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Protecting Poultry from Predators

Raising poultry as a hobby or as a means of producing meat or fresh eggs for the table has become the fastest growing segment of the livestock industry.  However, New Hampshire’s forested landscapes are home to a number of predators that will take advantage of inadequately protected poultry operations which quickly become an easy meal and concentrated food source. With a modest investment of time and money these livestock owners can protect their investments from damage.

 

  • The use of barrier fencing whether it’s an overhang design that can prevent climbing or incorporating an electric fence around a night pen, has been proven as an effective barrier against predators.  Chicken wire is designed to keep chickens in, not predators out. Use a sturdy fence that is at least 5’ tall if predators will be a problem.
  • When the season allows, choose a portable electric fence designed for poultry if you have the space and plan on moving your birds to new grassy areas.  Your night shelter can also be portable. 
  • Raising the coop enclosures off the ground to can discourage rats, the weasel family, and snakes from sneaking in beneath it to steal eggs or young. 
  • For predators that dig beneath fencing, dig a trench that is approximately 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide around the perimeter of the pen.  Bend and lay galvanized hardware cloth into the trench and attach enough hardware cloth securely to the outer fence or the building.  Back-fill the trench with dirt or rip-rap gravel.
  • Provide cover within the livestock area. Bushes, branches, a discarded Christmas tree, and boxes can provide protection from federally protected aerial predators like hawks and owls. Additionally crisscrossing overhead wires in the pen can help to disrupt the flight patterns of these opportunistic raptors.
  • Covering poultry runs with plastic netting or well supported welded-wire fencing will ultimately take care of attacks from above.
  • If possible remove trees that would allow perching raptors from overlooking the pen.
  • Train your animals to return to a barn or coop every evening and close them in.  If your pen door is outside your fencing make sure the door can be securely closed.  A loose door is no match for a powerful bear paw.
  • Store your livestock feed in lockable and secure area.  Use tight fitting galvanized trash containers that will cut down on attractive odors for predators like bears.  Clean up or reduce spilled or leftover food that may attract pests and predators.
  • Provide adequate lighting and remove brush and large bushes from around the livestock area perimeter. Some noise making devices like the battery operated Critter-Gitter can scare off predators or alert you that something is out near the protected area. 
  • If you do have a predation problem you can buy yourself some time before correcting your husbandry practices by putting out a radio playing a loud talk radio program, and hanging some clothing with a strong human odor.