Clarification about predators

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by glib, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. glib

    glib Songster

    Dec 8, 2007
    Greetings, I am gearing up to build coop and run when the ground will unfreeze (Feb. 15), and I have to get a better idea about predators. I am new to the thing but 3 neighbors have chickens. In my neighborhood, virtually all losses have been due to racoons, as seen from the beheaded bodies left behind. But we have also coyotes, foxes, I assume there are rats, and there are numerous hawks now, after the West Nile virus wiped out the crows that kept them away. We have also possums and skunks.

    I will certainly cover the lower part of the fence in hardware cloth, I already have experience with underground fences, having successfully excluded rabbits and groundhogs from my gardens.

    I think I should be able to build a strong coop, but of course keeping rats out is difficult as they can squeeze into really tight spaces. I see that some of the coops on this site are on stilts. Is it to keep out the rats? If so, will baffles on the stilts help?
    Do you recommend that chicks be separated from their mothers and taken into the house? Or can they be left all together in a more secure part of the coop (say, inside a hardware cloth cage for the night)?

    The second thing I don't quite get are hawks. I have seen them take animals (snakes or squirrels) and I find it hard to believe they can fly off with a full grown chicken, which weighs more than they do. I will only have large breeds and I will let them free range on weekends. The pullets will stay in until they get to a certain size, but given that hawks are the sole frequent day predator around my place, do I really have to look over them or can I go about my business while outside with them.
  2. BantyChickMom

    BantyChickMom Songster

    Sep 25, 2007
    Henderson, NC
    You may do well to add a roo to the bunch as he will keep an eye out for possible dangers and warn the girls to take cover.
  3. rooster-red

    rooster-red Here comes the Rooster

    Jun 10, 2007
    Douglasville GA
    A hawk can swoop down, grab a full size chicken withrazor sharp talons, and even if it can't fly off with it, will have inflicted fatal wounds even if you are standing a few feet from it.
  4. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    Hawks will kill and eat a chicken on the ground. In areas where they are plentiful, their favorite prey is pheasant. They have a lot of experience killing a large, ground dwelling bird. Large hawks have killed many chickens and you can read in past threads about people on this forum that have witnessed attacks on their own birds. They are a serious threat.

    As for rats, my understanding is that 1/2" hardware cloth will keep them out. 1/4" will keep out mice. Apparently there are quite a few chickens that are very good mousers, though! I usually go with the 1/2", as it's a stronger gauge wire and we have a lot of big predators around here.

    I think a coop on stilts is popular for several reasons. Contact with soil eventually rots wood, it's easier on the back to do chores in a coop that's elevated and if you raise it high enough, the area under the coop provides a shaded and dry area for the chickens to go under, which is a good use of space. Having the coop only slightly off the ground encourages pests to take up residence, though.
  5. tiffanyh

    tiffanyh Songster

    Apr 8, 2007
    I have too lost a chicken to a hawk-ate her on the ground. Getting a roo or building a second coop with guinea hens and letting them free range together will cut down the hawk deaths. Although, some members have had bad luck houseing guineas with chickens.

    I have also lost one to a weasel who snuck though my chain link overnight.

    Safest thing would be to plan on closing them in a coop at night. I have a coop on stilts, that way I have a whole floor instead of a dirt floor. It make me feel more comfortable about what can and cant get in. Raccons can still manipulate doors so some members lock theirs with a pad lock at night.
  6. glib

    glib Songster

    Dec 8, 2007
    Thanks. I will certainly get a rooster, a pad lock, and I will buy a lot of hardware cloth to secure the coop. Let me briefly describe the immediate surroundings of the coop: within 5 ft of the coop entrance there is a large arbor with hardy kiwi and grape vines, about 8 ft tall, 12 wide, and 25 long. Another 30 ft and there are two large japanese maples, and on another side of the area which I would like them to roam, there are several trees. The kiwi and the maples are excellent cover. Perhaps it is not so bad, if they learn to stay near cover, they will also stay near the house instead of wandering into the woods (to get there they have to cross 300 ft of open fields) where they would get nailed right away.

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