Why predators exhibit "Hen house syndrome" or "surplus killing"-

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Bert2368, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Bert2368

    Bert2368 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 19, 2013
    East central MN



    Short answer: because they will be hungry again, not too much later- And killing several easy targets in one place and making "caches" takes less energy than several long hunts leading to single kills.

    Understanding predators will help you deal with them effectively-

    It may seem evil, wrong and wasteful to us- but animals are neither good nor evil. They are only the net result of the most successful features and behaviors of their ancestors. If they all do it, there is a good reason! (in regard to their natural habitats before people very recently added chicken coops, rabbit hutches, goat and cattle pens to the landscape)

    Nearly all mammal predators will kill as many easy targets as they can reach, as quickly as they can, without eating much immediately.

    They evolved to do this for a good reason, long before humans started to keep chickens in coops. We humans MAKE the scenario that stimulate the predator's built in "spree killer" response by putting a whole lot of easy prey in a small area! We even put a fence around the birds or other animals, guaranteeing the tasty prey can't escape.

    So if we don't want this to happen- We change the scenario.

    Scenario #1. Make it so the predator can't get in- Fences, dug in hardware cloth, poultry netting over the run, a strong, TIGHT henhouse with a door religiously closed by nightfall. Right outside or in the same enclosure- Electric fenceing. Armed guards. Stock dogs, angry burros, irritable billy goat.

    Expensive. Labour intensive. If any one part of the defense fails, the predator is inside and the domestic animals have no chance to escape, "henhouse syndrome" occurs

    Scenario #2. Make it so there are not a whole bunch of easy targets with no chance to escape packed into a small area to stimulate the predator's natural response. Free range over a larger area with lots of cover and perches out of reach of a predator, select birds who will be happy spending the night in a tree. If they do need houses, have more than 1! Scatter several smaller coops about the area (don't keep all your eggs in 1 basket?).

    So you lose a bird or two, here and there. If they are never all in one place, you are not likely to lose all, or even most in a single incident.

    Cheaper? If you have the space- And select heritage breeds that were developed before chicken wire and bagged feed- And they largely feed themselves by free rangeing- And also are likely to brood their own young, rather than requiring incubators or hatchery chicks- Could it cost a lot less money and time than setting up and guarding "Fort Chicken"? Even if you lose a few birds every year?

    What do the old timers here think about scenario #2?

    (Bert waits for the first stone to be thrown)

    Extensive literature re­ ports the returns to previously cached food by arctic foxes, arctic be­ ars, wolves, coyotes, jackals, hyaenas, lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, and other species. In such cases the excess food is utilized almost fully with only non edible part being left (Braestrup, 1941; Crisler, 1956; Hornocker, 1970; Kruuk, 1972; Hersteinsson & Macdonald, 1982) which confirms the great value of excess prey to predators.
    Kruuk (1972) suggested that surplus killing would be a waste of the predator’s energy, and the latter might sustain injuries in the process of attacking. However, the costs-gain trade off will differ if we consid­ er that the whole process of searching, attacking and killing prey is very costly. Hunting success of large carnivores is low and the death of predator caused by starvaition is not uncommon (reports on lynxes starv­ ed to death in Kaplonov, after Novikov, 1971). Therefore, the oppor­ tunity to obtain surplus food in multiple killing of several vulnerable prey will be very profitable and will secure enough food for the next several days without energetically costly searching and hunting.
  2. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake


    It is more cost effective to make one actually predator proof house.

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