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August 8, 2020

Watts column: Guarding poultry from predators

By Morgan Watts
For the Salisbury Post

Every year, I try to recap and talk about predators in poultry. Use this as a reminder when you incorporate new coops to make sure they are predator safe.

It is important to remember that even if you have not had issues in several months or even a year, not to get complacent and make sure your birds are protected and locked up at night.

Predators can be a major problem for backyard poultry owners anywhere, whether you live in the city or in rural areas and it’s not just here in Rowan County. Rowan 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 then 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: Secure your pen so that nothing can break-in. Most people use a wood frame and chicken wire as sides for their coop. Sometimes, chicken wire will fail you. Hardware cloth is the best thing to use, but it is also expensive. 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 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 that 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 alone are not sufficient enough to protect the birds.

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. It is fairly easy to train your birds to go into an enclosed coop at night.

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 questions or would like to discuss your current predator protection plan, contact Morgan Watts, livestock and field crops agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension, Rowan County Center at 704-216-8970, or send her an email at amwatts@ncsu.edu .

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