Jackie : Gina, Thank you for the Keeping Chickens Newsletter. It is a joy to read and I learn from other people’s experience. I haven’t learned to include photos, nevertheless, I hope that even without pictures, my experience on some of the recent subjects may give other chicken-lovers an idea or two for solutions that will fit their situations.
Predators abound here in rural Texas — chicken snakes, rats, raccoons, coyotes, chicken hawks, wild bobcats, abandoned dogs.
- Chicken snakes in the hen house. — you probably will not see the snake (your first hint will be the sudden absence of any eggs). Chicken snakes are not dangerous to the hens or to people, but they will eat all your eggs. The only cure is find the snake and kill it. If you can’t shoot it, attack with your hoe. (The snake will be hiding in the litter/bedding or along the edges where the walls meet the floor)
- Chicken Hawks in the sky. My chickens are free-ranging. In three years we have lost only one hen to hawk. Our solution is (1) to provide cover (bushes) where the hens can hide when they are free-ranging and (2) build the chicken-yard short and narrow and high-fenced — to deprive the hawks of the glide path they need to regain the sky with a hen in-tow. (This eliminates the need to make a lid on the chicken yard.)
- Racoons, Coyotes, Bobcats, feral Dogs Get yourself a good dog. A terrier or terrier-mix is not a big dog but he will be fierce in defence of you and yours. If the animal does not back down and try to escape when faced with a barking terrier, you should consider that animal may be rabid. In that case, get yourself into a safe place and call Animal Control. If you do shoot a rabid animal, you must bury the carcass at least six feet deep to prevent its being dug up by other wild animals, thus spreading hydrophobia.
In my experience, the presence of a good rooster not only provides complete, fertile eggs, he helps keep the peace, sometimes chastises the occasional straggler at the end of the day when the hens return to their chicken yard.
I am not willing to install electricity in the hen house. Instead, I have a really, really long extension cord that lets me use a $15-dollar “utility heater. Because the heater was made for use in barns, it is rugged (ugly) and has a thermostat. When set to 50 degrees Fahrenheit it does not run all the time and does not cost much electricity. Also this extension cord gives me the chance to use a timer for light. Since hens need 14 hours of light per day in order to make eggs the timer helps me have eggs throughout the dark days of winter.