Keeping your hens safe is easy (okay, easier) with these simple tips.
Though they may not know it at first, those who sign up to keep chickens are signing up for something else, too -- an endless battle to keep their hens safe from predators.
From coyotes and bobcats, foxes and mountain lions, raccoons and possums, to owls and hawks, the predators are varied and relentless. Luckily, whether your hens live in a run or are free-range, there are a number of methods that can help keep them safe.
Here are some valuable tips.
Make the area unfriendly to predators.
Predators thrive on the ability to sneak up on their prey, so it is important that you remove this ability.
Cut down any tall grass, bushes, or overgrown areas near your chickens' living quarters so that poultry predators have nowhere to hide. They are much less likely to attack if they have to do so across a big, open area.
Lock them up at night.
Most predators attack at night, so the best way to keep your hens safe is by locking them up when it starts to get dark.
Whether your hens have free range during the day or live in a run, train them to return to you and go into the coop at night. You can also install an automatic coop door, or chicken door, so your chickens can go in at a certain time.
Chickens are intelligent, and should learn the routine quickly. Make sure you lock them up with something a smart predator can't open, such as a carabiner lock that requires the use of opposable thumbs.
Remember that predators come from all directions.
If you think your hens are safe just because they live in a pen with an enclosed perimeter, think again. Predators will often try to dig underneath, so it's important to bury wire under the perimeter to deter this behavior.
Remember that chicken wire may keep chickens in, but it isn't strong enough to keep predators out; to deter toothy critters you should use hardware cloth/mesh.
It is also vital to remember that predators can come from above as well. Covering the top of your hens' living quarters with the same hardware cloth/mesh will help to protect them from hawks and owls looking for their next meal.
Regularly check your coop for any access holes.
You would be surprised at how easily local predators can gain access to your coop. A weasel, for example, can squeeze through a half-inch hole.
Check your coop regularly and patch any holes or weak spots as soon as possible to make the house as predator proof as possible.
Remove the things that attract predators.
Hens themselves attract larger predators, of course, but if you keep the pen clean and collect the eggs every day, you are at least minimizing the food supply that attract small predators like rats, which can steal eggs and even eat your chicks.
Whether your hens are free-range or live in a run, light can be your friend. Attaching a motion sensor light to your coop can help startle off nocturnal predators, while hanging used CDs, or other reflective objects, from trees can deter birds of prey from harming your free-range hens.
Build safety shelters.
Your free-ranging hens have a much higher chance of surviving an attack if they have somewhere to run when threatened.
Build a few low-to-the-ground shelters that they can run under, but birds of prey will not fly under, in different places around your chicken yard or chicken run.
Get some help.
You can't watch your poultry all the time, but a rooster or guard dog can. A good rooster will fight to protect his hens, and a good guard dog will do the same.
(Before you leave a dog alone with your hens, just make sure that he won't turn into a predator himself.)
The predators will never give up, but with these simple tips, you can continue to keep them at bay, assuring your hens safe and long lives.
What do you do to keep your hens safe? Share your tips below!
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