The Great Chicken Caper

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

maintain. A single electrified wire placed 8 inches from the building and 8 inches above the ground will discourage even the most hungry and persistent predator.

For more protection, add more strands of electrified wire approximately 8 inches apart. It usually takes only one encounter with an electric fence to send a predator the size of a black bear rolling backwards and retreating, full gait, into the night.

Dogs

Place the family dog and dog house near the poultry house, assuming, of course, that Ol' Shep is trustworthy. If necessary, put Ol' Shep on a chain at night to make certain he is within reach of the poultry house if a predator visits.

Light

An outdoor night-light is helpful; the dawn-to-dusk type that comes on automatically is best. The light with an on-off switch works fine too, provided someone remembers to turn it on every evening and off every morning. Still, some predators may become accustomed to the light or be hungry enough to ignore the light.

Traps

If discouraging those pesky critters doesn't work, try capturing them with cage traps or foot-hold traps.

Cage traps will catch most small predators, such as raccoons and opossums, but are ineffective against coyotes. Still, cage traps are useful tools, especially in conjunction with other deterrents, and it's easy to release family pets that wander into these.

Take care when using foot-hold traps if family pets are allowed to roam at night. Ol' Shep can be released from a foot-hold trap with little more than a bruised foot, but that does not achieve the objective of removing the marauding predator. Foot-hold traps must either be covered or removed during the daylight hours to prevent trapping non-target animals.

Close the Door

Finally, the best method of protecting poultry against late-night predators, regardless of how good you are at animal husbandry, must be mentioned: close the poultry house door at night after the chickens are inside. This simple advice is easy to forget and often results in a late-night dash to the poultry house - a trip that has been the undoing of many people.

Witness a friend named Joe who lived in a small Missouri town. Joe was awakened one summer night by a disturbance in the chicken house. He immediately realized his mistake - he had forgotten to close the chicken house door when he finished working in the garden that evening.

Joe rushed out the back door, bare-chested and bare-footed, and grabbed a shovel leaning against the back of the house. The new-mowed lawn was saturated with summer dew. Joe high-stepped toward the chicken house with great stealth and cunningness; a full moon filled the summer sky. Without warning, Joe felt pain in his right foot, heard a clap of thunder and saw a sudden shower of stars.

When Joe didn't return to bed, his wife went looking for him. With the aid of a flashlight she easily followed his path across the wet lawn. She found her man lying flat on his back at the edge of consciousness. Joe's right foot showed two puncture wounds resembling the bite of a large venomous snake, and a world-class knot was emerging on his forehead. In his dash to the chicken house, Joe had stepped on a garden rake lying tines up in the back yard.

Joe hobbled around town for the next few days, explaining to anyone who would listen how someone else left the rake in the back yard - but nobody believed him.

The best offense, as Joe would now tell you, is a good defense. Construct and maintain a solid poultry house and exercise pen and remember to close the door at night, so that you and your poultry can sleep tight.

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