Morgan Watts column: Protecting your flock against predators

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2021

By Morgan Watts
N.C. Cooperative Extension

Predators … they 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. Rowan County has a variety of predators, ranging from small to large 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 make sure that you do the following things: Make sure that your pen is secure so that nothing can break in. Most people use a wood frame and chicken wire as sides for their coop. However, chicken wire is not predator safe. You need to use hardware cloth to be safe. You will also want to make sure 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, you need to make sure that you have them installed correctly with enough power to keep predators out. Keep in mind that in these types of situations, you will still have to worry about predators in the air like hawks and owls. A tip to defer these types of predators is to eliminate any places they could perch on 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 easy 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 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 currently 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, contact Morgan Watts at 704-216-8970, or stop by for a visit at 2727-A Old Concord Road in Salisbury.

Morgan Watts is livestock and field crops agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

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