What can guard chickens?

Filed under: Poultry |

Question by Sarah: What can guard chickens?
At my house, we have 13 chickens. They have a super protected coop that nothing can get in, and during the day we let them loose into a fenced in back yard to run around. When it starts to get dark, we open the gate to the backyard, they peck around for like 30 mins, then go into the coop for the night, and all we have to do is close the door. Last week, during the time that they were loose outside of the fenced in area, one of the chickens got taken away by a fox and was eaten, and weve been trying to keep an eye on the rest, but there are traces of the fox all around to coop, so we think hes sticking around since he knows theres more chickens. Is there any animal that we could perhaps buy to stick around with the chickens? So that maybe the fox will see something bigger and back off? we live in the woods, so not alot of neighbors, and my dogs are too rough with the chickens to be around them. they were inside the house when the chicken got taken last week. We were thinking maybe a goat? Of course I will read up on it more, but any suggestions are welcome!

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6 Responses to What can guard chickens?

  1. Best bet get a puppy and keep it with the chickens at all times it will come to view the chickens as its pack and will protect them at all cost even against other dogs this practice has been used for thousands of years

    Jesse Bourg
    May 5, 2014 at 9:27 am

  2. A dog would work, but a coop that the fox (or raccoons or owls) can’t get in is the best bet. You can even electrify the fencing during the evening.

    Elaine M
    May 5, 2014 at 10:24 am

  3. That’s a tough one, as most animals that are qualified to be guards, are probably going to devour those chickens. My concern with a bigger animal like a goat is that they’re pretty defenseless, and may actually attract a bigger predator. You could try picking up a bottle of predator urine (it’s surprisingly easy to find them online, I used Bear urine to keep animals from getting in my garden) and pouring it around the perimeter of the fenced in area. You could also try sectioning off a portion of the chickens area for one of the dogs, just it’s presence is probably enough to keep most animals out. Another one that I’ve heard of people using to repel animals is hanging human hair around the perimeter in 6 foot intervals, using a pair of women’s tights as containers. The smell will scare away most animals. A lot of time Barber’s shops and salons will happily let you sweep up some hair off the floor if you explain your reason.

    One of those is bound to work. I’ve had great success with bear urine, and I’ve heard of people having success with the hair, which is probably cheaper.

    May 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

  4. The problem of the ages for farmers … predators. Sigh …

    Sorry to hear of losing your hen, and yes, predators tend to hang around once they have gotten a free meal.

    Your question is an interesting one. A fox might indeed be intimidated by a goat, but I’m not sure. The goat isn’t likely to want to protect the chickens, but on the other hand they should get along. Half of my chickens get out of their yard and spend their days with my goats.

    An animal that actually would be likely to challenge the fox is a llama. They are becoming popular livestock guardians (believe it or not!) and I actually have one. Males these days cost as little as $ 100. The llama would not view the chickens as charges though, and would not be interested in protecting them. But they will usually be careful not to step on them. And they will naturally challenge small dog-like predators. But the llama will want company, so you may need a goat after all.

    Another common guardian is a donkey, but they can be aggressive, and they also will not view your chickens as something to be protected, though they will probably chase off a fox on general principles. They will be quite a bit more expensive to feed and vet than a llama.

    A livestock guardian dog is used by many people, and can certain be effective for chickens, but you will probably have a LONG learning curve teaching the dog to guard the chickens rather than chase them. A herding breed (German Shepherd, etc.) might be better than a guardian breed (such as Pyrenees) for chickens, and learn to protect them at a younger age. Generally speaking, a sporting breed (such as a labrador) would be the poorest choice, especially if they retain “birdy” instincts.

    If I were in your position, I would probably consider electrifying the fence for the run (and make sure it has netting over the top as well), and just watch the chickens for the 30 min or so they are free ranging.

    And if there is any chance you will want them to free-range longer (chickens usually try for this, LOL), it might be a good idea to look for a pup with good instincts.

    Perhaps your local animal shelter would cooperate with you and allow you to bring a chicken to “test” a number of dogs/puppies, and see if you can find one that will ignore the chicken. That might be a good candidate for a quick track to a guard dog for your chickens.

    Good luck! I understand your frustration! I have a farm and have lost chickens here and there, along with guineas and at one time two goats that were locked in the barn at the time. Nothing is foolproof.

    People also

    Inspired Ink
    May 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

  5. As Elaine M. suggested, electrifying the chicken wire is a very good way of keeping predators away from your chickens. I know of people who do that, but if they ever forget to turn the current back on after working with the chickens, they almost always lose a chicken or two right away. Because of that, we know that the electric mesh is working as a deterrant.

    Lori J
    May 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

  6. Donkeys generally hate dogs/foxes/coyotes and cougars. Minis are just as agressive to them as standards.

    May 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

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