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Predator Protection for Your Chickens

Predator protection for your flock is important no matter where you are located but it can be especially essential if you live in an area with lots of potential predators. Our farm is located in a fairly remote area near a nature preserve so we have a significant amount of wildlife around at all times, including larger predators like coyotes and bears.

COOP/RUN SECURITY

Consider placing locks or latches on any accessible doors, windows, and outside nesting boxes in your coop. Certain predators like raccoons can be very skilled at getting into entry points on your coop. When we had coops located outside of our runs, we used latches secured with carabiners to lock windows and coop doors at night.

We now have runs constructed entirely of hardware cloth rather than chicken wire to prevent predators from getting into our runs.  We use “skirts” of hardware cloth surrounding the perimeter of the runs to prevent digging under the coops. So far, the hardware cloth has prevented any unwanted entries into our chicken runs at night. All of our runs are secured with gate latches that are located about 4 feet from ground level.

PREDATOR DETERRENTS

Lights/Visual Deterrents

In addition to secure coops and runs, we utilize a number of predator deterrents that are intended to keep predators away from the area where our chicken runs are located.

We currently use three different types of predator deterrent lights.  Overall, the most effective lights we have found are Foxlights Solar lights. The offer two styles of lights – we use the type that you can place on top of a fence t-post (shown in the first thumbnail photo below). We have these lights placed on the fence that surrounds the area where our chicken runs are located. Foxlights are particularly effective because you can relocate them easily to different fence posts and they flash random patterns of different colored lights. This seems to create a greater deterrent effect than a single blinking light, which can be learned over time by potential predators. Foxlights are solar powered, which is another plus. Ours have lasted over a year so far with no issues.

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We also use Night Gaurd predator lights placed around our runs.  These are also solar powered and can be mounted directly to a coop or run.  For us, they offer a second layer of protection around our coops.

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We also use motion-activated solar lights around our coop areas. These lights provide continuous low-level lighting once it gets dark and a spotlight-like bright light when motion in the surrounding area activates them.  Any light can be a deterrent for potential predators but the sudden beam of bright light when they get in close proximity to the chicken area is definitely helpful.  We use these lights because they are reasonably priced and they can be relocated as necessary, plus they are solar powered so no worrying about electricity or dead batteries.

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Sound

We do not currently use sound around our coops but we know several farms that use sound and find it to be a very effective deterrent.  One of the most common methods of using sound is to play music from a radio near your coops or barn at night.  Predators are less likely to approach when they believe there is human activity nearby.

Smell

Some farmers also swear by scent deterrents. You can purchase scent deterrents like wolf urine to place around the perimeter of your chicken area. Some people also place human urine outside their chicken area.  Scent deterrents can be very effective but the downside of scent deterrents is they have to reapplied frequently as they wear off and become less effective as time passes.

It is also important to make sure all feed and eggs are securely stored and inaccessible to wildlife. Having food sources located around coops will attract wildlife and cause potential predators to identify your chicken area as a food source.

LIVESTOCK GUARDIANS

On our farm, we have a livestock guardian dog, a young Anatolian Shepherd, who is still in the training process but has already proven to be a great asset to our farm and a wonderful dog. Our LGD does not permanently reside in our chicken area. However, he is able to patrol the entire property, including the area surrounding our chicken area. He is quite effective at keeping predators at bay and prevented at least one coyote attack (that we know of) earlier this year.

In addition to dogs, some farms use other livestock guardians such as donkeys to protect their livestock and flocks. We have found that allowing our goats to roam around during the day with our free range roosters has been helpful to prevent daytime predator attacks including bird attacks.

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Supplies to Have in Your First Aid Kit for Your Flock

Being prepared and having a few essential veterinary supplies around can be a great help if any injuries or illnesses arise in your flock. It is always helpful to be prepared when an issue happens rather than be scrambling to find the supplies you need. Below are a few supplies that we always try to keep around the farm.

  • Antibiotics
  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
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Warm Weather Chicken Treats

When the weather starts to get warmer, you may be looking for treats to supplement your chickens feed and to help them beat the heat.  There are all kinds of treats that you can provide to your flock but here are some that we like to give in warmer weather.

  • Dried mealworms
  • Chilled watermelon
  • Frozen corn treats
  • Fodder/Sprouted grains (we normally use sprouted wheat seed)
  • Lettuce and veggie scraps
  • Ice cube treats with fruit or vegetable pieces
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Exciting New Additions to Our Flock for 2018!

