Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Predators and Protection Part One

Chickens aren't only tasty to us human folks. They are also irresistible to all sorts of predators that are lurking in every shadow and under every shrub on the farm. I have experienced first hand the heartache of losing a flock to gnashing teeth and sharp claws.
The main predators are (in no particular order)
mountain lions

     I am only really going to address the predators that I have had experience with or that live in our area. I'm sure there are many other wonderful blogs that discuss bears and mountain lions and psycho weasels. We live close to the coast on the Gulf of Mexico where there are NO weasels! The last time I saw a mountain lion was at the New Orleans Zoo. If I ever see a bear around here, you will know it because my screaming will be heard throughout the nation.
     My first chicken run was made the 'Snuffy Smith' way. It was just kind of thrown together with 3x2 wire, posts, zip ties and heavy gauge wire to use like bread ties to hold wire together. It worked quite well for a couple of years. Then, one morning, we found one of the 6 hens dead in the run. I thought that a hawk grabbed it through the wire and pulled its neck because the neck area was really torn up, and only one hen was dead. We looked over the run and could not find any issues. The next morning, we saw the same thing. We looked all over the run and couldn't find a problem. I had family members look everywhere too. We looked for hair caught in wire, scratch marks, disturbed dirt, etc.... nothing. I set up a trap inside the run and a game cam. This is what we found:

     We also finally found where the culprits were entering. Somehow, some of the wire had come apart where we had joined two pieces together. It was on top of a cross board and was not noticeable. We still can't believe the animals were able to find it, let alone wiggle themselves underneath it. But, I guess they have all night to figure out how to get in there. I was very upset with the whole ordeal. We razed the entire run and built a new and larger run with security in mind. I will be writing future blogs on our run project.

     One of the main predators of chickens that most people don't consider is the family dog and the roaming dog. We have had issues with packs of feral dogs in the past. Some of the other family members on the farm woke up one morning to a horrendous sight. Their beautiful flock of about 5 hens was completely destroyed. We knew it was a dog. Hair was found on parts of the wire run and there were prints in the dirt. They were also killed in a manner consistent with a dog, which is their backs were torn up. Dogs like to pin the chicken down and chew at them through the back and neck. The dog visited my coop and run as well, but he was not able to get my hens. I have seen dogs chew through hardware cloth. I have seen them chew right through chicken wire or poultry netting. On the coop, I have 3x2 wire and hardware cloth. The 3x2 wire is for dogs and raccoons, and the hardware cloth is to deter rodents and snakes from getting in and eating the eggs. The dog you see in the picture chewed through the hardware cloth. I wish that I had gotten a picture at the time, but I was not blogging then and didn't think about it! The bad boy below really tore up the outside of my coop. He scratched everywhere. I think this is the dog that also killed my brother's chickens. It is NOT our dog.

For a height reference, this was my horse, Jake. He passed away later that summer, unfortunately. He was quite old and was stricken with EPM. That's another story for another day. He is a tad over 15 hands, which makes him about 5 foot at the top of the wither. The dog was able to scratch up to about 6 feet high. He ripped the chicken wire at that height.

You might be able to see the dog scratches better in this photo. He scratched all along the sides, and as high as in between the top two vents.

So, the take away from this post is:
- Poultry netting and hardware cloth can be ripped apart by a dog and other larger predators
- use 3x2 wire to deter larger predators
- check for holes/gaps/loose areas in your run fencing

I'm going to be starting a series of posts documenting the building of a secure run. Stay tuned!


  1. All good information -- we've dealt mostly with coons and had to set traps to get rid of a family that was living under our boat in the back of the coop area. Very distressing to loose hens this way.

  2. Wow! I have only had one issue, ever, with a predator here and we think it was an oppossum; I lost a blue Orpington. :*(

    Great post, Emily, I'm looking forward to your series. I need to be more diligent in my coop-safety!


  3. The dog in the top pick was not alone. The game cam barely caught a glimpse of a large, black fluffy tail. It's scary to think about what's running around at night out in the country while we're tucked away in our beds.