Having a poultry flock takes a lot of planning and attention to even the smallest of details. One of these details that need to be addressed from the start is protection from predators.
There are a few steps that can be taken to help protect your flock.
- Good predator management begins with good fencing. Make sure that the openings in the mesh are less than 1" and don't use chicken wire. Remember that chicken wire will keep chickens in but it won't help keep predators out. Electric chicken fencing is a great deterrent for ground predators.
- Bury your wire mesh fencing a good 10-12" around the enclosure to keep predators from digging into the area.
- For avian predators, cover your run with wire or mesh.
- Always put your flock in at night. Most predators are nocturnal which means that they hunt at night. Making sure that the flock goes into the coop every night is the best way not to invite trouble. Even if you free range, train them to go into the coop in the evenings.
- Keep latches locked. Once they have gone into the coop, make sure that all doors (including egg removal doors) and gates are securely locked. Raccoons are particularly clever about opening gate latches or working a gate until it gives away. Make sure that the gate fits snug and that there are no gaps. Locks need to be more complex than a basic hook and latch closure.
- Don't leave predator attracting items lying around. This list includes everything from garbage, compost piles, feed, and potential housing such as shrubs and piles of wood.
- Get a guard dog. A well trained guard dog such as a Great Pyrenees will offer protection and deter a lot of predators from even entering your property. They need to be introduced to the fact that chickens need protection and are not playthings.
- Motion sensor lighting. Again, because most predators are nocturnal in nature, the use of motion detecting lighting on and around your coop will help scare off even the most curious of predators.
Practically all predators will take advantage of an easy chicken dinner. Knowing the predators prevalent in your area will give you a head start on providing protection.
Common poultry predators include: dogs, coyotes, bobcats, house cats, foxes, raccoons, weasels, rats, skunks, opossums, snakes, hawks, eagles and owls.
If your flock has been attacked, a lot of the time the condition that you found them in will tell you what kind of predator was involved.
Adult Birds missing but no signs of disturbance: Dog, Coyote, Fox, Bobcat, Hawk, Eagle or Owl
Chicks missing but not signs of disturbance: Dog, Cat, Snake, Rat
Birds dead but not eaten with parts still intact. Bodies could be bloody with internal organs eaten: Weasel
Birds dead but not eaten, head's missing: Raccoons
Birds wounded but not dead:
Bites all over - Dog
Bites on breasts or legs - Opossum, Raccoons
Bites on hocks of young birds - Rat
Bites with intestines being removed through their vent - Weasel
Eggs missing: Skunks, Snakes, Rats, Opossums, Raccoons, Hawks, Eagles, Owls, Blue Jays