The Cost of Predators

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Eggs are getting to be as expensive as steak used to be – and may become unavailable – which is part of the reason why we have chickens (and ducks). They produce eggs on site. No need to go to the store – or worry about whether there’ll be anything to buy in the store.

But there are some worries.

One of them being predators. This time, the natural kind – unlike the government kind (and the kind created by government). Hawks, raccoons, possums and – this time – foxes. A duck disappeared overnight and the next morning we could hear the foxes – plural – gloating over their kill. If you have not heard a fox, they make a very interesting sound; something like a screech-growl. And – as everyone knows – foxes are clever. These enjoyed playing the game of coming close to the open field near the coop but not out in the open – where I could see them and have a shot at taking a shot. They’d let me know they were there, though – as if mocking me.

So, the birds had to go back into their enclosed run, which keeps the foxes and most but not all of the other predators out. The problem now is the birds are not free to roam – and so don’t have much to eat, because there’s only a little grass and not many bugs within the enclosed run area. Chickens and ducks will quickly denude any enclosed/fenced-off area you confine them to.

This is why chicken tractors are moved from spot to spot.

A chicken tractor is an enclosed run on wheels. Many people like to build and use them for a number of reasons; the chief one being it solves the dilemma of keeping the birds safe from predators while also giving them fresh grass (and bugs) to eat. Which is the other main reason for having chickens and ducks; i.e., to have truly free range eggs produced by chickens and ducks not raised on store-bought (and probably GMO) corn/scratch feed. The difference there is more than just freshness – of eggs that haven’t been sitting in a warehouse, then a truck and finally a store probably for at least a week or more in between the time they were laid to the time you eat them. Eggs produced by birds that eat what birds naturally eat have rich, almost red yolks and are more nutritious and delicious than eggs produced by battery hens that eat nothing but the feed they are fed.

But – enter the dilemma – in order for the birds to have access to the grass and bugs that are their natural food, they must be free to roam, which exposes them to predation by foxes, et al.

So – you’re probably wondering – why not build/use those chicken tractors you mentioned earlier? Reason the first: I haven’t got any. I could of course build (or buy) one. But I’d need several, to accommodate the flock – and to distribute the weight of the flock. The thing about chicken tractors is they have to be moved fairly regularly, in order to prevent the birds from denuding the earth underneath it. Which is more than just unsightly, of course. If there’s no grass, there’s nothing for the birds to eat. Just dirt and – when it rains – mud.

So each tractor has to be small – and light – enough to be readily moveable, assuming you haven’t got a mechanical means of moving it, such as a tractor. And even if you do have the latter – as I do – there is still the having to move these things on the fairly regular, which gets into work. And that can be a problem when you have to work – as I do – pretty much all day long. In order to earn the money it takes to buy the stuff you need to build the tractors and of course everything else.

Which is why – when we decided to get birds – we decided on the least work-involved scenario we could devise. This entailed a coop the chickens could enter and exit at their pleasure – so that we would not have to open and close the coop twice every day. The birds could roost when they liked – and forage when they liked. They have the run of the land, including the woods.

But there are things in the woods that like chicken (and duck) as much as we do, too.

Such is life on the farm.

. . .

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Just a few “chickenshit” questions for all you “fowl” caretakers.

    1) Why do so many chickens free range throughout the Dominican Republic without apparent consequence, i.e. natural predators? Or am I only witnessing the hardy “Omega Man”, survivors?

    2) Did the term “Easter Egg hunt” originate with the Dominican hen habit of just laying an egg anywhere convenient… the plucky dears just plop themselves by the side of road and lay away….honest injin.

    3) I wonder how many of the cute fuzzy little chicks make it through “Boot Camp” following that Strutting Cock down Main St….In my opinion a domestic cat would be Shredded in 20 seconds….However.. when the Guardian is away??

    Any advice would be helpful….Plan to be “Off the grid, by Christmas”…

    Onward through the fog..

  2. I know that it’s not much of a consolation, but natural predators are just doing what they do; they’re just trying to survive. OTOH, gov’t predators live to screw us over, make our lives miserable, etc. That is to say that natural predators are preferable to the gov’t variety.

