Protecting Chickens from Predators

Protecting Chickens from Predators

The number one question we receive about our laying hens or meat chickens is, “How do you keep the coyotes away?”  There is a real misconception about poultry, coyotes and their ability to coexist.

To the surprise of many, coyotes are not our major predator problem. We’ve had more problems with smaller mammals like opposum and skunk.  Coyotes will take advantage if the opportunity arises but it’s our job to keep the perimeter electric poultry netting hot so the predators stay out.   If a chicken is lost to a predator, it’s our fault – not the animal enjoying a chicken dinner.   If you or I want to keep ground predators out, the poultry netting has to be electrified. Period.  No question.  

Unfortunately, electric netting does nothing for aerial predators like owls. An owl, once it decides it has a taste for chicken, will kill a single bird night after night leaving the headless remains for us to find in the morning.  We’ve had owl kills at both the old farm where it is wide open with few trees and here at the new farm where the trees are close and thick.

The answer to our aerial predator problem is Bella.  She’s our gentle Anatolian Shepherd – a breed known for guarding livestock.  She works the night shift and deters the owls. While the hens roost at night, Bella keeps watch.   The owls do not kill a chicken when Bella is inside the netting with the hens.

It always makes us smile when we see Bella in the morning when her shift comes to an end.  She sits calmly waiting for someone to break her out of chicken central while the hens are constantly moving, pecking, peering and climbing on and around her. Bella is patient as a saint and gentle in every way.  This is her true nature and personality and we’re so lucky to have her on the farm and a part of our farming family.  We love our Big Bell.

This beautiful dog deserves a lot of credit for the delicious BBF eggs and Pastured Chicken we have to offer.