December 1, 2014
© Chicken Coop Chatter
With cold weather here, predators will be hungry. A hungry predator has one thing in mind, and will always be looking for opportunity. We simply can't say enough about ways to protect our chickens and other livestock.
We’ve had our share of losses from predators, both wild and domestic. Some of our biggest losses have been from domestic dogs that are allowed to run, regardless of laws in place to protect livestock from domestic predators.
If you have free-ranging flocks, make sure you have a rooster. His job is to protect his flock and sound warnings to seek shelter while fighting to the death any interloper that threatens his flock. If you do not have a rooster and insist on free ranging your flock, it will be up to you to provide supervised and monitored ranging time or have a reliable guard animal on duty.
If the chickens are in coops and runs, it is vital that you secure the fencing and check periodically for gaps, broken wires or damages and repair immediately.
Chicken wire is not the most secure wire to use if you do have predators. It is easily breached. A better fencing material is a heavy gauge welded wire, double wiring, or electric wire to deter large predators from making entry. As an example of determination, we had a domestic predator break through chain link fencing to destroy an entire flock. Your fencing can never be too secure!
Raccoons are adept at opening gates so make sure you have double locks on your entry gates and on the chicken coop. With the safeguard of having more than one lock system, it will take them much longer to figure out how to enter. Also, either cover your runs with secure heavy wire, secure roofing or make sure all limbs are trimmed high enough to prevent raccoons, bobcats and cougars from slipping from limbs to the coop roof and then into the runs.
If you have burrowing predators, make sure to bury wire, hardware cloth, metal, cement barrier or lumber deep enough in the ground around the coops and runs to make it difficult for burrowing animals to enter. Weasels are wily creatures and will look for opportunity to dig under fencing and coop structures.
Snakes can be big predators during warm months and can easily slip through small gaps in structures and fencing. If you do have snakes, use hardware cloth or the finest mesh wire to secure around the entire perimeter of the coops and runs. There are very few effective deterrents for snakes. If there are mouse or rat dens around the coops, those are easy entry points for snakes. You do need to put a plan in place to eradicate the mice and rats or risk diseases that can spread to your flocks. Make sure all holes in the ground are filled in and tamped down.
Reinforce gaps in wood structures with an overlay of lumber, metal siding or other secure materials. Make sure any windows or vents are completely secure to prevent entry.
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