Coexisting with wildlife-possible?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by LizFM, Jan 15, 2010.

  1. LizFM

    LizFM Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This might be more of a philosophical question/discussion...but I do hope to get actual, practical suggestions and experiences.

    I was recently reading an article in a gardening magazine about backyard wildlife habitats. The author mentioned how excited they were to find owls on their property. Which of course made me think, "I bet you don't have chickens!"

    We are wildlife lovers (both my husband and I have graduate degrees in environmental science - me in social science and him in bioscience). I grew up in a family that loved to visit natural areas and wildlife refuges. I've always been excited about seeing wildlife of all kinds (at home or away), even when we had chickens (less so to see them eyeing my chickens [​IMG] ). Before we moved, our backyard was actually a wildlife habitat certified by the national wildlife federation. Habitat destruction and expanding human populations in many areas mean fewer places for native wildlife to live and eat, which is an issue that might be of concern to exactly the type of person who would be interested in producing their own food by having chickens.

    Of course, wildlife who are predators will decimate backyard flocks unless you keep them in Coop Knox. Wild birds which are non-predatory are potential disease carriers. BYCers are warned about the dangers of wildlife of all types.

    My question is, do we have to choose between having backyard chickens and enjoying the experience of watching wildlife in our own back yards? Philosophical comments? Practical experiences?
     
  2. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, while i cringe at the idea of seeing a hawk or an owl while my chickens are out during the day, i am perfectly happy with their safety at night, which is when raccoons and possums go after them.

    I think the two go hand in hand; they do at my house anyway. The chickens and the squirrels and the pretty little birds i don't know the names of all frolic around together in the trees and yard. It's really lovely to watch them.

    Also, we have a semi-wild rooster who won't be caught in a coop (but freely partakes of our chicken feed) who lives in the trees. He actually lived alone in the woods for months before my chickens were outside very much. He has lived in our wildlife-friendly woods without a problem. But he's experienced. [​IMG]

    All this rambling to say, no, i do not think the two are in any way mutually exclusive.
     
  3. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I free range all day whether I'm home or not. I've had possums, rats and feral cats living in the yard. I've had a family of raccoons share the yard and cherries, during the day with the chickens. I've seen bald eagles and hawks circling overhead. Had only 1 loss 5-6 years ago bright sunny afternoon, with me in the yard, less than 10 ft away. Never saw or heard anything.

    I wouldn't recommend it unless you like the taste of your heart in your throat, but it works OK for me.

    BTW the cats and raccoons get along fine. The only thing preyed upon is the rats. Good thing.

    The last couple years more neighbors are cleaning up their yards and there are more dogs so the wildlife is getting scarce.

    Imp
     
  4. Ibicella

    Ibicella Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Honestly, I think most of us here cohabitate quite well with nature most of the time. If you view the Game Cam threads, you end up opening your eyes to see the abundance of wildlife that comes in our yards when we are not there to watch.

    Coop Knox and a good guard dog is going to be your best bet for protecting your flock and not having to take action against the wildlife. But even if you do have to shoot the occasional chicken-killer possum or raccoon, you're still going to have many more around that won't ever become a problem.

    I definitely recommend a game cam, not just to check for predator issues if you have a problem, but also so you don't miss the life going on around you.
     
  5. cracking up

    cracking up Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm always surprised when people have so much trouble with preditors during the day. We have a lot of red tailed hawks and they've never been a problem. We've never thought about locking our chickens and ducks up during the day. I did lose a couple of young ducks to an owl but it was after dusk and I didn't get them put away in time. We do really lock up tight at night and still lose some to weasels and our game cam shows a good sized bob cat that visits a lot. We love the wild life and it would be a hard decision for us not to see our chickens running in the yard. Guess we've been lucky with the big birds. Not so lucky at night. Wild animals are hungry and smart, guess we have enough gophers to keep the hawks fat and happy.
     
  6. yotetrapper

    yotetrapper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My neighbor free ranges his chickens, loses 20+ a year, just buys more. Guess thats an option, if you're not overly attached to your chickens. I lose enough chickens with critters getting into my pen, dont need the hassle of free ranging too. Went on vacation this year had a coon get into the pheasant aviary, lost 12 young pheasant. Also lost about 15 chickens to that coon, still aint killed the SOB. And I call myself a trapper, ha! I love wildlife, but not in my yard.
     
  7. LizFM

    LizFM Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I should mention I don't currently have chickens because it's not an option where I live, but I used to have them and hope to again.

    Worries about predators can probably be dealt with easier than the other half of the equation (by Coop Knox and, if you choose to free range, acceptance of the risks depending on the type of free ranging you do).

    However...

    Some time ago, DH brought home quite a bit of the "backyard biosecurity" materials from the USDA. Those materials honestly seem a bit alarmist (I know it's important...but the text still seems a bit heavy on the warning) to me on the subject of the importance of keeping domestic birds completely segregated from wild birds and their droppings. In fact, some of it stops just short of actually warning against free ranging or even letting your birds outdoors.

