This actual post is more about how NOT to protect your flock from coyotes. Our first chicken flock existed blissfully unaware inside the protective walls of our six foot fenced city back yard. We lost one or two small birds to hawks, but rarely had much more excitement than the odd rat or cat. Our move out to the California Franch gave of a wake-up predator call.
We started by letting our young pullets wander the yard under a semi-watchful eye. One shower and three dead chickens later, and we realized more protection was needed.
Lesson #1 : Chickens are coyote bait in broad daylight.
All birds were moved into a sturdy five foot pen with a nice hoop house chicken coop for nighttime protection. Some of the ladies scorned the coop and opted for nice tall tree branches. What could be the harm in that? We lost 10 chickens and 2 tree roosting ducks in one bloody night.
Lesson #2: Tall trees do not necessarily equal optimum coyote protection.
No more messing around! We created a cattle panel coup with 4 gauge metal, and chicken-wire wrapped the bottom. Surely this would be how to protect a flock from coyotes. All birds (ducks and chickens) were secured each night at dusk. No poultry were harassed again, and we all lived happily ever after. Nope!! We walked out one morning to find a mess of feathers floating around the chicken yard, and knurled wire pushed out by frantic hens trying to escape the coop, and pushed in by hungry coyotes struggling to break in. At first glance all flock members were accounted for, and everyone seemed fine . . . Until one of our Americanas turned to the side and revealed a bloody stump. We dubbed the One Wing.
Lesson # 3: Terrified chickens will donate their heads and wings through wire during a coyote attack.
So finally we opted for lock down, no more Mr. and Mrs. Nice Francher. Our birds moved into a lovely Fort Knox style shed complete with a front porch, and a nice sliding window. Again we made sure to close them in each night, and raised the fence height. Finally we had coyote proofed our flock, and prevented any opportunity for future attacks, until yesterday. At 5:30 PM our wonderful guard dog let out a little whimper that means come here quick. Standing about 15 ft above our chicken yard was a transfixed coyote calculating the ease of a fast food chicken meal. Mr. Francher, the manliest man I know, raced out the door, locked eyes with the coyote, raised his cross bow, fired, and missed. The predator ran off to hunt another day.
Lesson # 4: There is no such thing as coyote proof, unless you opt for a MMA style factory farm setup.
So, dear friends we have come to realize, short of eradicating the local coyote population (where’s the love man), predator prevention is about vigilance, common sense, and some luck. As we have progressively become more protective, our birds have felt the constraint and limitations on space we have been forced to impose. For us, there is a balance between the economics of our endeavor, the freedom of our beautiful birds, and the natural instincts of our lupine neighbors. We have to learn to coexist together, and that means loss, trial and error, and a begrudging respect for carnivorous foes.