Electric fencing offers protection against chicken predation
Keeping a small flock of chickens at home to provide eggs and meat has become increasingly popular, but many first-time small-scale poultry farmers are discovering that several species of wildlife like the taste of chicken as much as people do. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department urges poultry owners to use electric fencing and follow other precautions to protect their birds from predation.
“We have had a dramatic increase in the number of complaints of bears, foxes, raccoons, fisher, coyotes, skunks, and bobcats preying on chickens,” said Colonel Jason Batchelder, Vermont’s chief game warden. “Many of the calls are coming from people who are new at keeping chickens and who do not provide sufficient protection for their birds.”
“Electric net fencing, secure housing, and a few other measures can help protect back yard chickens from most wildlife predation,” Colonel Batchelder added.
Protecting free-ranging chickens is impossible, so Colonel Batchelder urges people to keep their birds contained inside electric net fencing and to make sure any wire fencing is secure. Use of one-fourth inch hardware cloth, especially along the bottom of an enclosure, will block most small predators. Weasels can get through a one-inch opening. The electric netting, however, is good extra protection even outside the wire netting –– especially against black bears which are strong enough to break into most unprotected chicken coops. Several types of electric net fencing are available. The netting is portable and can easily be used with chicken tractors and other moveable pens.
Additional tips to help keep your chickens safe include: Apply bacon grease or peanut butter to a spot on the electric fencing as an added deterrent; cover the tops of pens with wire or plastic netting to guard against attacks from avian and climbing predators; bury galvanized hardware cloth or netting 12 inches deep around the perimeter of the pen to prevent access by digging predators; a motion-activated light to illuminate the coop after dark will discourage some predators. Motion-activated alarms also can deter them; store poultry feed in a secure indoor location in tight containers, and only feed poultry the amount that can be consumed in one feeding.
Colonel Batchelder, who has chickens at home, says having a backyard flock is fun, but knowing how to protect them is essential for success. –– from Vermont Fish and Wildlife.