    I can just imagine their reaction to a juxtaposition between encouraging wildlife in the same backyard as backyard chickens. [​IMG] Perhaps the day is coming that to pass a BYC inspection you have a mechanism to exclude wild birds! [​IMG]

    Every time I think about wildlife and domestic birds, I think about those APHIS recommendations. Maybe I should stop reading [​IMG]
     
  8. fancbrd4me02

    fancbrd4me02 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have 4 Barn Owls that currently use our home as thier "home base". They were born here in the Owl House that we built for them in the walnut tree. There have been owls nesting here for over a decade. When a mother owl dies (dissapears) one of her offspring takes over the nest and raises a family. This year the owls had 4 babies at once! The owls have never killed any of our poultry. We have seen them catch rats, and under thier eating spots we find the remains of dozens of rodents (rear-ends usually) which they have killed. They keep the rat population under control. It makes it easier for me to not have to fight the rats as much. We also have raptors which frequent our property daily. They use the 80 ft cedar trees as lookouts. The only chickens they have ever killed have been hatchlings. They never disturb the free ranging adults. They don't even bother my D'Uccles which are quite small. On a daily basis there is usually a raptor of one kind or another on our 2.5 acre property. We have no problems.

    My poultry are housed at night in safe and sturdy pens which have wire buried 10+ inches in the ground, turned out and covered in concrete. I free range my birds during the day, but pen them up at night. Using this method I have lost ZERO birds to predators. Leaving birds out at night is like leaving a buffet out for predators.

    The predators we have in our yard (Inside our fence) are: Bobcat, Raccoon, Weasel, Possum, Skunk, Fox, loose dogs, housecats & assorted Raptors

    Outside of our yard but capable of entering (Meaning we havn't seen them inside yet) : Mountain Lion and Coyote

    We never trap or kill any predators. We keep the animals penned up at night, accept the possibility of a raptor attack as a trade off for the benefits of free-ranging. If we encounter a rattlesnake, I catch it and remove it to the undeveloped area nearby. (We don't take it too far, we just move it out of our yard) We keep no watchdogs. Our dogs are all inside dogs.

    It is totally possible to co-exist with predators and a lot less hassle than trying to hold back the ocean so to speak. I feel that it is my responsibility to secure my livestock. I do not blame a predator for eating something ever. If it happens, I access what I did wrong and repair it. I do not buy more animals than I can safely house. I direct my energy towards preventing predator prolems than sitting around trying to think of ways to kill them. My G Grandmother used to raise and grow her food. She lived most of her life by farming. She told me: "You plant more than you need because a third or so will die, another third is for the animals and if you are lucky, the rest is for you."
     
  9. Cetawin

    Cetawin Chicken Beader

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    It is very possible. I have yet to lose one to a predator and I have a hose of them here. Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Fisher Cats, Hawks, Fox, Coons, Possum, a pair of owls and on and on. The key is making sure they are inside, safe and secured at dusk.
     
  10. twentynine

    twentynine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes! I think it is possible to have a chicken operation and co-exist with nature peacefully.

    Numba--1 priority is a strong, Fort Knox style coop and run. Then ontop of that equip that coop and run with an electric fence. AND NEVER EVER NEVER TURN THE ELECTRIC FENCE OFF.

    Free ranging unless you are able to stand over your birds protecting them, you will have to make peace with losing one to a daylight raider once in a while. Me I do not free range, I would love to, my birds would love to, but the local wildlife and a few not so wild, would begin looking at my place as a Popeye's Fried Chicken drive through. So they stay secured in their run.


    To each his own and not wanting to judge, but merely stating my opinion. I do not do any preventative trapping of wildlife, I do not set a live trap to catch the possum, coon or cat that happens to wonder by, checking to make sure I haven't left the door open. It is up to me to keep them out, trapping everything insight, doesn't keep anything out, it just removes that particular animal. Yes! I have found coon and coyote (maybe small dog) tracks in the vacinity of my chicken operation, frankly I would be suprised if I hadn't. So I am constantly checking my fence charger and walking the peremeter. It is my responsibility to keep all predators away from my birds.

    Predators, atleast the ones that come naturally, not your nieghborhood next door mutt, are only following their nature. The Lord God made them all, and He made them to live in a certain manor. It is not up to me to try to change that nature, it is up to me to protect my birds from that nature. A coon eats chicken, well known fact, why should you be suprised when a coon will spend all night in an effort to break into a chicken coop. He is trying to feed himself, following the very nature he was born with. Now I can either protect my birds, or I can kill the coon. One will work--- protecting my birds. The other won't--- kill the coon. He will merely be replaced by the next predator and the next time I put my head down on a pillow to sleep it will happen again.

    Coons, mink, coyote, fox, and possums do not murder your birds, they do not commit a crime, they are here, always have been, doing what comes natural. Your birds are the un-natural part of the equation, they are present doing what they are meant to do. It is your responsibility as the owner of those birds to protect them.
     

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