Domestic Chicken Predators: Do Dogs and Cats Kill Chickens?

We worry about wild animals killing our chickens, but what about dogs and cats? Do dogs and cats kill chickens? Simply put, yes. But there's more to the story and it varies depending on the culprit. Cats are not top of the list for killing adult chickens, but dogs are another matter. Dog problems can happen fast, be devastating and sometimes pit neighbor against neighbor. It's important for backyard flock owners to know the laws around dogs killing chickens and how to make sure your birds stay safe.


Cats don't normally top the list of what killed my chicken. They are smart animals. They quickly learn that adult chickens should not be messed with or damage could be had, and not damage to the chicken. Adult chickens have the advantage of size (unless they're a bantam breed) and dangerous tools such as beaks, toenails and spurs.

On a personal note, I have three outdoor cats and they steer clear of the chickens. In rare instances, I've actually seen the chickens chase the cats.

When you're raising baby chickens, whether in a brooder or under a broody, that's where the real issue with cats comes into play. Baby chickens are bite-sized and you can't underestimate your cat's genetic inner workings that have pre-programmed hunting instincts. Put a bunch of baby chicks in front of your cat and he’s going to want to play or hunt. Acting on either instinct does not end well for the baby chicken.

Until your chickens mature to a good size, it’s best to keep them in a secured area that cats cannot access. This keeps your chicks safe and doesn’t put your cats in a position to do something wrong. In the brooder, use a lid. When your chicks are outside, make sure they’re in an enclosure. If you're using a broody to raise your chicks, don't leave it all to her. Broodies are good, but they're not infallible. Don’t let your chickens roam without supervision until their size is no longer an issue or temptation. At that point, your cats will have no interest.


Dogs are said to be the number one killer of chickens, excluding, of course, livestock guardian dogs that are trained to protect. Do dogs kill chickens? Yes. Losses can come from your own dogs, your neighbors’ dogs and by free-roaming, feral dogs.

For me, our family dog was never a problem. But early on, my flock was attacked by roaming dogs. The attack came from nowhere and we lost 10 hens at once. We saw the dogs as they were running away. We did not dispatch the dogs because we were busy trying to save our chickens, but a neighbor whose own dogs were being attacked by the roaming dogs did.

This is the rub with dogs. They can cause maximum damage in a short period of time! With a wild predator, they may take one or two birds at a time. If you’re trying to figure out how to keep chickens away from hawks or how to protect chickens from owls at least there’s some sense to it. Hawks have to eat too. With dogs, they’re not killing for food, they are killing for fun. When the bird stops moving, they lose interest and go on to the next.

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What is Your Recourse if Your Chickens Are Attacked by Dogs?

The best advice for this problem is to know your neighbors and your local laws before a problem ever happens.

With your neighbors, be proactive. Let them know you're keeping a backyard flock and ask them to keep an eye on their dogs. That way everyone is on the same page.

Protect your flock as best as you can. Use fencing and other predator protection methods. But be realistic, things can and do happen. We had a fenced yard and the dogs that attacked our chickens still got inside. Roaming dogs are resourceful.

If you find a dog or a pack of dogs preparing for an attack or in the middle of an attack, this is when you need to know your laws and have a plan of action in place, because you’re going to be upset. Hopefully, your preparation will allow you to be clear-headed.

Do your local laws allow you to shoot the dog(s)? Laws vary by location. Some say you can shoot if the dog is preparing to attack, others say the dog has to actually be harming your animal, others say you can’t shoot.

If you can’t shoot, how else can you scare off the attackers without getting hurt yourself? Also, what about chasing the attacking dog after it’s done and shooting it then? Usually, that’s not allowed, but know your laws, because that gets into even more legalities.

It’s also good to let law enforcement know about the attack. They can be on the alert for animals roaming the neighborhood.

No matter what, always have an emergency first aid kit on hand. Make sure to tend to any injuries and seek veterinary care if needed. When my flock was attacked, I gathered up the survivors and kept everyone confined in the chicken run and coop for a few days. I wanted them to feel safe again, and during that time, I gave everyone extra treats and special attention. Chickens are hardy animals and mine bounced back quickly.
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