We need your amazing chicken photos for our 2020 Calendar! Submit your pics HERE!

(Well-meaning) human predators in the chicken run, Oh No!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by gtaus, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

    741
    1,762
    237
    Mar 29, 2019
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    Need some suggestions on how to handle young neighborhood kids...

    This morning, it was raining outside. Normally, I open the pop door on the coop and let the chickens out into the run fairly early in the morning. But, since it was raining, I was taking my time today knowing the birds have both food and water in the coop. Well, the rain slowed down to a light sprinkling, so I headed out to the garage to get some fresh feed for my 10 ten-week-old pullets.

    As I turned the corner of the garage, feed bucket in hand, I saw two young neighborhood boys not only in the chicken run, but trying to open the sliding pop door! OK, not good, but try not to panic.

    I live on a lake and in the summer we get lots of visiting people for a short period of time. These boys are only here for a few weeks, they are about 12 years old, and they came bearing a sack of lettuce to feed to the chickens. Since the chickens were still in the coop, they were trying to figure out how to open the pop door to feed the lettuce to the birds. So, truly, their hearts were in the right place. But we all know about unintended consequences....

    My chicken run has a dog kennel gate panel and I use that gate to get in/out of the chicken run. The gate latch has a secure locking feature to put on a padlock, or in my case, I just use a carabiner. That locks the gate latch for most predators, but certainly not humans. Likewise, I use a carabiner on the chicken coop access door gate latch. Again, easy for humans to bypass.

    The kids were not able to get the sliding pop door open. :clap So I guess that my design was tested under fire in real life. When I made the sliding pop door, I added extra weight to the door inside the coop and the bottom of the sliding door extends down into the framing so you cannot get your fingers under, over, or around the door. The door itself is smooth and slippery, so you can't get any leverage on it to pull it up - I tried with my bare hands and I could not do it. Fortunately, neither could these kids.

    So, trying to be very calm and understanding, I wished the boys "Good morning" and asked them if they had come to visit the chickens. They said they had some nice lettuce to feed the chickens but they could not get the door open to feed the birds. So I told them that I was also feeding the birds, and that I had to open the small pop door from inside the coop. So they came out of the chicken run and actually not only shut the gate behind them, but also put the carabiner back on for me. That was good.

    I opened the pop door and the birds came out. They started throwing lettuce into the run and the chicks got scared and ran right back into the coop! :wee I explained to the kids that these chicks are not used to having people around as I have been the only one to feed and care for them since they were day-old chicks. But I thanked them for the lettuce and thinking of the birds. I told them that they would be back out later and would eat the lettuce then. They seemed to be OK with that and after a short while they left and went back home.

    Afterwards, I was thinking about what I should have/could have said.... For example, even though I was thanking them for thinking of the birds and bringing some nice lettuce for them, I should have also told them that if the chickens are not outside, that I might not be at home and don't want the chickens outside in the run. I should have told them that only I should open the pop door and that others should not try to get into the coop. I just did not think of it at the time.

    I don't want to be the grumpy old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn, but I am concerned that a gate would be left open, the chickens get out, and then killed by a dog, eagle, hawk, etc... So I am thinking about putting padlocks on the coop and gate, at least during the summer when the visiting neighbors arrive. These kids will only be here a few weeks, and I really want to encourage them to enjoy my chickens and feel free to visit. My wife and I never had any children, so I am not quite sure on how to best both encourage these children while at the same time stressing to them that there are boundaries which should not be crossed - like going into the chicken run and trying to open the pop door!

    Well, if you have read this post thus far, you are probably the type of person who could offer me some suggestions on how to better handle these type of situations with the neighborhood kids. So I open it up to you for some thoughts. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Amc29

    Amc29 Songster

    123
    239
    126
    Feb 20, 2019
    SW Oregon
    Well, any of what you wish you had done would have been good, actually :) Do you know their family? Are you familiar with who their guardians are? If so, you could always talk to them about having a nice talk with the kids about responsibility and the safety of the chickens and such if you are worried about coming across as the grouchy owner. The kids sound old enough, though, to be able to handle a friendly talk about expectations for behavior around your birds. The padlocks aren't a bad idea, either.
     
