One of the coolest things about living on a farm is the interaction between humans and animals. It is a relationship much like the one you would have with a child and in a way it is just that; a parent and child relationship without the diaper changing or the trips to the dentist.
It is also a really cool way to expose those around you to the benefits that your chosen lifestyle has to offer. This is just the case with my father who not too long ago decided he wanted to keep chickens in the city. This desire of his was fulfilled with the purchase of some “yard birds” from a local that we have befriended.
Fast forward to last when I received a phone call stating that “Henrietta is dead and there are feathers everywhere.” Interested, I took the bait, “what do mean Henrietta is dead?” “Well, I heard a loud racket outside and when I rounded the corner there was Henrietta in the claws of an owl that had broken her neck and was getting ready to fly off with her.”
All I could utter was “No way,” and then the visual images began taking over. But it also got me to thinking. Living on a farm brings many challenges and opportunities day in and day out. How we choose to handle them and learn from them, helps determine how successful we will be.
When raising chickens, turkeys, rabbits or any other animal for that matter, the number one enemy that you will face is a “predator.” A predator can come in the form of a coyote, fox, hawk or a varied number of creatures that like to eat the very animals we like to raise. And just as you are, the predator is also a very intelligent adversary and should be treated as such.
The first item on any “Predator Check List” should be a thorough examination of the housing in which you maintain your livestock. The condition of your animal housing not only says a lot about you, but it is also an indication of how well a predator will be thwarted in his or her efforts to alleviate you of the possession of a chicken or other edible creature in your care.
Think of your animals’ abode as if it is yours, and treat it as such. Look around the perimeter of the pen to see if there are any areas that would allow easy access to the inhabitants within. Is there a larger than normal gap between the gate and the opposite side rail; can something as small as a sunk crawl between that gap? Do you have wire fencing laced over the top of the pen or have you put metal or wood roofing in its place?
These are but a few of the many questions that need to be asked. Of course if you “free range” your animals the predator precautions will be entirely different and will present their own challenges.
For the most part “free rangers” can be protected from four-legged predators through the use of tightly woven fencing designed for such a purpose, but it does not protect from the winged predators who take as many victims as do their four-legged counter parts.
Sometimes our chosen lifestyle comes with many demanding facets that will affect the way we do things. For those of us who raise cattle or goats, a simple little donkey is a great coyote deterrent that can and will deliver some massive body damage to that furry but wily predator. But it will be intelligent human decisions that will ultimately determine how well the animals under our control are protected. Remember, in many ways they are like your children, totally dependent on you.