Protecting Hens in New England - Nite Guard and dog enough??

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by KDOGG331, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. KDOGG331

    KDOGG331 Chicken Obsessed

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    Hi,

    I'm sure there's been a post about this before and I searched and found some good ideas but I figured I'd still ask because it's a little but unique and I have some questions about what I found.

    So.

    To start, we don't have chickens yet but we're considering getting some and my dad hasn't been outwardly opposed as with other things (sometimes if I wanted a gerbil or something he'd just be like no! were not getting a gerbil, you dont even take care of the cat, blah blah) so it seems like he's pretty on board, but his main concern is the predator thing. And I asked him this, if he's mostly onboard but his main/only real concern is the predator thing and he said yes so I'll take that as a good sign. But we've got this one silver fox around here that my dad seems to think is smart and will get in even if we predator proof. So we need to figure that out.

    Now, onto what I found and the issue.

    I found this post that I guess I'd previously replied to a couple years ago about protection from a fox that had gotten some hens, so of course I clicked on it because that's what our main issue will be, and most of the responses were about the same, how if it had already gotten birds they needed to get rid of the fox somehow or keep the birds locked up, but I noticed that someone suggested Nite Guard and we went to the website and it seems like a great idea, I can't find anything wrong with it or bad testimonials, so I'm wondering if it really does work?? We have raccoons and skunks as well, which I think you set at the same height as you would for foxes so that's not an issue, but we have coyotes too so it would need to be higher so I'm not sure how that works? Do you put some at one height and others at another height orrr??

    We have a Black Lab/Great Pyrenees mix who will be 2 years old in March (7th to be exact. Whoa, that's already next week..) and lately he's just been going and said and laying on the hill in the back yard, observing. Sometimes he'll sit on the deck too. So we were thinking it might be good for him to have something to guard, be it goats or chickens (his mom had a herd of goats), during the day. But we recently had the idea to get an electric fence for the yard, which we wanted to do anyways, and leave him out at night to help protect. Would that work? He usually sleeps on the bed or couch haha but we figure that him just barking from inside wouldn't really do much if they were determined. At first we thought it would but if they're determined, we don't think it would. But would it be irresponsible to just have him on electric fence? Should he maybe be in a pen or rope? But our worry with the pen, or at least mine since I haven't brought it up yet, would be sort of the same as in the house, they won't be scared of him if he's locked up and the threat of a fight isn't there..or would they still be scared? My dad thinks no coyote in their right mind would mess with him so would this apply to inside a pen too? hahah he's BIG, 130 pounds, but he's also lazy and sometimes sleeps through things, which is another concern of mine, though he usually catches coyotes, he barks almost all night quite a bit. So if he's RIGHT THERE, would he catch something? And not that we'd want him fighting any animals, whether he's loose or not, but he does have all his shots so that's not too too much of a concern. He's never been outside overnight but he needs a job and he's half LGD so I figure he'd love it..and do a **** good job. Thoughts??

    Now, as I've said, the main predators we'd need to keep away are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and that big silver fox. We occasionally have hawks but haven't seen one in years since we accidentally cut down a big pine tree that was their nest, but with the addition of chickens, they might come back along with owls?? We would also do all the normal procautions, along with the Nite Guard and the dog. So far I've heard the hardware cloth suggestion for a run and coop, though they'd most likely be free range, and burying it a foot under and a foot out so they can't dig in, and I think I've heard something about protecting windows and vents? But that's about it. How do you protect the coop? Or is this enough? We want to do all we can to make sure any future birds remain safe, though it's almost guaranteed to lose at least one or two? Or not if we do it right?

    Now, sorry for all the questions, but I have one more question..

