Topic of the Week - Keeping the Flock Safe from Predators

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by sumi, Jan 2, 2017.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    Predators hunting our chickens is a constant worry for many chicken owners. Be it stray dogs, raccoons, hawks, coyotes, hawks, minks… The list of potential threats to our flocks' wellbeing is quite long. This week I would like to hear your tips and advice when it comes to keeping the flock safe from predators. Specifically:

    - What are your most common predator(s) and how do you deter them?
    - What do you do to secure your chicken coop and run?
    - Do you keep LGD's (Livestock guardian dogs) to protect your flock? If "yes", please tell us about them.
    - What are your suggestions for dealing with/disposing of predators? (Note: Please keep suggestions family friendly and LEGAL - No "Shoot, shovel, shut up" or similar suggestions please)

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    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    What are your most common predator(s) and how do you deter them?
    Canids - wild and domestic - fencing on domestic, fencing and my dogs on wild (only foxes killed rarely and dogs do it)
    Opossums - my dogs, my self, and some fencing (they are slow to learn so dispatched and composted)
    Raccoons - dogs, fencing, elavated roost sites raccoons can not access directly, birds kept away areas raccoon can reach directly, dogs destroy things trying to get at these guys
    Domestic cat - dogs
    Mink - dogs and keeping pens away from fenn / high travel area for mink, dog got Parvo costing several hundred dollars
    Weasel - dogs
    Bobcat - dogs and temporary penning of free-range birds, have taken on harem masters to my knowledge and all in one summer
    Badger - dogs, very infrequent
    Rodents - keep abundance low by limiting feed out
    Cotton-tailed Rabbits in feed bucket, cover feed bucket, does not pose direct threat to chickens
    Bull snakes - dogs, I like these guys but dogs kill them around barn, eat chicks up to 5 weeks old when very hot, get chicks to roost up
    Spotted King snake - dogs, only consumed eggs to my knowledge and not often, chickens attack these guys during day
    Osage Copperhead - bit dog causing down time of about a week, dog still kills them
    Humans - keep birds on my property, and keep some humans away from barns at night but that is tough when no one lives there
    Great-horned Owl - put birds up when owls hunting area hard, keep rabbit and rodent abundance low, dogs, they do not respect me and literally follow me at night when young
    Cooper's Hawks - Target juvenile and chick chickens, and hens when no roosters present, roosters and broody hens run them off, dogs, me on occasion but rare, bigger problem in fall
    Red-tailed Hawk / Feruginous Hawk - cover, dogs, poultry netting, rooster, me, winter problem
    American Crow - steals eggs, some hens and rooster very aggressive to these guys
    Bald Eagle - took a carcass and scares live chickens, dogs
    Turkey Vulture - can eat dead opossum in front yard under dog's nose but dog runs them off poultry area

    Coops and runs inside a fenced perimeter, sometimes more than one perimeter. Smaller pens are close together and often with hotwire on one side. My dogs patrol and can get there fast when predator disturbed birds. Keep birds roosting free and clear of sides.

    I use dogs. Requires 18 to 24 months before they are not a risk to birds in their own right. Most expensive and flexible option as they can adapt. More than one better. Need to be outside most of time, especially at nigh. Need to be tolerant of cold and heat. Do not need to sleep with chickens but need to be able to get to situation unobstructed. Killing chickens early not always a bad thing. Most predators I deal with do not require a large dog to handle. Red Fox is their biggest challenge and that is because it is brazen.
    3 people like this.
  3. DancingWthDucks

    DancingWthDucks Songster

    Feb 21, 2016
    Cumbria, UK
    Here in the UK the fox is the main predator- almost every poultry keeper I know has lost birds to Mr Fox at some point. In fact, a neighbour lost 50 ducks in 3 days to one fox (at daytime aswell!). Foxes are EVRYWHERE and I regually catch foxes visiting my garden on my gamecam.

    Although I don't lock my birds away at night, I have only lost a couple of birds, all of which escaped from the run or were free ranging at the time. My chickens now live in a fully covered welded mesh run, with a welded mesh skirting, and since converting to welded mesh I have had NO LOSSES! (touch wood)....

    The Khaki Campbells who live in the field (as do the chickens) live in a 5 foot tall electrified poultry netting run, and don't get locked away at night either. The only way to keep the foxes at bay is to use electric fencing or welded mesh.