EXCITING NEW ADDITIONS TO OUR FLOCK FOR 2018!

We are very pleased to announce a number of new additions to our flock this year.  It will be exciting to watch these chicks and young birds grow out this season. We look forward to being able to offer chicks and hatching eggs for all of these breeds in the future.

  • Blue Silver Laced Orpingtons – An exciting laced color of Orpington in addition to our existing Silver Laced Laced Orpington flock. These chicks come from Viking Orpingtons.
  • Lavender/Lavender Mottled/Isabel/Porcelain Orpingtons – Fun new colors of docile and friendly Orpingtons. We acquired chicks in these colors that are from Fancy Chick lines. We also brought in unrelated Lavender Mottled Orpington chicks from Eye of the Rooster Farm to bring in some genetic diversity.
  • Blue Cream and Cuckoo Silkies – We added these lovely colors of Silkies this year.  We are pleased to add these colors to the variety of colors of Silkies in our flock, which includes Splash, Blue, Black, White, and Lavender colors.
  • Black Copper Marans – Beautiful birds and dark egg layers that are a hardy breed. Our BCM chicks came directly from Greenfire Farms, who have an APA Certified flock of Black Copper Marans.
  • Crevecoeurs – An exotic and rare French breed recently imported to the United States by Greenfire Farms. We have acquired Blue and Black Crevecoeurs chicks directly from Greenfire Farms.

We have also added additional chicks this year to increase the flock size and genetic diversity of our flocks of Deathlayers, Olandsk Dwarfs, Liege Fighters, Salmon/Blue Salmon Faverolles, and Spitzhaubens. It should be an exciting year for our flock and for our farm.

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What You’ll Need When You Bring Your New Chicks Home

So you’ve decided to start raising chickens and are getting ready to bring your new chicks home…what now? First let me say, congratulations on your new additions and I hope that you enjoy having them as much a we do. You are starting on a fun new adventure and some simple preparation can help you get ready for your new additions.

FEEDERS AND WATERERS

If you are starting with baby or young chicks, you will most likely want to start with chick waterers and feeders. Their smaller size makes them more suitable for young birds and protects clumsy young chicks from drowning in larger water containers. For young chicks and smaller breeds, we typically put marbles or glass breeds in waterers for the first few days to a week to prevent small chicks from drowning.

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FEED

You can use any suitable feed formulated for chicks. We typically start our chicks on medicated chick feed then later switch them to unmedicated chick feed. We use Southern States feeds for all of our birds now but have used Purina and Nutrena brands in the past. Be sure to always have plenty of fresh water available for your chicks as well.

HEAT SOURCES

Heat Lamps

Traditional red light heat lamps are the most common choice for a heat source for chicks. Always be careful to have your lamps mounted securely to reduce risk of fire or injury to your chicks.

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Brooder Warmers/Heat Plates

Brooder warmers can be another option. They are more expensive but are a good option for anyone concerned about using heat lamps. Below are two examples of different size brooder warmers available.  The space available in your brooder and number of chicks you are raising are the two main factors that determine what size may be the best fit for your brooder.

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DIMMER SWITCHES FOR HEAT LAMPS

One thing that we have found to be particularly helpful for controlling our heat lamps is using a dimmer switch with our heat lamps. This allows us to easily adjust the temperature to keep our chicks comfortable and happy, without having to move the heat lamps themselves.  You can mount your heat lamp securely in one spot then adjust the heat using the dimmer switch instead of moving the lamp.  We find this to be a safer and more secure option in our brooders.

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THERMOMETER FOR BROODERS

If you prefer, you can also monitor the temperature in the brooder using a simple digital thermometer. Some people find this more helpful than others. We do use thermometers sometimes, but typically find it more helpful to observe the behavior of the chicks to see if any temperature adjustments are needed in the brooder. These thermometers can also be used as a backup thermometer for incubators and hatchers.

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Brooder Set Up

There are a number of good options that can be used as a brooder to safely raise younger chicks.  Some people prefer commercial brooders for some of their advantages for cleaning and access, especially if they plan to raise a larger number of chicks. You can also build your own brooder to fit your specific needs. Plywood and hardware cloth are materials commonly used to build brooders. Another easy and economical option is large plastic totes. Any of these options can work well depending on your needs.

