Sustainable Living Center Oregon
Besides providing basic care for your flock, protecting chickens from predators tops the must-DO list for a chicken keeper. When thinking about the onslaught of predators your chickens may face, it’s important to remember why predators are so interested in our feathered friends. When we keep backyard chickens, we put an all-you-can-eat buffet in our backyards. For a predator, life is tough. They’ve got to find a food source and then use all their tools to catch that food. Yes, they’re sated at that point, but hunger is never far away. Your backyard coop is their grocery store.
That’s also the crucial point to remember when protecting chickens from predators. Yes, you’ve put out the all-you-can-eat buffet, but you don’t have to make it easy to belly up to that buffet. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts that will help you keep your flock safe.
DO use 1/2-inch hardware cloth to secure openings in your coop. Hardware cloth is welded wire. It’s sturdy and not easily ripped open, unlike chicken wire which is not predator-proof. Make sure even the smallest of holes are secured.
If you find weasels killing chickens, check for mouse and rodent tunnels. Weasels like to use those tunnels to gain entry to the coop. Be sure to bury your hardware cloth at least six inches down into the ground and a foot out horizontally from the coop. This will stop digging predators. Even if you have windows with screens in your coop, make sure to add the welded wire too. Screens help keep the bugs out. Hardware cloth keeps the predators out.
DO know what predators are in your area. If you’re new to the area, you may want to check with your neighbors or the local extension agency to find a list of local culprits. Many predators, such as raccoons and foxes, can be found nationwide, but others are more local and may require some extra protection to keep them at bay.
DO change up your protection techniques on a regular basis. Predators are smart and they get used to routines and things that stay in place for a long time. For example, if you’ve got a scarecrow in the yard, move it to a different place every few days.
DO try to identify a culprit if you lose a chicken. “What killed my chicken?” is a common question when someone suffers a loss. It may not seem immediately important since the deed has already been done, but it can be one of the most important questions asked. Protection techniques can vary from predator to predator. So, if you know what caused your loss, you can better protect the remaining flock members.
DO know your local and national laws. When you’re protecting your chickens from predators, you don’t want to run into legal troubles. While there are no-kill traps at your local farm store, many localities do not allow folks to trap and release. Directly killing a predator may or may not be allowed in your area and may vary from species to species. Plus, birds of prey are a protected species. It is illegal to harm them in any way. When figuring out how to protect chickens from hawks, methods must be proactive and not lethal.
DO embrace technology. Yes, we chicken keepers are a hardy sort, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use some extra help. Things like automatic chicken coop doors with built-in predator motion detection that can send you email alerts, night guard solar lights, and wildlife cameras can make all the difference.
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