    I have heard that chickens always come back to the same spot (the coop) to roost at night and to lock them in the coop for a few days to a week (think it was like 2-4 days) so that they establish exactly where that roost is and from then on they'll come back, or should. BUT. does that also apply to free range birds? I've also heard horror stories of one or two chickens deciding to go roost up in a tree for the night, how likely is that and how do you get them down if they do decide to do that? And if the dog is loose to patrol the property, would he be able to protect that bird? Or would he not really know to/be more focused on protecting the whole coop? I thought maybe if something tried to grab one he would hear it too, right?? But we mostly have 75-100 foot pine trees and then maples and oaks and baby pines/scrub brush in the back part (were on about 3 acres and set back in woods, yard's prolly 2 acres so woods would be half acre, acre, I think of it all as ours but technically there's property lines we share with neighbors) so how likely is it that they'd be able to, or would want to roost up there? I just don't want to be so observant of every other safety measure and then lose a bird that decided to fly the coop and go roost up in a tree. I'm considering Plymouth Rocks (Barred and maybe a White or two, possibly partridge but not likely), Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red maybe?, Buff Orpington, Black Australorps, and Red Star/Sex Link, and maybe one or two other breeds, and we'd probably only have between 5 and 10. From what I understand, most of those aren't great flyers? We are considering those breeds, or at least I am, because we need great egg layers and want them to be friendly. I feel like them being friendly is more for me cause they'll be like pets to me xD hah but we want them to be friendly and not flighty or aggressive or anything like that. Our neighbors right on our back end and hates our dogs so we don't want a rooster, only hens. Plus they need to be cold hardy cause were in eastern Massachusetts. If anyone else knows of any other breeds, I'd probably consider them too. Thank you :)

    Oh and also, one last quick thing, if anyone happens to know of good coop plans, we'd appreciate that too. I think I might have found one already but I'm not sure and we're always open to suggestions. My dad doesn't believe me when I say they need at least 2 1/2 or 4 sq ft per bird, and that's IF they're free range (he wanted to turn our tiny little old dog house that's never been use but sits out there into one) but I want them to be happy and produce a lot so we'd like big coop plans, not one for like 4 birds. Preferably it would be able to hold at least 8-15, just in case. We have 5 people in our family and I heard that 2 birds per member is a good rule of thumb, 3 if you really like eggs? So yeah, we need a lot of birds, plus want to be able to sell or give to neighbors potentially. Haha most of us are away though but still. I'm taking this semester off, brother graduated and is looking at grad schools, and other brother is going away this fall, but we still need lots of eggs so need a coop big enough to hold lots of chickens.

    I can do a property tour, either with pictures or video, if needed too, to show potential coop sites and where they'd be and whatnot.

    And we've used pesticides and fertilizer and all that in the past but as long as we haven't used it recently, are we good?

    I'm sorry I have so many questions, I keep thinking of more. Hahaha this post is long enough though so I'm stopping here, so so sorry. And thank you for reading all this, if you did, and in advance for any help recieved, it's much appreciated. :)
     
  2. farmtotable

    farmtotable Chillin' With My Peeps

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    wow, that was quite the post! :) Good questions though! I'll try to answer most of your questions:

    Regarding the Nite Guard, yes they do work. We have several scattered around. You put them at various heights to cover all the different types of predators. But that being said, it's not a magical solution that will automatically keep predators away. It's a deterrent, but it won't be 100%.

    Regarding your dog, I'll be upfront and say I don't have a lot of experience with guardian/livestock dogs, but I do know that you can't take a house dog (as in, your dog that has lived in your house and slept on your couch, bed, etc...) and just throw him outside and expect that he'll know what to do automatically. You have to train him to work with the flock. Usually people start with a puppy, get it used to being around the flock so that he'll accept the birds as "his". It's not automatic, even if the dog is a guardian breed. And personally, (this is just my opinion!!!) I think it's mean to all of a sudden throw a house dog outside to live. Sometimes just having a dog out there is a deterrent to predators, but not always. My neighbors have hounds they use to coon hunt, and the hounds have lived outside all their lives. Their chicken pasture is connected to the dogs area, and they still have a coyote, hawk, and mink problem.

    Regarding free range chickens returning to the coop at night, most of them will. But there will always be chickens that prefer to roost in the trees. They are typically pretty safe in the trees, the only downside is you don't necessarily know where they will lay their eggs. But you run into that problem any time you free range your birds. We have a flock of about 60, and they all free range. I would say 98% of the time all of them roost up in the coop, and lay eggs in the nesting boxes. I think free ranging is the better way to go, because it's better for the chickens than being raised in confinement. But it has its drawbacks - predators and having to go on easter egg hunts are the main problems.

