. And chances are things have gotten out of hand.  

4. Your German Shepherd is doing his guarding job

You should be proud. German Shepherds are one of the best guarding dogs in the world.

Your neighbor’s roaming chicken in your backyard is seen by your GSD as an intruder to his owner’s property. Your German Shepherd is only doing his job to protect your home and family. 

5. Your German Shepherd may feel unwell

Injury and illness are common reasons for a tame dog to show aggressiveness all of sudden. 

Did the chicken stray across your dog’s property? 

If your GSD isn’t feeling well or is in pain, she may not even want to be approached or touched by his best pal. 

You should be alert of any change of behavior in your furry friend, including lack of appetite, weight loss, or sudden aggression. If in doubt, consult a vet.

How to prevent your german shepherd from killing chickens?

Just because it’s hard-wired into their blood does not mean that it cannot be prevented with proper training. But chances are if your German Shepherd has killed chickens before, he is very likely to do it again if left untrained. 

And it is heartbroken if the chicken happens to be your livestock that you spent time and effort to care for them. 

In general, there are three ways you can deal with it:

1. Separation

This may not sound easy for some people who live on a farm or prefer to let their dog off-leash on their own property. 

Do whatever was necessary to contain your dog in a way that would ensure he remains on your property.

2. Training

It’s the owners’ 100% responsibility to teach their German Shepherd proper manners towards other people, dogs or animals. There’s no denying about it.

We have identified some areas you could work on from our post: Will German Shepherd Kill Cats?

And they are:

  1. Socialize, Socialize and Socialize
  2. Say “Leave it” to chasing
  3. Apply “redirection”
  4. Practice “animal-distancing”

Do take a look to see if they work for you. 

Wag! Has also written a very useful blog post on How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Chickens, where there are 3 training methods you can use.

Remember it’s not magic and don’t expect it to go away overnight. The key is to be consistent and patient.

3. Seek professional help

If the above doesn’t work, you might want to hire a dog trainer.

Or if you are unsure, seek advice from a veterinary behaviorist if you can. 

What to do if your German Shepherd kills a neighbor’s chicken?

If the chicken strays accross (or accidentally flies over) to your property 

Chances are that someone is allowing their chicken to roam without supervision.  And your GSD might happen to fatally injure it to guard against your property, which he sees as an intruder. 

As long as your dog isn’t leaving your property and going to your neighbor’s to kill the chicken, you or your GSD could not be blamed. You may be nice enough to offer compensation to show your condolences. 

If your GSD goes to your neighbor’s property to kill the chicken

Depending on where you live,  in most rural jurisdictions, it’s perfectly legal for the owner of livestock to shoot a dog that is killing, running, or injuring their livestock.

For the safety of your beloved dog and the chickens next door, you may need to confine your dog in a certain area or set up physical barriers to keep him from getting too close to your neighbor’s birds.

Further Questions

How do you treat the wounds of a chicken that has been attacked?

Skin injuries need immediate attention. For shallow wounds, wash the area with hot water and soap and gently pat dry, or clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide. If the wound continues to bleed, use styptic powder or pressure to stop it. (Further reading: How to Treat Cuts and Wounds in Chickens – dummies)

How do I know if my chicken is in pain?

Common indications of a sick chicken include:

  • hiding
  • inactivity
  • pale comb or wattles
  • unusual droppings
  • unusual posture
  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite
  • reduced egg production

These are all clues that closer observation is needed. (Source: Hobbyfarm.com)

What can I give my chicken painkillers?

As long as there are no internal injuries, an aspirin drinking water solution can be offered to an injured chicken for a maximum of three days at the ratio of 5 aspirin tablets (total of 325 mg) to one gallon of water. (Source: How to Care for an Injured Chicken)

Will my German Shepherd get sick if he eats the chicken he killed?

Most dogs can digest raw meat including chicken without suffering any negative symptoms. So, you probably won’t have to worry too much. But if might be a sign that he is no well-fed if he keeps on doing it. (Further reading: Can Dogs Eat Chicken? by AKC)

Can I eat the chicken that was killed by my dog?

If not exposed to heat (e.g. sun) and bacteria (e.g wet floor or sewage) and no sign of deterioration can be identified, you may eat it after it is well cooked, given both your dog and chicken are healthy before the incident.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, dogs are only dogs and can only behave as instinct leads them to. Again, with proper training, this behavior can be changed.

Therefore, it is every pet parent’s full responsibility to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being! As most experienced GSD owners would advise you: Train your dog early on.