Making a hoop tractor safer from predators?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Peruvian, May 10, 2008.

  1. Peruvian

    Peruvian Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 15, 2008
    Vermont
    Here is a photo of the cattle panel chicken tractor I recently built to house 25 Cornish Xs.

    [​IMG]

    The birds will be in our back meadow in about a month and we have fox, bear, 'coons, weasels, etc. that I really don't want killing my flock before I get a chance to. I am putting extra chicken wire on the door and back panels but I'm afraid of predators digging/squeezing underneath. Would a chicken wire skirt work better than covering the bottom with wire? This has to be mobile as I expect to move it several times a week and don't want the wire getting caught in the grass and want the flock to be able to 'free range' as much as possible (as much as Cornish Xs do [​IMG]).

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Photos of solutions are particularly helpful!! [​IMG]
     
  2. newbiecaroline

    newbiecaroline Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 21, 2008
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    Hi Peruvian, I will be making some of these soon too...yours looks great!
    I don't have nearly as many killers around as you do.
    I'm wondering if it would be feasible to do both but also have a wired frame, that can be picked up, to go all around the outside that lays on the ground? Know what I mean?
    I was thinking a hinged (or easier) platform that just drops flat on the ground all the way around.
    They would have to dig further to get under.
    But that wouln't matter to the bears huh
    Boy that's a tough one with that variety of stalkers.
    By the way...how does the door open?
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2008
  3. S0rcy

    S0rcy Chillin' With My Peeps

    How about some tie downs that can be secured to the ground?
     
  4. beefy

    beefy Flamingo Daddy-o

    Apr 21, 2007
    South Georgia
    i can see chickens roosting on those corner braces and getting pulled thru the wire.
     
  5. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Is there a chance you could put some 1/2" hardware cloth in vulnerable locations? Not only can weasels get into this tractor but a raccoon can reach in and drag (parts of) a dying chicken out through conventional poultry wire. Honestly, I don't know why they call it that- it might keep birds in but it won't keep much out.
     
  6. Peruvian

    Peruvian Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the replies. Keep 'em coming!

    I was considering using some 24" chicken wire as a skirt that could be lifted for moving or some electric fencing (wire) around the 2x4" framing on the bottom. It would be held out from the frame/wire with insulated Ts charged by solar charger w/battery for night time.

    Oh and the door is held on the left side with fence staples to allow it to swing outward and is closed on the right with a hook and a bungie.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2008
  7. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    A raccoon can certainly open a bungie cord. You'd be surprised too at how many animals are prepared to jump above an insulated T to get chicken. There has to be a way to get the predators from reaching through or slithering through to get to the birds.

    Sorry, but if you want to have chickens...[​IMG]
     
  8. Somechick

    Somechick Out Of The Brooder

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    May 10, 2008
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    From the experience of raising chickens a large part of my 50 years:
    The bad news: I've seen dogs go straight through good chicken wire, bark and scare chickens over an 8 foot fence then kill them, get into a commercial rabbit pen (1x2 welded wire with reinforced door clipped x4 with rope snaps--looked like a bear had done it). I had 50 chickens and 50 ducks killed one morning that were locked in a horse barn very tightly, top and bottom of the doors closed and latched with a horseproof latch. Dogs dug and dug until they got in. I couldn't even believe it. The next day they came back and one of the few survivors that I'd put in a live well of a live animal trap and killed the duck without really damaging the trap. Of course I didn't catch them. I had 25 goats killed and 2 horses, all by dogs. Someone's dear pets I am sure. Animal control's response was "don't you have a gun?" Yes I replied if I could only catch them at it. Laws since then say you must "make a reasonalbe effort to drive it off". We once wounded a dog that was back after our geese the next day! That sort of law just makes it so you train the dog to return when humans are not around.

    The good news: After trial, error and research, I finally found the solution and it worked 100%. Livestock Guardian dogs (Great Pyranees, Kuzav, Komondor). Not Not Not herding dogs (German Shepherds, Border Collies, etc.) Their herding is one step away from hunting. And if you have both breeds you might get in trouble with your livestock guardians resenting that behavior and even killing your herding type dog...you certainly don't want the guardian to get used to the behavior--I have kept both types and keep them away from each other

    I have found it best and even cheaper usually to purchase livestock guardian pups from working animals on farms. I just can't seem to find a better animal than a Great Pyranees from all aspects (tried Anatolians, just don't have the instinct to stick with the flock that I want, loved my Komondor but the coat was way too much).

    But you still have to back up your Guardaians. Mine never killed any predator (and certainly were gentle with all livestock). They just roared like lions if anything came anywhere near, most predators kept on moving. On the rare occasion that something was bold enough to get close, I came out the door like a shot with a shotgun in hand and my two German Shepherds. I tried not to have to kill neighbors dogs (but with a bad dog, I certainly would) and tried to get the Shepherds to land one good bite to discourage the dog from returning. You really probably need a perimeter fence around your place and let the dogs guard the entire property, with chicken pens within. I think with a larger farm the dogs would be fine.
    Oh and when you choose your pup? Don't pick it the way you do a bird dog. Pick the one cowering in the corner that is afraid of everything. That is the one that will retreat, barking like crazy, to the flock for reassurance. That way the predator doesn't know what is there...alot of dogs? Alot of livestock? Many times they say they give up and don't push their luck.
     
  9. Peruvian

    Peruvian Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, we will be dog-sitting a Bernese Mountain Dog for a few weeks. [​IMG] Maybe she will be a deterrent for a while.

    The door is also latched, the bungie is a back up.

    How about some electric poultry netting around the meadow? It might not stop the biggest predators, but it should deter foxes, racoons, and weasels....right?
     
  10. Somechick

    Somechick Out Of The Brooder

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    New Ellenton, SC
    Electricity is amazing stuff if you can get it in the right place (the intruder must be on the ground or on wire that is grounded when it touches the hot wire...if on a board they may not feel it.) Birds can die on an electric fence. I once had a goose out in the middle of an open field die on one. He didn't seem to think of backing up. I don't know that he was electrocuted, probably stressed himself to death. Dogs at least respect it but are pretty smart, I haven't used it as a predator excluder though, more as a large livestock container.

    According to the research that I read a Berner by body type (some base the behavior on that, the "puppy like" large dogs, ears down/blunt faced supposedly naturally guard--see the work by the Coppingers-- but I've never heard of a Berner being used for that. Let me know! It's a nice breed! But watch carefully! There are books and articles with info on how to identify play vs. predatory behavior in your dogs.

    Some say you have to raise the dogs (guardians) to do it, some say you can put them in as adults and it is as natural to them as a farm raised dog, being pure instinct, research backs up the latter, but I always raised mine in the farmyard from an early age. Purchased pups born in the barnyard was great. I used to get a bossy short tempered old ewe with a baby to train my guardians, they had to have a retreat she couldn't get to! A broody hen might be good too!

    I have read that overfeeding is a problem causing "behavioral fat". The problem is they are hyper and "play" with the livestock to death. High octain (calories, calcium, fat etc.) dog food is bad for all large breed dogs (can cause or make worse hip dysplasia--I believe this to be true). So just be cautious with the dog, especially if a pup or fed on the usual pet diet.
     

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