Living With Predators


I'm fortunate to live on an island without a lot of predators: big (bear, fox, coyote, bobcat) or small (skunk, opossum, snakes). We do have transient cougars, but the deer population is quite healthy so there've been no run-ins with farmers or pet owners.

We're not without predators: there are eagles, hawks, owls, mink, marten and raccoons. Ravens can take eggs and birds and even kill piglets and lambs. Some people are plagued with successive waves of different predators. I have neighbours on all sides that have lost chickens to raccoons or mink.

So far, knock wood, I've been very lucky. In 9 years of keeping chickens I've had to deal with very few predators.

The neighbours' dog grabbed a pullet, twice, but did no lasting damage. I've had one raccoon attack - in broad daylight. I managed to grab the injured hen back from the coon and she made a full recovery.

My only real predators have been hawks. I've had eight chickens killed and one injured over the years. Two hens were killed when my flock was free-ranging and the other attacks occurred when they were penned. I've seen Cooper's and Sharp Shinned Hawks around, which seem to have the most success going after my bantams and young birds.

I've spent a lot of time and energy netting the top of my pens, but they are large (1200 sq. ft and 480 sq. ft) with trees and structures which makes it difficult. Each pen has a 10'x20' car canopy in it, which makes it easier to support the netting, especially when it snows.

Last March, when I went to lock up my birds this Barred Owl was sitting on the corner post of my pen. I ran back to the house to get my camera and it let me take some photos and was still there when I went back into the house for the night.

My pen is now pretty well covered - in fact, I had to pull the netting down to take these pictures. That owl was out hunting mice and rats and I have no fear it was after my birds.

If you've got an issue with mice or rats, please don't use poison to kill them. They are often eaten by owls who, in turn, die a slow and painful death. I use snap traps, which are safe and effective when used properly. I put them down at night under a covered box and pick them up first thing in the morning so wild birds and other creatures don't get into them.

I live on acreage in the country. It's my job to secure my birds the best I can and to live in harmony with the wild animals that share my space.
About author
I live on a small Gulf Island in the Pacific Northwest off the the coast of British Columbia.

I've kept chickens for the last 9 years and although I have some purebreds I love to breed crosses that look interesting (i.e. crests, muffs, beards, frizzles, patterned, spangled, etc) and also lay coloured eggs.

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Helpful article on protecting the flock from hawks and Owls
Good read but would be nice if it were set out on each individual predator.
I'll be doing more on predators and how to recognize which ones cause particular damage and how to improve predator proofing.
A bit more detail and this would have been 5 star material.
A realistic view of keeping chickens and trying to adapt to nature rather than try to kill every predator.
The netting made me think of fish nets for run roofs. I can see how this may work better than a tight chicken wire arrangement which I have seen fail a few times on local farms here.
I've got lightweight plastic deer netting. The larger holes (i.e. 2"x2") work better when it snows. The type with smaller holes got pulled down with the weight and the finer mesh actually ripped. I've experimented with a few different kinds of netting and this seems to be working. My span is pretty big - 30' x 40' - so it can't be too heavy before the added weight of rain/snow.


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