  3. PirateGirl

    PirateGirl Chicken Lover, Duck Therapist

    6,410
    15,712
    612
    Mar 11, 2017
    South Park, Colorado, USA
    Awe. Next time you see them go out and say hello. Tell them the things you wish you had. Tell them sometimes the chickens are locked in their house for a reason and that only you can let them out. They will not be too upset. I have a neighbor kid that visits with her father (she is very young) when she rides her bike. He (fortunately) has explained to her that she can only visit the chickens if she sees me working in the yard, and every time she runs up the driveway he tells her that she has to ask me if it's ok to come see them. Kids need to learn (one way or the other) that the need permission to go on other people's property and that they need permission to visit with strange animals. I think what's worked in my favor is my dog, who can be quite intimidating, so people don't venture in the yard if my husband and I are not there to calm the dog. (she barks a fierce stranger danger bark, though I doubt she would ever hurt anyone)
     
  4. BigBlueHen53

    BigBlueHen53 Crowing

    1,512
    3,694
    292
    Mar 5, 2019
    SE Missouri, USA
    I agree, all those things you wish you'd said sound perfect! Now, how about you go over, invite the kids over to "feed the chickens," and while they are there, kindly explain all those things to them? Tell them that, just as they think chicken is yummy, so do lots of predators, and that's why you have to be so careful. They can even be your helpers, by making sure nothing and nobody messes with your arrangements, and even letting you know if they see a problem. And in future, any time they have goodies for the chickens, they should bring them to you at certain specified times. They'll understand all that.
     
  5. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

    741
    1,762
    237
    Mar 29, 2019
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    Yes, I know their parents but not real well. They come out here to the lake for just a few weeks every year. The mother and the kids were over a few days ago and fed the chickens some strawberries. That was fine with me. What caught me off guard was seeing the boys over here, in the chicken run, trying to get the pop door open, and not having any parent with them to tell them no.

    No harm today, but I am thinking about what I should do if it happens again. Like I said, the boys hearts were in the right place, but I felt they crossed over the line when they let themselves into the chicken run and tried to force open the pop door.

    Some of this may be my problem because I also have a nice wooden swing set with slide that I still maintain for the visiting children even though my wife and I have no kids out here anymore. Also, we have a small stream going through our property and all the neighborhood kids are in there catching frogs and such. So the visiting children have always been free to use my property and I really enjoy that. They enjoy their vacations out here at the lake and I like to think I make it just a little better for them.
     
  6. AmyJane725

    AmyJane725 Crowing

    1,731
    2,783
    261
    Feb 22, 2019
    Western WA
    I did read your entire post, but I don't really have any advice. I'm the kind who would just put on the padlocks and yell at the hooligans to get off my lawn :old I guess just try to be nice and explain to them that the world is a very dangerous place for chickens and that you'd never want them to get out for fear of getting killed, and that it would make you really sad. So, please don't try to open the door when you're not home. (And then put on the locks because kids don't listen.)

    Those kids should honestly be more careful just going to strangers' houses. What if you were a pedophile or something? You'd never met them before, right?
     
  7. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

    741
    1,762
    237
    Mar 29, 2019
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    Yes, that is what I am thinking. Also, I am getting more good ideas of how to handle it from you good people that have more experience with young kids. Thanks.
     
  8. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

    741
    1,762
    237
    Mar 29, 2019
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    Lots of good suggestions there. That's the stuff I need to learn. My wife and I never had children, so raising kids is not in my knowledge base. Thanks.
     
  9. Mosey2003

    Mosey2003 Crowing

    2,476
    3,391
    331
    Apr 13, 2016
    NC IL
    Ugh, I would hate that so much. I guess I'm a curmudgeon. But I'd be especially irritated they brought a bunch of lettuce, that's not something on my "okay to feed" list. I would totally lock the run when I wasn't around.
     
  10. AmyJane725

    AmyJane725 Crowing

    1,731
    2,783
    261
    Feb 22, 2019
    Western WA
    Glad to see I'm not the only grouchy one here. If I knew the parents at all I'd call them and tell them to keep their kids off my property. (In case anyone is curious, I'm a 27 year old female)

    OP has stated that he enjoys having the children come and have fun in his yard though. To each his own.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: