Friday, October 6, 2017

Why you don't want squirrels near your chickens

It's fall and suddenly there are squirrels absolutely everywhere. I'm seeing squirrels in my yard constantly and much to the dogs delight, they are quite persistent in coming back! I let her out to chase them and 20 minutes later, they're back. This goes on all day long! Since my chickens free range daily, this is a problem.

You see, while squirrels many seem harmless, you really don't want them getting too comfortable around your chickens for several reasons. Not only can squirrels end up costing you money in feed bills and ruined equipment, they'll actually go after chicks if they get hungry enough!

keep squirrels away from chickens

Obviously squirrels will eat the chicken feed. Not only do they eat the feed they can get to, but they'll eat holes in feeders or through your feed storage containers rendering them useless! (see photo) Since they are from the rodent family, they can also chew through wood quite well and might just make themselves an entrance into your coop when they get hungry. Not only is it a nuisance but I doubt you want to buy extra chicken feed for the squirrels!

squirrels are chicken pests

Speaking of when they get hungry: a squirrels diet consists mainly of plants including nuts, seeds, fruits, fungi and green vegetation. However, some squirrels also consume meat especially when faced with hunger. Squirrels have been known to eat insects, eggs, small birds, young snakes and smaller rodents. (Wikipedia

That's not a good thing to have around a chicken coop! Especially since the squirrels hungriest season is in early spring when chicken coops have both eggs and small chicks inside! Now I know it's hard to think of cute fuzzy squirrels as blood thirsty killers, so it's helps me to just focus on these next few reasons as to why I don't want them near my coops.....

Squirrels can carry fleas and ticks. While I've only found a few ticks on my chickens over the years (usually on the face) I'm not in the business of encouraging critters that carry parasites to hang around the chicken coop!

Squirrels could also care less where they ummm...eliminate at. So yes, a squirrel hanging out in the feed bucket will lead to squirrely poop in the feed. Needless to say, you won't want your chickens eating that!

Rodents attract larger predators. Animals that eat squirrels include raptors like eagles and hawks, snakes, fishers, wild and domestic cats, dogs, bears, coyotes & wolves, foxes, weasels, raccoons and owls. An abundance of squirrels will attract other predators who will also want to snack on your chickens while they're there.

Obviously squirrels are are not wanted in the chicken coop and run, but how do we discourage them from making the coop their favorite hangout?
  • Clean up spilled feed. 
  • Store feed in metal containers.
  • Collect eggs regularly.
  • Use hardware cloth to block vent areas of the coop where squirrels could get in.
  • Allow the dog or cat to patrol the area around the coop.
Most squirrels will quit visiting once their food is taken away or if they get chased by the dog a few times. A trap can be used to catch a squirrel if you have a problem. The small safe traps they sell at TSC work great. Bait the trap by smearing peanut butter on the kick plate and throwing some fruit and scratch inside and you'll catch him in no time. Once caught you'll want to take him at least a few miles away to make sure he doesn't come back. It might not be legal in your state to relocate squirrels so make sure you check local laws first. I had to trap this guy as he's the one that ate through my feed container.

squirrels and chickens should be kept apart

If all else fails there are squirrel hunting seasons for non-endangered species...but again, check your local laws. Hopefully it wont come to that and you'll be able to deter them easily and keep your chickens safe!

~L

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