Chickens and the Predators that Love Them

I’m not going into a big discussion on if you should corral your chickens. I’m just going to say why you should corral them.

In my forays into the forums in the last couple weeks, I’ve seen some discussion on how to keep chickens from ending up on a predator’s menu. The thieves can be just about anything: hawks, owls, eagles, coyotes, foxes, opossums, family dogs…. They come from the air, along the ground and sometimes under the ground to get past enclosures. Unless you are willing, or able, to lose a few birds now and then, you really should expend some energy to protect them.

Free range chickens are just that, FREE. The are free to the boldest hunter. I’m sorry, there simply is no way for free range birds to remain safe. An eagle will land and WALK into a chicken safe zone. It will come down and hunt beneath cover if it feels safe. Dogs will beat on an enclosure, chew at a hasp, dig under a border and can be amazingly quick when they spot a meal strutting past. Intelligent four legged hunters of all types will find opportunity to kill a bird and sneak off with it leaving to discover the fact only hours later. If you are not present at the wrong time, the entire flock can be ravaged.

From Backyard Chickens

There is only one way to keep chickens safe, and that is in a box with a floor and a solidly locking door. It has to be able to handle the body slam of an excited dog. Now, most of us don’t go that far. Some use chicken tractors. These have a great utility, and keep birds fairly safe, if no digger dogs are around. Digging takes time, so periodic monitoring will help keep that threat at bay. The netting used should be a heavy welded wire that can handle aggressive pushing without separating from the frame. I like heavy staples. Use them at every wire-to-frame contact point if you have big dogs in the area. Makes sure the birds can get into their roost area via an opening the dogs can’t use. They need a way to escape.

Coops should be built to prevent access under the walls. Ours is raised off the ground and has typical home construction. Nothing is getting into it except perhaps a snake – and we have none of those here. If yours is built on the ground, or has a foundation, be sure that wire netting or some other material is attached the the base of the walls and extends underground at least 12″. Diggers will believe the blockade goes on forever and give up.

I built a run attached to our coop. Simple construction that met the ground and extended down about 4″. This was constructed prior to the arrival of our little Russel Terrier.  She is a digger. Found that out when I found a bird dead in the yard, and a large hole tunneling under the threshold of the run. The run is now protected on two side by a fence, and on the other sides by flagstones. No dog will be able to dig under them, or relocate them.

Our tractor is overdue for new netting. I will upgrade the cat-proof chicken wire assembly with welded wire designed to keep the dog out. The grass that the birds so love, and are given access to with the tractor, also slows down the digging. Good roots systems tie together and reinforce the ground. Still, I will need to be on top of it when the dog is in the chicken yard – because she will never outgrow digging for a meal.

Large areas used to free range chickens can work well with a tractor. Built large enough, and without diggers nearby, they can easily be moved about to supply the birds with fresh “range” to use. If you do have diggers, and must get the birds here and there, consider using a solar powered electric fence (with battery) and run the wires around the base. The digger’s nose will be subject to a nasty surprise, and perhaps that will be all the training needed. It will certainly buy you time.

Protect your birds! Built well, an enclosure of any type will keep giving you returns on your investment. If you don’t, predators will certainly return FOR your investment.

 

 

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