In regard to protecting poultry from airborne predators, we have found the best defense is a good rooster.
Our 40 hens free range over an acre enclosed by a 6-foot, woven-wire fence. The chickens generally hang out under a large willow tree, planted specifically for that purpose, or along the fence. If the birds happen to be in the open when a hawk appears, our rooster — chosen for alertness as well as cockiness — will sound the alarm and the hens will noisily scatter to the tree or fence line.
In nine years, we’ve lost only a few chicks and one small hen to a hawk. We close up the chickens each evening.
The other predator that deserves mentioning is the chicken snake (a common name for rat snakes). These snakes will eat eggs and chicks, and they’re not at all shy. We’ve found the best way to keep them out of the coop is to place a few perforated soda bottles with mothballs inside them around the coop.
Goldsboro, North Carolina
A Country Lore tip from the April/May 2011 issue.