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How to keep predators away from your chickens

Chicken tractor

Cooperative Extension A chicken tractor provides some protection for chickens, but nighttime is when predators come out.

Cooperative Extension A chicken tractor provides some protection for chickens, but nighttime is when predators come out.

By Morgan Watts

Rowan Cooperative Extension

Predators can be a major problem for backyard poultry owners anywhere, whether you live in the city or rural area, and it’s not just here in Rowan County.

Rowan County has a variety of predators, ranging from small to big in size. We have hawks, owls, skunks, foxes, cats, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and of course, the neighbor’s dog.

You should always make sure that your coop is safe from these predators. Sometimes, this can be trial and error — you may think that your coop is good to go and it fails you.

It’s also a lot harder to protect your birds if they are free-range all of the time or even just part of the time, so keep that in mind when you think about your coop design and predator protection.

From a coop perspective, you need to do the following things: Make sure your pen is secure so that nothing can break in. Most people use a wood frame and chicken wire as sides for their coop. You will also want to make sure that there are no weak spots in the wire or cage. If built correctly, you should have no issues.

Another thing is to make sure that nothing can dig in at night, as this is when most predators are a problem.

If your birds have their own yard area that is fenced in, it is recommended to use poultry netting that will protect them from things getting in and also from them getting out. These fences are portable and electric so that you can move them around if needed. To work properly, make sure that you have them installed correctly with enough power to keep predators out.

Keep in mind that in these situations, you will still have to worry about predators in the air like hawks and owls. A tip to defer these predators is to eliminate any places where they could perch within 100 yards of the flock. If you consistently have issues, you may have to adjust and build a covered run for your birds instead.

If you have your birds in a chicken tractor that is constantly being moved, it is always a good idea to use poultry nets to surround your chicken tractors. Sometimes, these enclosures are not sufficient enough to protect the birds alone.

Now, if you have your birds free ranging, it’s going to be a lot harder to protect them from predators. Your best bet in this case would be to pen them at night to cut down on the hazards. You can train your birds fairly easily to go into an enclosed coop at night time.

Another option would be to invest in a quality guard dog. There are several different breeds that will work for this, but you need to make sure that they come from a bloodline that has been bred to guard poultry. The most common breed to use in this area is the Great Pyrenees.

On a side note, if you are having predator issues, give me a call and I will help you figure out what type of predator you are dealing with and some solutions to help make your enclosures more secure.

If you have any other questions about this or if you want to discuss your current predator protection plan, please contact Morgan Watts, livestock and field crops agent with Rowan County Cooperative Extension, at 704-216-8970, or stop by for a visit at 2727-A Old Concord Road, Salisbury.

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