    Regarding the coop, you absolutely want to follow the guidelines for enough space for each chicken, particularly if you're going the coop and confined run route. When they are caged in, they have to have room to forage, dust bathe, etc... and if they don't they're miserable and you'll start seeing destructive behaviors like feather picking and egg eating. When you build the chicken run area, you'll want to use hardware cloth and sink it down into the ground so nothing can tunnel under it. Ideally you'll want to dig out the run area, line it with hardware cloth, and bury it again. Making something predator proof is a lot of work, and initially can be expensive. The downside to having the chickens confined is that once a predator gets in, well, the chickens are confined. There's no escape. At least when they free range they can run away. If you decide to free range your chickens, then you also have to commit to being there at dusk to close them into their coop at night. Weasels and minks are smart enough to sneak inside a coop, wait until dark, then kill everything inside. I know because I lost an entire flock of ducks that way and I was devastated. Now I check all the corners before closing it up. But if you leave the coop open during the dark, the odds of a nocturnal predator sneaking in raise dramatically. In my opinion, it's impossible to make something 100% predator proof, because predators are smart. You just have to make it really difficult for them. So yes, line all the windows and vents with hardware cloth, but you have to check it periodically because I've had a mink chew through it. They can also chew through the wood in the corners of your coop, just like mice will. If you pay attention to the little things, you can generally see where predators are trying to break in and take care to reinforce things. On our farm, predator kills seem to go in waves. We'll be fine for almost a year, then lose like five hens in a week to coyotes. I personally would rather run the risk of losing a few chickens than keeping them penned up all the time. I think the quality of life is so much better because they're free.

    Regarding the hen breeds, if you free range them stay away from bantam breeds, as they tend to fly. If you're worried about them going into your neighbors property or over a fence or something, stick with the heavier breeds, like the brahmas and cochins. But honestly, some chickens just love to wander, and the only way to prevent it is doing the enclosed run. I would also stick to chickens that are more subdued colors if you free range them, we have a horrible time keeping the white chicks safe.

    Regarding the pesticides, if you haven't used any in awhile, you should be fine. Obviously you don't want to ever spray anything like a fertilizer or pesticide where they go, because it's not only bad for them, but it's bad for you as well (when you eat them or their eggs....)

    Keeping chickens is incredibly rewarding, and I can't imagine life without them. But as with any pet, be it indoor or outdoor, domestic or livestock, when you decide to get one, you have to be committed to caring for it. You have to make sure they have enough space, food, fresh water, and clean bedding. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it!

    I think I answered all your questions? You might want to hop on internet sites like craigslist, you can sometimes find people selling old chicken coops at great prices. (You just want to make sure you thoroughly clean and sanitize anything you buy used). There are tons of premade coops for sale for a couple hundred dollars, and it's pretty easy to build coops from recycled materials as well. Build it as big as you can, because it's so much better to have too much space, and chickens seem to multiple. I started with 7, now we're at 60 have several coops! My husband built one from scratch, and converted a shed kit into another one. You want to invest the money up front, it's worth it, because if they're not protected then you've wasted your money anyway.
     
  3. KDOGG331

    KDOGG331 Chicken Obsessed

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    Yeah, it was a really long post lol I'm sorry.

    But glad to hear about Nite Guard working :)

    Yeah, I guess that's probably true about just sticking him out there. Maybe we should get another dog and do that :) it most likely would have been easier as a puppy too, I agree, but we didn't think we were gonna have any and still not sure :) but yeah, I'd train him, definitely would just stick him out there. We would most likely get chicks or eggs so he could get used to them, play with them (gently), etc. :) but then put the box behind a close door so he couldn't get to them without us being there. And then put them outside at the right time and hopefully at that point he'd already recognize them as his. But he's so use to being a pet, it'd probably be tough. Plus my dads not sure his coats long enough so idk. We'd still take him for walks and visit him or let him in the house and stuff. But we probably shouldn't just stick him out there like that, I guess.

    An oh, that's good if they're pretty safe in the trees. :) I think the breeds I'd consider are too big to fly too far anyways? And yeah, the neighbors are right behind us, but our property is pretty big so I don't think they'd really be over there too much anyways, or at least id hope not, they'll probably be in the yard. :)

    As for the pesticides, yeah, wouldn't wanna eat that stuff!! Well stop using it if we get them :)

    Yeah, I think you answered the questions really well!! Thank you! And oh, Craigslist is a great idea!! I forgot about that, will definitely be perusing it now! Oh and I think most of the breeds I want are pretty common, brown, red,and black, so we shouldn't have too many issues with that :) except maybe the white rocks, so you don't recommend white birds??

