Predators are one of the most frustrating problems related to poultry-keeping. Many times, you never even see the culprit, just the damage it did. Coyotes, raccoons, possums, hawks, and owls all take their toll on the flock, but what can you do about it?
First of all, remember that prevention is the best cure. If you have a predator problem, don’t let your chickens roam at large. Safely enclose them in an electric netting-style fence designed for poultry, and check for shorts frequently. Even if you can hear the fence charger clicking, a determined predator won’t be deterred by 2,000 volts. 4,000 is about as low as you want the charge to go; 8,000 is better. This means that you will have to keep the grass cut short under the fence.
Also make sure that your poultry is safely housed at night. Any hen or guinea perched out in the open after dark is an easy target for owls and other predators. Bring them home and lock them up!
So what if a predator does pay your poultry a call? First check your defenses and figure out how it got in. Make sure your electric fence is working properly. If the problem is that chickens are flying over the fence and making themselves easy prey, trim the flight feathers of the offenders.
Sometimes, though, a wily possum will figure out a way to get over or under a fence without getting shocked, or a hawk will make a habit of swooping down into the poultry pen for a daily meal. If your flock is plagued by an inveterate predator, you may have to eliminate the culprit. Depending your local laws and on what type of predator you are dealing with, you may need to consider shooting it or catching it in a humane trap to release someplace else. Just check the regulations first!
Most predator problems can and should be prevented, however. A good electric poultry fence is often the best line of defense. (Just remember to move the pen regularly.) As long as the birds have a charged barrier around them and a home to run to when threatened from above, you should have few difficulties with predators.