    I prefer to have strong fences and removing a predator is a last resort for me. It is legal to trap and shoot foxes here, but I love wildlife so I don't really go with that approach. Alpacas are apparently a great way to deter foxes and there are various fox repellents on the market (although I wouldn't relay on these alone).
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Crowing

    Feb 18, 2016
    My solution to predator control is twofold. First, a large majority of predator losses tend to happen at night, inside the coop or run, so at ground zero, which is the house, it is as predator proof as I can make it. Built of sturdy materials, with no openings larger than 1/2" anywhere.


    Surrounding the coop is a 2' apron of 1" x 2" welded wire, which prevents any predators from digging their way in.


    So when the sun goes down and things that go bump in the night start snooping around, they find no joy here. My assumption is they are out there every night, and trail cameras confirm frequent visits but they don't get in so they soon give up. If they hung their hat on an easy meal here they would starve to death.

    Then by day, birds are not allowed to "free range", but rather are "yarded". Confined within a defined perimeter of two fenced in yard areas. One of those is protected by what seems to be an ineffective electric wire fence. To the contrary, it is highly effective, confining all animals within and repelling all borders from without. I have yet to see or find anything inside this fence I didn't want in.


    Fence is low enough to the ground nothing gets under it without getting zapped, and not much can get over it without climbing or otherwise brushing into it, including deer. Most vendors of this equipment say to be effective, a fencer should be delivering about 7,000 volts of shock. This fence has tested out to 16,700 volts on a freshly charged batter. To be effective, all animals have to touch it at least once. Very few will come back to test it twice.

    About the only thing that concerns me about the birds would be hawks or eagles. Solution is all pasture areas are provided overhead cover to escape to, so to date, have had no losses from those, nor attempts that I"m aware of.

    As for disposal of recently deceased predators, I rarely if ever find the need to kill one, so I don't worry about it. If I did, I live on 10 acres, so out back is far removed from anyone else. Buzzards tend to make short work of anything dead back there. The "street legal" method of dealing with dead animals, indeed the method required by our state DNR for confined animal feeding operations (hogs, chickens, turkeys, etc) is to compost them.

    If the animal was healthy before it was dispatched, and you feel no concern about skinning it, I hear they make good fuel for soldier fly maggots to feed the birds.

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
    3 people like this.
  5. Howard E

    Howard E Crowing

    Feb 18, 2016
    Not sure if this is the place for it, but I'll mention it here anyway.

    Over the recent holidays, we had occasion to visit some relatives, and by extension, some friends of our relatives. These folks grew up in a large city, but now have a vacation home smack dab in the middle of several thousand acres of national forest, so their open garden area is about the only thing like it for miles around. A one acre oasis of lush green goodies in a void of tall standing timber. As such, their garden attracts a whole slew of "grazers", just as our birds do predators. Some of them like raccoons and bears are common to both. Anyway, the husband was lamenting about how difficult it was to keep a nice garden when everything around them was trying to steal it. Berries, apples, melons, sweet corn, etc. Gone.....all gone.

    I asked what he did to repel them, and was not happy with the answer. He had found a potent poison to kill the raccoons and was shooting at the deer, bears and others with a .22 rifle. He had actually killed a deer when he attempted to fire a so called "warning" shot over their heads. He got too close, hit one in the head and killed it......then had the problem of how to go about disposing of it, since it was out of season, and would be attracting bears to the carrion. What was worse, was how he had attempted to "scare" the bears. He happily told me how he had shot one on the butt with his little .22 rifle. That did not impress me much, but did not surprise me. Shooting at stuff seems to be a common solution to this kind of problem and especially so with folks who don't have a whole lot of experience in dealing with wild animals as was the case with these folks.

    When I suggested he consider using an electric fence instead, the suggestion was dismissed out of hand. He had heard of someone who used one and it didn't work. The deer got in anyway. This coming from a guy who was fighting a loosing battle shooting at stuff but was going to doggedly stick to that solution. What eventually occurred to me and concerned me the most was the realization that this guy may have been more about shooting stuff than protecting his garden. A mean and vindictive streak that I didn't care for at all. The ironic thing being in most other aspects of life, these folks are do good crusaders who never hesitate to stick their nose into other people's business if they don't agree with something they are doing. If that was someone else doing that and he didn't agree with it, he would be all up in the jammy in no time flat.