    Thank you for all your help :)
     
  4. jetdog

    jetdog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think the night gaurd is worth a shot but if you build it secure using alot of the ideas on here you shouldn't have a problem, a couple of strands of electric wire around the coop and run is a pretty fail safe way to go, you might trust your dog but when smells and flapping wings are a factor you might be surprised that he might just want them as bad as everything else. One good zap by a hot wire and he will learn to leave them alone. JMO.
     
  5. KDOGG331

    KDOGG331 Chicken Obsessed

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    That's very true, thanks. :) and yeah, he gets excited and chases the cat all the time (though less now) but mostly when she runs or is near his food so I guess he'd probably chase or try to get flapping chickens too. Maybe we'll just make it as secure as possible and/or buy a good quality coop and keep him inside at night. But whether he's just out during the day or at night, he's a huge baby so I think you're right about the hot wire. The cat never uses her claws when she whacks him and when she does, it's minimal, and she plays sometimes too, but I honestly think that if she just used her full claws and gave him a forceful whack one time, he'd never chase her again. Haha and hey, maybe if I ever end up gettin more chicks or hatching eggs and have a broody hen with chicks chase him around, he won't mess with the chickens either!!
     
  6. KDOGG331

    KDOGG331 Chicken Obsessed

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    Oh and good news, my parents gave me a definite YES on the chickens, and may even pay for half! But ONLY if I get a job. Which should be fairly simple, this really motivates me to get my butt in gear and get a job. Haha so happy :D
     
  7. KDOGG331

    KDOGG331 Chicken Obsessed

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    Turns out we actually DO own most of the land out there. In front, we own a huge section like right up to the neighbors but in the back it's more evenly split up and they own more, though we only have one neighbor that would care on that side since the other doesn't have kids/can't even see their house from there, but yeah. And then the driveway is long and I always think we own it all but it's condos at the end of the driveway and their drain pipes so we only own 50 feet off the road so yeah. But we own a vast majority of the woods, and were gonna go clear in the spring (just walked around the whole property with my dad and got a neighbors perspective of just how messy this one part is), plus the whole yard so I think the chickens will have a ball. :) hahah
     
  8. 11squawkers

    11squawkers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Been a couple months since these questions were posted but I wanted to share my experiences, first and foremost, unfortunately Nite Guard is not effective, just 2 weeks of use we caught a skunk in a trap I had as a backup plan just a few feet from the Nite Guard. You can see the Nite Guard on the coop wall right behind the trap with the skunk inside. Glad I had the trap out or the skunk could have gotten into the coop. So if you decide to try the Nite Guards make sure you have a backup plan in place, like a trap or electric fencing.

    [​IMG]


    2nd, my 5 year old lab/collie /shepard mix male dog took really well to our new flock. Since the first day we brought our chicks home I let him smell them while I held the chicks letting him know with a stern voice that they were mine. Over time and increasing supervised exposure he now thinks of them as his and is protective of them. But he doesn't stay out at night. If you have a good dog house or barn or somewhere for your dog to get out of the elements but able to get out to patrol the yard your dog will be fine and will be a helpful worker to better protect your yard. Our dog does go into the coop and hangs out with our flock with no worries.
    [​IMG]

    And 3rd, as for breeds, out of the variety we have our Barred Rock is the sweetest most friendly chick, now almost 9 weeks old, and are a cold hardy breed. They are supposed to be good egg layers too, haven't gotten eggs from her yet as she is still young but that's why we got her. She is always the first to greet me and follows me around when I go in the coop. Not to mention that she is a beautiful bird!
    [​IMG]

    Hope this helps! Did you get your chicks? If so how are things going? Best of luck!!!
     
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    A flashing light will deter owls but not because they dislike it. A rapidly flashing light pointed skyward messes with an owls eyesight by causing its pupils to quickly dilate and then contract making it harder for an owl to home in on chickens roosting in trees.

    Red spotlights are used for nighttime predator hunting because things like coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and I suspect skunks can't see or else don't recognize red as a light source.

    http://www.coyotelight.com/
     

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