We use commercial battery brooders for our younger chicks and we use larger wooden brooders for our older chicks that aren’t quite ready for our grow out coops. We use pine shavings as the litter material in our wooden brooders. You can get these at farm supply stores like Tractor Supply Company or Southern States, and even some pet stores.

We purchased our battery brooders from GQF.  We built our larger wooden brooders but you can purchase wooden brooders as well. Below is an example.

https://amzn.to/2H15b0W

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Our Favorites – Cold Weather Edition

Winter can be a challenge for any farm, and the same is definitely true for our chickens. Below are a number of items that we have found useful in the cold weather and that make things a little bit easier for us (and our chickens!)

  • WATER TUBS

We have found totes to be our best winter water option when the temperatures are just around freezing. Their larger size means that they take significantly longer to freeze and when they do freeze, it’s often just a layer of ice on top that’s easily broken to give the birds access to fresh water. We use 10 to 12.5 gallon tubs with lower sides. For some of our shorter breeds (like Silkies or Olandsk Dwarfs), we put pavers around the tubs to give them a boost.

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When temperatures are staying below freezing, we use smaller rubber tubs and 2.5 gallon buckets for water. We switch out frozen containers for fresh containers in the morning and as needed. The smaller size of these tubs make it easier to switch out water containers.

 

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  • LARGER HANGING FEEDERS

Like many people, we use hanging feeders for our chickens. Our favorite feeders are these Harris Farms 25lb Feeders. Their large size allows you to keep plenty of food available for your birds and cuts down on how often you have to refill feed. They also sell 10lb feeders if you are looking for a smaller feeder.

25lb Hanging Feeder

 

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  • WARM GEAR FOR CHICKEN CHORES

Whether you spend a lot of time outside with your birds or a little, it helps to have clothes that will keep you warm and dry while you do your chicken chores. We have found some of these items to make a huge difference on frigid days.

Insulated bib overalls are our go to item for winter chores. I can’t say enough about how easy and comfortable they are to work in, no matter what the weather conditions. Plus, they keep whatever you are wearing underneath clean and dry.

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We have rubber, waterproof boots that are dedicated to working in our chicken pens. Not only are they easy to throw on but having boots specifically dedicated to chicken chores allows you to maintain biosecurity for your birds and not expose them to anything harmful that you might track into their pens.

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Gloves that give you enough dexterity to work in but still keep your hands warm and protected from the wind are a must on bitterly cold days. There are several kinds of gloves that we use but I think the most versatile and sturdy work gloves that we’ve found are Mechanix Brand gloves. These are an example.

 

 

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Cold Weather Treats for Chickens

When the temperatures drop and cold sets in, supplementing the normal feed routine for your chickens with healthy and nutritious treats can help provide them with the additional energy to stay warm. We have included a list of some of our favorites below. What are your favorite treats?

 

Some of our favorites:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Dried Mealworms
  • Scratch Grains
  • Scrambled Eggs (Made from Older or Unused Eggs)
  • Veggie Scraps
  • Fodder/Sprouted Seeds
  • Warm Water in waterers

 

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Choosing Breeds to Suit Your Needs

Before you get chickens (or before you add to your flock) consider what breeds are the best fit for your purpose and for your climate.  Finding chicken breeds that are best suited for your needs and for the climate that you will be raising them can make a big difference.

Fortunately, choosing the right breed does not have to be as difficult as your may think.  Information is readily available online as to which breeds are suited to particular climates and what breeds are better suited to a particular purpose (i.e. laying breeds, meat birds, dual-purpose birds or pets).  On our website, we have informational sections about our breeds. Also, resources like BackyardChickens.com have a great deal of information about almost any chicken topic that you can dream up. So take a few minutes to do some research because that can definitely make things easier for you in the long run!

Currently, our farm is focused on laying breeds and exotic breeds, as well as some heritage and pet breeds (our Silkies!).

Since our winters on the mountain can be surprisingly brutal at times, we also look for our breeds to have cold-tolerance and be overall hardy breeds. Another factor that we consider when choosing our chickens is the ability to thrive whether they are free-ranging or spending more time confined in runs.  While ideally we would love to have our birds free-ranging as much as possible, predator issues and weather sometimes restrict that possibility.