Morgan Watts Chronicle: Protect Your Herd From Predators – Salisbury Post

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By Morgan Watts
NC cooperative extension

Predators… they can be a major problem for backyard poultry owners anywhere, whether you live in a city or a rural area, and it’s not just here. Rowan County has a variety of predators, from small to large. We have hawks, owls, skunks, foxes, cats, raccoons, possums, coyotes and of course the neighbor’s dog. You should always make sure that your chicken coop is safe from these predators. Sometimes it can be trial and error; you may think your co-op is up and running and you are failing. It is also much harder to protect your birds if they are roaming free all of the time or even part of the time, so keep that in mind when thinking about your chicken coop design and protection from predators.

From a chicken coop perspective, you need to make sure you do the following: Make sure your pen is secure so that nothing can get in. Most people use a wooden frame and chicken wire as the sides for their chicken coop. However, fencing is not safe for predators. You must use a material cloth to be safe. You’ll also want to make sure there aren’t any weak spots in the wire or cage. If it’s built correctly, you shouldn’t have any problems. Another thing is to make sure that nothing can dig at night, as this is when most predators are a problem.

If your birds have their own fenced yard, it is recommended that you use poultry netting that will protect them from entering and exiting. These fences are portable and electric so you can move them around if needed. To function properly, you need to make sure you’ve installed them correctly with enough power to keep predators out. Keep in mind that in these types of situations, you will still need to worry about predators in the air like hawks and owls. One trick to repelling these types of predators is to eliminate any places they might roost within 100 yards of the herd. If you are constantly having issues, you may need to adjust and build a covered range 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 netting to surround your chicken tractors. Sometimes these enclosures are not enough to protect birds on their own.

Now if you have your birds roaming free it will be much more difficult to protect them from predators. Your best bet in this case would be to park them at night to reduce the risk. You can train your birds quite easily to enter a closed chicken coop at night. Another option would be to invest in a quality watchdog. There are several different breeds that will work for this, but you need to make sure they come from a line that has been bred to protect poultry. The most common breed to be used in this region is that of the Great Pyrenees.

By the way, 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 you secure your enclosures.

If you have any further questions on this topic or would like to discuss your current predator protection plan, contact Morgan Watts at 704-216-8970, or drop by to visit us at 2727-A Old Concord Road in Salisbury.

Morgan Watts is a Livestock and Field Crop Officer at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

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