Chickens Predators: Protecting Your Chickens from Real Chicken Enemies

| 7/20/2009 11:57:12 AM

guineas and fox

As I went out with a bucket to feed my Australian Emus, there arose a raucous ruckus in the nearby, freshly hayed field. Cheee-cheee-cheeeeee! This is the alert of the guineas. Being a dutiful poultry keeper, I investigated and there it was ... poor thing! A small red fox was being routed by my guineas. Snatching up my digital camera, I ran out into the field to snap some shots of this common chicken predator. It’s one thing to say that guineas are the first alert system on any poultry operation; it’s another to see it. The photo shows the sad little fox making a dash home with no chicken dinner.

The first line of defense against poultry predators is well-constructed housing. I have no protected run for my chickens, as all my birds are free-ranging. In more restricted areas, you’ll need a run or portable coop for your birds during the day. High chicken-wire sides and netting on the top are adequate to curb birds of prey and rascally dogs in your neighborhood. At night, all poultry should be in a locked and secure roosting area, winter or summer. This is a necessity. Most predators visit at night — just at sunset and prior to sunrise. Leave no food or scraps around that would attract predators of chickens to a free meal. It’s best to feed your birds inside their enclosures, as they are also vulnerable when gathered at feeders.

Elevate your buildings. A coop constructed on stilts or a truss, such as those decks are built on, will prevent problems with mice and rats. Elevated structures also provide shelter for hens to run under in the case of a storm or high-speed flyby by a Red-tailed Hawk!

Guineas are a good first line of defense, as they fearlessly chase off dreaded squirrels, deer, stealthy cats, and — as of 20 minutes ago around here — a fox. Unfortunately, they also sound the alarm when they see the mail carrier, a new car, or their owner walking out of a side door to sip coffee in the morning sun! Their reputation as the noisiest barnyard residents is well earned. In exchange, they eat every imaginable bug.

This leads to a related topic ... snakes. Some perceive snakes as pests, or threats to their chickens: the dreaded egg-eaters, chick-snatchers or hen-stranglers. I understand that it’s easy to give a snake a thwack and appear the hero of the neighborhood. But consider what sort of snakes are actually in your area. Are they truly a threat to your livestock or to you?

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