The problems with Foxes, Snakes, Vermin and flying predators
Foxes, rats, mice, snakes and flying predators are a major problem for the home poultry keeper. Here is some useful advise to follow in your backyard
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If you've invested a heap of time, money and effort into creating a coop and building a flock of birds, then you and your family need to be aware of the many dangers you have from loosing your stock either one, or worse still, the whole flock. And let me tell you from experience it isn't a pretty site. I've lost my entire stock to foxes three times and it doesn't get easier as it goes on. Its the most heart wrenching experience one can imagine. Foxes generally only take one bird as food, but kill and maim the rest of the flock, and to walk into your coop and see dead bodies and feathers everywhere is enough to make even the strongest person shudder and perhaps shed a tear or two. So what should we know, and how can we protect our feathered friends?
First don't think there are no foxes close to you they're everywhere so just be aware and make plans now to eradicate the problem from your backyard
If you've already built your coop, then you've probably already listened to friends or read articles about predator proofing your coop. But let me tell you, and again from experience, a fox is capable of squeezing through very small holes, as small as 10cm diameter, so maybe its time to re-visit your coop and just do a routine check.
If you're now building then this is an excellent time to incorporate a predator proofing plan. And here is a check list for you to follow, and remember a fox can scale a two metre fence, jump as much as 1 metre, dig under the mesh and even chew through the wire;
- Your entire coop and run should be completely covered sides, top and even the bottom if you can, provided the bottom is covered with sand or other substrate
- The wire should run down the coop and run by as much as 30 cm underground and then out another 30 cm out at a right angles. this should then be covered with stones or dirt and tamped in place with your feet.
- Use the strongest wire netting you can afford. Galvanized weld mesh is the best but it is expensive. An alternative you can get from your local hardware store is Chicken Wire Netting that is 90 cm wide x 50 mm aperture x 0.7 (or thicker) x 20 mtr (or longer)
- Make sure there are no gaps around windows and doors
- If possible raise the house part above ground level and ensure there is a solid floor so that predators cant get in
- Ensure that family members especially your children lock the coop door firmly each night
- If you can afford it invest in Sensor Lights. These lights mimic someone walking with a torch so confuses the fox into thinking a person is nearby
- Or you could do what I did and invest in a Maremma dog. Ever since Jack has been with me, I've not experiences any more fox problems.
Vermin, rats and mice, and most people think that if you have poultry you're going to get rodents too. That's not always the case, its not the livestock what attracts them it's the smell of the food. That's the single thing that drives them to your coop. So keeping this in mind, the most effective way of controlling vermin is to cut off their food supply, deny any access to their breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks between. Invest in a sturdy purpose built poultry feeder such as the treadle feeder. Make sure all food is kept in metal containers. Plastic containers are only marginally better than the bag the feed came in. Putting feed on shelves in no answer as rats can jump from one level to another if they can smell the food. A metal container with no holes, not even a small hole in anywhere is the best solution.
Protecting the coop. There's a product readily available called Snake/Rodent/Mouse/Vermin and is a wire mesh 90 cm wide with holes just 6.5 x .6.5 mm. Ideally this should be installed all around the perimeter of the coop to protect against the possibility of these pests entering. However always remember that rats and mice can climb and in some instances this wire is ineffective
Snakes, Again its not the poultry that attracts the snakes, its rats and mice the snakes are after, and of course eggs are also an attraction. Remove the rodents and you've essentially taken care of the snakes.
But if you do have a problem with snakes in your yard, Call the Snake Hotline for help and assistance. Don't try and catch the snake yourself, its a specialsed job. And the introduction of Guinea Fowl is a killer to snakes, they just don't get on together. A plastic egg is another trick you can do. A snake will never return after trying to digest a plastic egg.