Am I kidding myself?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by cafrhe, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. cafrhe

    cafrhe Songster

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    Apr 23, 2014
    Western central NJ
    I have a new chicken set up. I have 10 mostly wooded acres with 2ish acres of 'lawn' around the house. There are several mature trees in this area and the chickens have a house on wheels so I can move it around and square wire fencing surrounding the house. The wire fence is 3' high because I mistakenly believed that the 'large bodies' chickens wouldnt fly out...they dont exactly fly out, but fly to the top of the fence and hop down...I use the green metal t-posts every 6-8' to support it. Since half of them get out anyway, I often open the gate in the late afternoon to let the dumb ones out and then everyone can get back in easier.

    They are in a (hopefully) predator proof house at night. I have a semi at home business and am home a lot. Sometimes I am gone for 4 or so hours. I have 2 german shepherds. We know we have all sorts of predators and have heard the foxes close up and have seen the fox a time or 2 at our woodline. This house was empty for a year or 2 before we bought it and has a pond--fox might have gotten used to hunting on the property. Our neighbor is a goat farmer--he puts his goats up at night in a barn. We know there are coyote in the area. A farm a few miles away lost a bunch of lambs/sheep--I dont think they put them in a barn at night--I have seen run in sheds.

    A farm near them lost the whole flock of chickens in one night...not sure what got them or if the house was secure...

    So, I am often home and outside, I let my dogs loose with me when I am out. They are well trained and I encourage them to go down in to the woods at times. In the springm when we were hearing the fox, I let the dogs out every time we hear her/him. I walk the dogs around the area a few times in the evening and before bed. I am hoping that my large 'predators' presence will deter some of the other predators. So...Am I kidding myself to think that the dogs will help?

    I will probably put in permanent fencing as we get more organized. I am adding chickens and will probably have a go at the pastured eggs market.


    Thanks for any experiences--mine are pretty limited to lots of reading lol!!
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Your setup is somewhat similar to mine although you have less quality quality forage area but have larger dogs. Your dogs being out on an unpredictable basis and in good health will keep coyotes out if the coyotes are small like mine (~35 lbs). If you are in northeast then coyote issue needs to be revisited. At night be sure allow dogs to tell you when they want out as they can hear what goes on outside very well to deter raccoons and the like. Red Fox will be your biggest headache, especially if birds forage any distance from house as the fox will not respect even defended territory boundaries like a coyote will. Fox has to be driven out each time it visits but fox will learn not to push issue if given a good scare once in a while. Owls and hawks will be a different challenge you will need to deal with through experience.
     
  3. cafrhe

    cafrhe Songster

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    Apr 23, 2014
    Western central NJ
    Thanks for your experience.

    The dogs are very alert to the outside and do let me know when they are 'interested'. They quickly learned that the fox call was a reason to be outside and would alert immediately. Both dogs are willing to 'run' something, one calls back quickly and the other, thankfully, is getting old!!!lol. So the fox have had a several scares. The dogs are working line shepherds and pretty keen (and thank goodness, got very quickly that the chickens are 'mine').

    Right now the girls stay pretty close to the house (100ish feet). My current thinking is that when I do put in permanent fencing, it will be in the woods. I have an acre across the driveway that will be getting opened up a bit over the next few years. There will still be a canopy, but small trees and some undergrowth will be cleared. The chickens may share that with goats. Currently there is a lot of multiflora rose chocking the area.

    I would very much to keep the girls pastured with a large area to forage, but also want to keep them from getting eaten.
    Thanks!
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    To maintain quality forage, allow some patches to grow taller possibly a foot between mowings and make certain some legumes like white clover present. My area looks a little like a golf course in terms of pattern. Some areas serving as walkways are cut very short to form perimters around taller stands. Outside this the landscape looks like a savanah. Makes for excellent green eats and locally abundant insects.
     
  5. cafrhe

    cafrhe Songster

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    Apr 23, 2014
    Western central NJ
    so...I was reading that the taller grass might be bad for their crops, the long strands not passing through as well??? I have a wide variety of grasses (or not grasses--but green, not sure of all the species) and flowers that I do allow to grow to some length. I have noticed that when I do mow (it has not been consistent this summer due to mower troubles..) and they are let out, after visiting the flower/shrub garden, they are all over the grass areas. They do appear to be eating grass strands. They are, of course, happiest in the leaf litter and mulch.

    I have had a hawk or 2 in my yard for the last 2 days. One was calling constantly all day. I finally saw the bird calling and confirmed it was a hawk. Not sure which kind or why it was calling, I didnt see a 2nd hawk, but sort of thought the calling was for a mate. Made me nervous, but the hawk stayed in the back yard and the chickens are in the front yard.
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    This time of year most hawks doing the calling are juvenile and talking to parents and possibly siblings. Parents likely still provisioning young that are just now starting to hunt for themselves.


    Tall grass for me is not a problem. Birds consume plenty of grit and they are accustomed to such fare and usually pass it up for more tender growth. The problem comes with bird suffering a major rapid diet change with large grass or large grains included.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    We may need to compare notes. I see interesting variations in foraging behavior as a function of weather.
     
  8. cafrhe

    cafrhe Songster

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    Apr 23, 2014
    Western central NJ
    How do you mean? At this point I have only several months of experience with my chicken's foraging habits. But I do know that they have won and I move the fence back where they wanted it....Their favorite spot are along my roadside fence line--5' wire fence along a row of overgrown cedars. Poison ivy, another ivy, lots of leaf litter and wild berries. They have made dust bath areas in there and when I moved the fence to let that area rest...they flew over and congregated there anyway. So, I just fenced a bigger area that included their spot. When they escape, they immediately go to an over grown garden area that has mulch. Lots of bushes and some new flowers. They scratch through the entire area and then move out to the grass. I had mown this morning and sat with them this afternoon while on the phone. I watched them eating the grass--sort of like grazing.
     
  9. cafrhe

    cafrhe Songster

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    Apr 23, 2014
    Western central NJ
    Thank you for the hawk behavior info. I think I either have a Cooper's hawk or Red Tail. My chickens are RiRs and BOs, EEs and BAs. All 23ish weeks old
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    I have tracked foraging every 15 minutes from time before coming off roost to returning. Routes taken vary greatly with temperature and wind direction. When temperatures extreme they move to avoid extremes. When temperatures mild and dry they move to take advantage of insect drift. When wet they hunt other locations. Predator pressure also impacts ranging habits.




    Coopers are easy to beat with a good rooster. Red-tails tougher and without proper cover your dogs may become your frontline defense from those yahoos.
     

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