Death is always a threat when you raise chickens, or any other animal for that matter. You take preventative measures to ensure that your chickens are safe. You are familiar with what chicken predators are in your area and then one day you slip up.
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The number one thing to do in the first place is to take the time to secure your coop and run. Make sure your fencing is tightly in place and do weekly coop/run checks to make sure there are no deficiencies within the structure. Every single night, no exception, close your coop up. The one night you forget could be the time a predator chooses to attack.
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Doing all you can initially will save you heartache in the end. If your chickens still do get attacked then you MUST understand how this happened and go from there.
Know thy Predator
No matter where you live in the world another animal besides you wants to eat your chickens, or maybe they want to kill for sport but either way you try to avoid this at all costs. Number one lesson in Chickens 101 is protect your chickens from predators.
So you build a chicken coop and run to deter any invading predators and all seems to go well. During the nice days you decide to let your chickens free range because isn’t the point of having these girls is to give them the freedom commercial poultries lack?
My first incident with a predator happened with a hawk. By some miracle the hawk didn’t kill the chicken and for weeks I only had the chickens out free ranging when I was out or I put my dogs out with the girls.
My bantam pulled through and lived but only to suffer at the hands of the sneakiest, most cunning predator to have-a fox. You see my first indication that we had a fox lurking around was what I found in the mornings during my coop checks.
Mr. Fox was marking his territory by defecating around the coop and run. There was no sign that he tried to access the run and coop, which was good but still he was around.
At this point what I should have done was researched about foxes. Sure I knew he’d eat my chickens given the chance and that he was clever, but I just didn’t know how clever.
The fox was watching and learning our habits. Knowing when we would be outside, and where and when the chickens were let out. He was studying me all the while I should have been doing the same to him.
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Take Threats Seriously
Over the course of a few months the fox was able to kill 3 guinea hens and 2 chickens. This was the point where I should have completely stopped the free ranging until the fox was “taken care of.”
I assumed that because my girls were in the fenced in dog yard, they would be fine during the day. I was wrong, very wrong.
One sunny afternoon that fox managed to sneak under the fence and kill 6 of my birds, all the while we were in the house right next to the yard. Sneaky devil he was, we found our rooster half buried for a later meal.
The biggest question you’ll ask yourself is “how can I prevent this from happening ever again?” Truth is it probably will happen again because you cannot simply anticipate every action of a predator. When we do all we can and death still happens, you just must realize this is apart of the natural order.
For me, understanding that predators can and will go to extreme measures to get food was the lesson learned. I’d never imagined during a sunny afternoon adjacent to my home that a fox would dare sneak in and kill all but one of my chickens.
As adorable as baby chicks are, I am not looking forward to raising them again. They are a lot of work! Luckily I was able to get a rooster and a few pullets from a local chicken gal so my one chicken won’t be lonely.
Free ranging the chickens is on hold for the moment until we can get rid of the fox. Even still, you may never know when a predator is lurking until it is too late.
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