When we moved from out in the boonies to a small town and started our new little flock of urban chickens, I thought we'd have an easier life where predators were concerned. Foxes, the bane of our chicken's existence for years, were left behind, as were hawks and owls.
Imagine my chagrin when six out of twelve of my pullets were taken by a sneaky stray dog that wasn't even interested in them as a food source but was just after satisfying its killing instinct. MY killing instinct was strongly activated too! It was one of those moments when I was really glad we don't own a gun, because shooting that stray was mighty tempting.
Thankfully, living now in an area with established veterinary inspection services, we had a door we could knock on. I lodged a complaint and, after a while, didn't see that dog again, which makes me hopeful that it was caught. Nevertheless, there are other stray dogs in the area, so, for now, I only let my chickens out under supervision while we figure out a good, affordable, and reliable fencing solution.
There are other predators in the area, too, which I am wary of:
- Cats. My neighborhood is full of street cats, and while I'm a great cat lover and see the importance of cats in keeping the population of rodents like mice and rats under control, feral cats can easily go for chicks and young pullets (though they are less likely to mess with adult chickens). This is somewhat mitigated by our own (chicken friendly) cat being very territorial and guarding the yard against other felines.
- Rats. We have some massive rats in the area, though thankfully not inside the house right now. Rats can steal eggs and young chicks, and are strong suspects in the case of two chicks of ours disappearing without a trace.
- Snakes. Like rats, snakes will likely go for eggs or young chicks. Snakes swallow eggs whole and you won't see any broken shells. Thankfully, the snakes in our area are not venomous.
- Mongoose (mongooses? Mongeese?!). in our area, the Egyptian mongoose is pretty common. These little carnivores are very good at sneaking into chicken coops through even the tiniest openings and can decimate a whole flock in the blink of an eye. We haven't encountered them here yet, but other chicken keepers in the area have shared horrifying tales.
Bottom line: Never assume you get fewer predators when you and your chickens move to another area. There will always be something that wants to eat your beloved birds, so invest in a watertight coop and well-fenced run.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband, and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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