Early May, a massacre happened to our chickens. A neighbor’s dogs had torn through our chicken’s pin, easily ripping through the chicken wire that had covered their roof and gaining access to our coop and run. It was a challenging experience to go through, but it taught my wife and me a precious lesson that we need to protect our chickens better than what we were currently doing.
We knew our neighbor’s dogs weren’t the only animal licking its chops at a chance to sink their claws and devour a free chicken dinner; we had to look into what the best animal would be to protect our chickens from becoming a free meal.
We decided to look into getting a guardian animal for our chickens.
What is the Best Animal to Protect Chickens?
A Guardian Dog is one of the best animals to protect your chickens. Donkeys, llamas, and even Alpacas are reliable when it comes to protecting your chickens from danger; these guardian animals will signal danger and attack the predator that trespasses while it’s on guard.
A more natural choice for protecting your flock is to use a rooster. A rooster will signal when danger is near, alerting the hens and chicks to seek and take cover.
Another, and albeit less common guardian animal, is Guinea Hens. Guineas will chase everything that’s in its territory, including you and the mailman.
When protecting your chickens by using guard animals, you must understand that with each animal presents a unique set of challenges that you might have to overcome; we will explain what those challenges are as we discuss your options in the sections below.
Best Guardian Dog Breeds
Having a guardian dog for your chickens is one of the more easy options to choose from. They are fast and are efficient at protecting their post.
The best guardian dog breeds we recommend are:
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Great Pyrenees
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Tibetan Mastiff
Things to Consider About a Guardian Dog
Raising your guardian dogs from puppies around your chickens will reduce the chances of them turning on your chickens and hunting them. This starts by teaching your dogs to respect your flock and not play with or treat them like toys.
A word of caution about using dogs as your guardian animal: dogs, if not appropriately trained to work with your animals, can be more of a predator than a protector.
It’s safe and better to pair multiple guardian dogs together with your flock. As guardian dogs will work better in pairs; they will communicate with each other to help oppose would-be intruders. Making for a much more effective response to a potential threat.
You should also keep in mind various breeds of dogs are not suitable for being a guardian if the dog is used for hunting; it’s recommended to avoid that breed.
Alpacas as Guard Animals
The Alpaca has been domesticated for over millennia, they are well adapted in defending their territory against small to midsize predators.
Alpacas will consider smaller animals, such as sheep and chickens, a part of their herd, defending them when needed.
Because alpacas are prey animals themselves, they are always on the alert, ready to protect their area at a moment’s notice.
Alpacas are fast-moving and will let out high-pitched noises and even spit at the invaders. They will kick and trample predators who are not fast enough to get out of the way.
If you are considering an Alpaca as a guard animal, remember they are social by nature, so it’s essential to have at least two at minimum.
Alpacas are also highly adapted to canine threats, it’s essential to keep your own dogs away from them whenever possible for your dog’s protection.
It’s also highly recommended to get a wether or castrated male Alpaca s they will be the most on alert and ready to defend your flock.
A few other details about alpacas:
- Alpacas weigh about 125 pounds
- Reach an average height of 47-59 inches
- Alpacas consume the same pastured foods as other hooved animals.
A downside to the Alpaca is they often will not consider a bird of prey as a threat to its territory; if you have hawks, eagles, falcon, etc., in your area, you may want to consider additional protection methods.
Donkeys as Guard Animals
You should consider donkeys as a great addition to your farm as a guardian animal for your chickens and other livestock.
A donkey is naturally aggressive and will defend its territory using its teeth and hovels very aggressively against its attackers. This will extend to your other animals, not because it’s guarding them but because the predators are in the donkey’s territory.
Donkeys typically can’t handle multiple canine attackers, and larger predators such as wolves, bears, mountain lions, etc.
Donkeys come in a big range of sizes. We have some details in the table below.
|Miniature||under 36″ at the withers||200 to 450 pounds|
|Small Standard||over 36″ and up to and including 48″||less than 400 lbs|
|Large Standard||over 48″ and under 54″ for jennies and over 48″ and under 56″ for jacks (males) and geldings||400 to 500 lbs|
|Large||over 54″ for jennies and over 56″ for jacks or geldings.||over 1,000 pounds|
Llamas as Guard Animals
Llamas are a lot more social than donkeys and are great protectors of the territory in which they live.
If you are considering adding a Llama to your pasture, consider adding only one. Research shows that adding more than one Llama to your field will make the LLamas bond with each other and ignore the rest of the pasture.
Average height and weight for Llamas
- Height: 2.7 – 3.2 ft. (Adult, At the withers)
- Mass: 110 – 190 lbs (Adult)
One con about Llamas is that much like Alpacas, birds of prey are often ignored. If you have problems with this type of predator you may want to consider alternative protection methods for your chickens.
Roosters the Natural Chicken Guardian
Roosters are the natural protector of the flock. They will protect your hens, sounding an alarm and herding their hens to a safe place.
A protective rooster will always keep an eye out for predators and will even approach a predator to keep a closer look on them.
Roosters are so dedicated to their flock that it isn’t uncommon for them to sacrifice themselves so their flock can get to safety.
We have another article that goes over more of the benefits of having a rooster.
I will be perfectly honest, I personally don’t like Guinea fowl. They are loud, noisy and they are not really tameable. If you have neighbors within close proximity they might not appreciate how loud they can become.
However, if you want to alert your chicken flock and the neighborhood to any would-be predator they are a great choice.
A word of caution, Guinea Roosters in some cases try to breed with your hens. This can hurt your girls causing pulled feathers and sores. If you see this happen, do your best to separate the rooster from the chicken run and coop.
Other Predator Prevention Methods
While you can’t prevent all predators from going on to your property and attacking your chickens, you can make it less inviting for them.
Here are our top suggestions for keeping your chickens safe without having a guardian animal.
- Maintain your property
- Keep your grass cut
- Remove debris where predators could possibly hide or live
- Keep Trash Lids Sealed Tightly
- Bring in pet food at night.
- Install motion-sensing lights if possible
- Extend your fencing a few inches in the ground to discourage predators that will dig
We have a more detailed article on how to predator proof your chicken coop. Check it out if you want to protect your flock even further.
You should always consider what’s best for yourself and your flock. If you are having problems with predators adding a guardian animal might be a great choice to thwart of would-be predators.
The goal is to reduce stress in your chickens, so you can have happy productive chickens.
Just remember, adding guardian animals adds an extra workload to your daily caretaking chores. If you are unable to dedicate the time needed to tend to your new protectors needs adding one might not be for you.
Please remember that keeping larger guardian animals requires a decent amount of space and facilities to remain happy and perform their job well. If you don’t have sufficient space, please consider a smaller guardian animal like a dog.