    My point to all this is don't be that guy. Don't be the person who thinks the ONLY solution to predator and wild animal problems is to get out a gun and start shooting. It might make you feel better, but likely as not is only a short term solution to a long term problem. The best long term solution is to create safe zone perimeters to keep predators at arm's length and the birds out of their reach and out of harm's way. Think of it as being like the lion cage at the zoo, except in this case, the wild animals are not safely confined inside the cage and can't get out........make it so the chickens are inside the cage and the wild animals are on the outside and can't get in.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
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  6. Zoomie

    Zoomie Songster

    Dec 6, 2015
    Mora, NM USA
    The main predators that have been a problem for me: dogs, and raccoons. I consider mice and rats to be a mere nuisance and not a predator. We also have bears, mountain lions, lynx, foxes, weasels, snakes, hawks, owls and eagles, but these animals are really not much of an issue at all and I've personally never has a loss to any of those, although a bear did smash my neighbor's coop and killed many of her chickens.

    I learned that the bottom of the coop must be protected as well as the sides and top. I have one coop that is up in the air about 2' to stop anything digging in; it is steel on the bottom. In addition that coop is inside a run with 1/2" mesh, and that includes over the top. And THAT is all inside my barn. In the day I open up the barn doors for a flood of light for that coop, but once I close the barn doors at night, not even a bear can get in there, let alone a dog, and the 1/2" mesh keeps out wild birds so I am not worried about magpies or crows or ravens stealing eggs.

    My new coop has a cement floor. It is attached to a large run with double wire, or in other words, a layer of wire on the outside, then a gap of 2", then another layer of wire on the inside. This is to stop raccoons reaching through the wire. The fence is 6' high and the posts or base of the fence are welded pipe. The run also has a cover but this is more to stop the birds flying out and to keep out wild birds than to keep out predators. It has buried wire along the perimeter, and parts of it are cemented. All this keeps the raccoons out. If you need to trap one to get rid of it, you call NM Game and Fish.

    With dogs, if they are after your stock, in my area you are legally allowed to shoot them, but what you do is then call the brand inspector (a type of law enforcement we have here) and in some cases the owner of the dog has to go to court, and sometimes have to pay a fine. I've had to shoot a couple of dogs, but no owner claimed them (not surprising, who wants to go to court over a dead dog?) so they were composted as well.

    With the birds well protected like this, I can simply enjoy seeing the beauty of an eagle floating over my head, or laugh at the antics of the grey fox that appears here nearly every night. It's part of the ecosystem and that's one of the reasons we like living out here so far away from everything.
    ChickMurray and Nikasha like this.
  7. Wyatt0224

    Wyatt0224 Chirping

    Mar 1, 2016
    Westminster, Maryland
    The most common predators for me would a hawk, raccoon and fox. The coop we use for our chickens is a big old treehouse, probably 6 feet off the ground. We also have a plywood door that has a latch so it can't be opened by the wind during the night. Around the coop we have a 4' high fence with chicken wire and wooden lattice to make it pretty hard for anything to chew its way in. I have two roosters that I have to keep my flock safe. The best thing to use to deter or keep predators away is build a safe coop and run. By doing so, you can limit the possibility of predator attacks.
    ChickMurray likes this.
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I am going to add snapping turtles to this. For me they generally are not an issue for my chickens but neighbor looses a good number of ducklings to them and they can eat the dickens out of my fish in the the pond, especially the 2" to 4" fish. They are easy to fish out and with a great deal of effort can be used as part of a good soup / stew. Each year I collect several walking over land usually in the 2.5 to 15 lb size range. My dogs kill even the largest which my neighbor really likes but can be hard on my mower later with cutting tall grass.

    The little 4 lb turtle below released unharmed although the dogs were just about to kill it.

    When dogs come back with with very muddy feet and sometimes bite marks is when I can expect to find a snapping turtle carcass. The dogs do show the turtles more respect than they do the raccoons even though the latter is decidedly more capable of defending itself. It took a lot of work to break dogs of going after other turtles and box turtles in particular. Now they collect box turtles and put them in front yard. Then box turtle has to walk all the way back to its home range. They do have strong home range fidelity.
    ChickMurray and Ren2014 like this.
  9. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    The animals that live around here that are potential predators are: raccoons, coyotes, Great Horned Owls, Red Tail hawks, Bald Eagles, mink, weasels, skunks, and an occasional opossum, (but haven't seen any around here for a long time, so maybe they've gone back to wherever they came from, or froze out). We also have many different hawks that come through in the spring and fall during migration. My chickens free range, but have lots of cover. At night they go in their coop with attached run and I close the run door. They are not 100% predator proof, as my run fencing is 2x4" welded wire on all sides and the top with 1/2" hardware cloth around the bottom 24". I have a hardware cloth apron around both runs as well. I realize a weasel could get through the welded wire, but am not sure about anything else. Maybe a mink.