  3. we have our duck and chicken coop inside the yard….1 acre yard with the dogs. the dogs patrol and keep out predators. yes…my dogs did kill a chicken, once….i took the chicken and tied to to his collar and left the dead bird dangling off his collar for the day. it doesn’t hurt the dog. you don’t choke them or scold them. a dead bird does the trick. and now i have dogs that protect the birds…they won’t touch one…not a single time. they don’t even look at a bird. the avoid them.

    we had raccoons that killed all of our birds one night. they get in and get into a blood frenzy. they killed all of them. 15 birds with throats cut. like a maniac visited. after that we moved them to the yard. and one of the dogs killed one of the new ones…hence the ”cure” of hanging one off the collar. one dog took 2 days. one took 2 hours. you know your dog. but they are the best guardians now! nothing gets in. raccoons and opossums are the predators in the area. and i sometimes find one in the morning. not moving. the ran across the dogs.

    german shepards and rottweilers. just for breed knowledge all dogs can be trained to be guardians. some take more effort then others. but all are wonderful at taking care of the birds. the birds eat bugs in the fruit orchard and gardens and keep them off my plants so now it is win…win.

  4. Owls (most likely) ate our young chickens last year. Our plan is now a large and fully enclosed area, using chicken-wire and net, and eventually feeding them with grains grown on our land.

    We’ll see how it goes.

  5. I grew up on a farm, we raised countless chickens both for our own food and for sale. You’re doing it right.

    We had wolves, foxes, cats, polecats, and hawks to worry about. Locking the chickens up at night stopped the ones with legs. Now and again, one would dig its way in, but that’s why you had multiple coops, so you can repopulate one that got killed from the others. Having a coop the chickens can run to on their own isn’t quite as good, because if they can get in, so can a predator, but it’s better than nothing because the predators are cautious. If they get in once, though, they’ll keep coming back.

    I don’t know if you have roosters, but those things are impressively vicious. They’ll attack a fox, and die fighting it, to protect the hens, and you’ll hear the fight to go deal with it. Dogs are also great at this as well, because they’ll go investigate and alert you.

    It’s a damn lot of work keeping a farm thriving, man.

    • That being said, fresh eggs from your own land, where the yolks are almost red in color, are incredible, but you know this. It’s also cool how eggs change from season to season as the plants and bugs available to the hens change.

  6. A donkey will tear into a hyena and that’ll be the end of the line for the hyena.

    There are videos of what donkeys can do.

    Had two foxes fit their way into the culvert not far away from the farmyard.

    My dog spotted them in the yard and went in for the chase, he could keep up with them but the foxes could turn at a right angle in the blink of an eye. They didn’t come back, had to find a new place to live.

    In the old days of the 2000’s I had a female dachshund that was going to go after a buffalo at a state park recreation area. Can’t let that happen.

    After a whole day of butchering chickens, you’ll feel like the fox raiding the hen house.

    Marinate chicken wings in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and some sesame seed oil. Fry them up in some sunflower oil, they’re going to be good.

    A bull got out of the pasture and onto the blacktop road, it’s in the ditch for predators to chew on. Plenty of coyotes, there are wolves and mountain lions in the hinterlands these days. When you see a moose not far from you, you know they are a big animal.

    Bald eagles perched themselves in a tree row and watched over the kill out in the field. A deer was standing maybe a thousand yards away out of danger, his deer buddy was the meal. A couple of eagles were on the ground having a feast.

    Hawks will chase bald eagles, eagles don’t like hawks chasing them. Falcons are here and there, kites out there. Wildlife everywhere you go these days. Upland game, ducks, geese, songbirds by the thousands. One lake 20 miles away has pelicans living on it during the summer months, cormorants are doing their thing. Pelicans means the lake has fish in it.

    Those foxes will eat cats too. Owls and crows are natural enemies. Probably 15 years ago a rook of crows were flying around the neighborhood. One day they were gone. A couple of days later I saw an owl flying at night. Explains why the crows were gone.

    The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

  7. The control group wants the slaves as sick, weak and as stupid as possible…. that makes them easier to control…less possibility of a slave revolt…especially during a cull…..they might figure it out…

    as sick as possible….makes them customers for the slave owner’s big pharma…billions of $$$ more profits…

    What you eat is the biggest factor in your health….the most important thing you eat is meat…so the control group will ban it or make it very expensive…..the control group is pushing vegan diet….plus bugs….which will ruin your health….