    I have a dog that kills coons, rabbits, squirrels and will likely take on any other intruders in his territory. I'm not sure I'd call him a LGD, as he's a Redbone Coonhound mutt, supposedly crossed with Golden Retreiver and Lab. I also suspect him first on the rare occasion one of my chickens disappears. It doesn't happen often, but he's killed in the past.

    Dealing with/disposal of predators - We live on a farm with a large grove on one side of our property that is home to raccoons, owls, hawks, and who knows what else. Across the road is a large slough that holds ducks and geese all summer, encouraging the Bald Eagles to fly over frequently. It's also home to mink, muskrats, raccoons, etc. We have cropland surrounding our house, and have had coyotes living in our cornfields during the summer. For the most part, we live peacefully with our potential predators because they have plenty of other places to find their food. The occasional one that mistakenly wanders into our building site and kills chickens usually dies. Dog had learned how to keep wandering predators at bay. The ones that die here are usually taken away from the building site to let Nature take its course.
  10. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    I live in overgrown farmland now suburbs, with lots of wetlands scattered, and even a fairly good size nature preserve not so far away which is home to a lot of wildlife including wolves. (Fortunately have not seen any of those here.)

    Because of our area (Oregon), we see lots of hawks, owls, and kestrels, and I have lost birds upon occasion to them.

    We have lots of trees on our 1/3 acre, so we strung up hawk netting between trees and have natural cover, which for savvy birds and an alert rooster, gives them protection (and they get savvy pretty fast or don't last).

    I have learned that for my smaller fry (chicks and bantam broody hens), I absolutely must keep them locked up under hawk netted and wired enclosed runs, tight in hutch at night, at all times. Nothing brings out predators like a broody with peeping chicks.

    Both bantams and chicks/juveniles are light enough for most hawks to kill and/or haul away.

    I saw a kestrel swoop and take off with a 4 week old juvenile with ease. My banties are sadly hawk bait. I've lost 2 good broody hens to hawk kills when I let them free range. My favorite dust mop Cochin was lost just this last week who was free ranging with the others while I was cleaning coops. (Arrrrrggggggg.) I have had a Cooper's Hawk that will occasionally sit on the fence post on that grow out pen watching the little chicken nuggets which it can't get to. I chase him off with my Rat Terrier and a lot of banging of pans.

    Then there are the ground type. We used to see oppossum here long ago, but fortunately I haven't seen them in years. I've even seen a Coyote stroll through, fortunately years ago. What I do get are raccoons, and I've had some "drive bys" from them. They don't seem to want to work hard as there is enough free forage (from cat food left out in the neighborhood and those who feed squirrels and coons) so if I frustrate their efforts, they pretty much go away.

    BUT Sadly this Christmas I left the back door of the wire run open until late, and a coon happened by. He helped himself to one of my best layers who I found dead in the morning (after I miscounted birds on late lock down). He then proceeded to return nightly for further feasts. Knowing what was inside the coop run, though now closed gated, he tore through the chicken wire and mauled several more in the run during late afternoon before roosting. (I had been locking them tight in the wood coop upon roosting since that first kill).

    Then he hung out in the run snarlling at me for several nights trying to figure out how to get into the coop. The Rat Terrier managed to move him out.

    To end this dangerous situation, we live trapped and euthanized this coon (as Oregon statute allows for raccoons who endanger livestock on owner property). He had had his chance to move on. Finding him in the live trap, my husband shot him with a break barrel air rifle (1200fps) pellet gun at close range (legal in most close neighborhoods where a gun isn't), which dispatched him quickly.

    I now lock the birds up tight in their raised all wood coop with glass windows manually letting them into the enclosed gated wired run. I've been letting them hang there for a few days without free range since we just had the bantam killed by a hawk. The bantams will be going back to their repaired broody hutch and enclosed grow out pen (a storm had damaged it a few weeks before, which is why they were in the main coop...I've had a "perfect storm" of mishaps that has brought predator kills.)

    What helps? Lots of hawk netting. Nightly lock down. Small birds always under lock up unless you can afford to lose a few and invite predators. And I should add that I don't let my birds out of their enclosed wired run for free range until mid morning, after the dawn hawk runs.

    Rat Terrier is good for chasing off, but not good for killing (mine isn't) or keeping away permanently.

    The best is to keep temptation away from the predators as much as possible and they go away. I haven't been disturbed in years. It was the open door invite I had left to that coon that caused an unfortunate end for him after he became aggressive and unfortunate banties running in the main yard as we repaired damaged coop.

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
    2 people like this.

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