    Video on a healthy diet….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjoM5e9tBeo

  8. My brother has chickens too and they have bobcats and coyotes that enjoy chicken dinners. A solution for you could be dogs. My brother bought some pups (don’t remember what breed) and placed them with the chickens immediately and let them grow up with the chickens. Now he has dogs that will attack anything that would threaten the chickens.

    • A dog is the simplest choice.

      You could run a trap line and catch some of the foxes. Low maintenance.

      Alpacas are good at fending off coyotes, but that’s a whole other thing to deal with.

      • just a tip for feeding. i feed my dogs a homemade diet. not the raw one. they don’t do well on that. too much inbreeding i think changes their stomachs. mine do much better with a cooked diet. i put the meat in a crock pot. with sweet potato, carrots, and cabbage. it is enough to feed my large dogs for several days. and they are much healthier then with dry dog food that god only knows what goes in it.

        one thing i have read about is the vets sell the dead dogs and cats to the rendering plants who turn them back into dog food and cat food. even the ones with the chemical they used to put them to sleep. i suspect all dog food has those ingredients.

        i only know that mine do do much better and with actually less food. you can buy a bag of chicken quarters for 8.00 and the veggies. you have to debone the chicken when it is fully cooked. do not feed the bones. they splinter. but you get a lot of meat and mine get more out of the broth and fat then the meat. coats are soft. they have more energy. brighter eyes. and more muscle then ever.

        my dogs are shepherds and Rottweiler’s. big dogs. i can feed them for 3 days on 1 bag of quarters. 3 dogs for 3 days. if you have only 1 dog it will go further and you can freeze in Tupperware for later use. get creative. i sometimes feed hamburger helper type meal only for dogs. they love it. old chicken and roasts go in the crockpot. lots of ways and it proves to be cheaper then a premium dog food of unknown mix and origin.

        try it for a month and watch the change in your guardian dogs or house dogs.

        • Good comment about cooked foods. My dog won’t touch raw meat.

          I can see feeding chickens, chicken. But, re: “the vets sell the dead dogs and cats to the rendering plants who turn them back into dog food and cat food.”
          …Really? Wow.

          Anyway, Dr. Karen Becker DVM has a decent book with recipes, seems trustworthy:

          ‘Dr Becker’s Real Food For Healthy Dogs and Cats: Simple Homemade Food’

          Here she is on video:

          ‘Dr. Becker Shares Her Updated List of Best and Worst Pet Foods’

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0lFwdNm_Go

    • Hi Yeti,

      We have a 100 pound German Shep/lab mix who’s very proud looking – but he’d rather find a big log to trot around with!

  9. Each day I open & close the pop door to our chicken coop. Coyotes, raccoons, possums & weasels are too thick in numbers to leave it open. We have some foxes, and now that I’ve read your description of how they sound I think I know what that really strange sounding animal sound at night was.

    For $200 there’s this option:

    SMART AUTOmatic chicken coop door

    https://www.omlet.us/smart-automatic-chicken-coop-door-opener/

    I have read that ducks are notorious at not wanting to come inside at night. Makes them, sitting ducks for foxes?

    A guardian dog is a pricey option, however; the cost negates the savings of having your own eggs. And, it takes time to train a pup.

    I have seen video of suggestion of one lone goose raised with the flock to act as a guardian. Again though, takes time.

    Maybe get one of those flame throwing robo-dogs?

    I briefly thought about a chicken tractor, but it takes too much time, they cost a few Bucks, and wouldn’t be useful in Winter.

    On the bright side, at least you weren’t telling us how the fox took the birds in broad daylight. While we have wayyy too many coyotes around here, we’re fortunate they only come around at night.

  10. Something else that the media and (probably eventually) the government wishes to scare the public about is BIRD FLU, just in time for another Presidential (s)election. They may also claim that bird flu can mutate from chickens to infect humans. We may also see the same “solutions” and draconian measures pushed that we saw during the COVID hysteria…..but don’t worry….I saw somewhere that Big Pharma is working on developing vaccines for bird flu. They’ll probably be as “Safe and Effective!” as COVID jabs.

    https://thehighwire.com/ark-videos/is-bird-flu-the-next-covid/

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