Raccoons, possums and snakes oh my!

We've had our share of chicken predators here. The worst of them lately has been the foxes. Through trail cam pictures we've narrowed it down to 4 different foxes. Well, there's only 3 now....but let's not change the subject here. In addition to fox there's been raccoons, opossums and snakes. 

chicken predators

We take a proactive approach to controlling the predator population around here. There are always baited traps up in the woods and far behind the coop. One problem we have here is that Guineas are a ground nesting bird that likes to hide their nests in the woods.

Opossums like to eat eggs. See where the problem would start? Oh sure, Opossums are nocturnal and when they find a Guinea nest at night (or the egg a chicken hen hid behind a tree) the eggs are there all alone for the taking. 

What happens when Mr Opossum gets hungry during the day though? Suddenly he's confronted with a full sized hen and they start a fight over the eggs. Do you want to see who wins? I don't. Also, I have caught an opossum eating chicks, so that's another reason to get rid of any I catch near my coops.

Raccoons are about the same. Better to move them then to have a hungry raccoon decide he can use those little hands to pick your coop lock one night. I bait the traps every night and check them twice a day. You can see they are the safe trap style. I use marshmallows as bait and smear peanut butter all over the trip plate to make sure the critter really have to mes with it to get it all off. Snaps shut every time.

We also have snakes. Last summer we 'caught' a black snake behind the silkie coop. He tried to slither through some deer netting that was sitting back there waiting to be untangled and got stuck. I got out the scissors and cut him out of the netting then moved him up to a friends hunting property. (no pets there) I've had people say snakes only eat mice or rats and it's absolutely untrue. 

I once found a black snake (like the one in the picture) wrapped around a full grown hen who was obviously way too big for it to eat! My theory is that the snake went after one of her chicks so she pecked at it and instead the snake attacked her. 

net snake caught

Let's talk about moving animals for a second here. This is a personal choice. If you have 1 problem raccoon, then taking him 15 miles away and letting him go might be a good solution for you. If you live in an area with a huge raccoon population you may just be starting on a never-ending mission. 

Keep in mind that if you choose to catch and release you could be subjected to fines or other penalties based on your local ordinances. You also could be giving someone else your problem, and it would stink if someone decided that your road was a good release area now wouldn't it? 

There are others that say the only solution is a bullet. I'm not going to take a stand here, only you can decide what works with your beliefs. I will say that I see each side of the arguments here and we don't take a 'one solution for everything' approach. Unless you catch something really rare or endangered, this isn't something that a wildlife center would be interested in helping with. Fish and game commission might come to help you, but that varies by region. The only thing our local game commission offered any help with here, was a bear. 

The most important thing you can do for your flock is to be aware of what predators are in your area and take whatever steps you can to keep them as far away as possible. It's also important to be aware of the local predator situation before deciding to free range your flock. Luckily we haven't had a problem with the local minks or fisher cats but they are out there and hopefully the traps will work to catch them also. If not, then maybe it's time to buy bigger traps!
~L

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4 comments:

  1. Great thoughts! We have had something catching and eating some of our tiny bantam juveniles. It has been really heart breaking, especially because we can't figure out what is doing it. We actually found a snake that ate all of the eggs a broody hen of mine just started to set on. It was a sad day. We actually "dispose of" snake our problems... we make sure to do it humanely and quickly always. As you said, what works for each and everyone is what they must do. I think that is so true of chicken farming... there are so many different ways for everything when it comes to chickens!

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    1. Awwwww, hopefully you can catch whatever has been doing it. Have there been any hawks hanging around? Do you have fisher cats in your area? (or minks)

      Exactly! Each person needs they're own solution and sometimes it changes per animal. Thanks for stopping by!

      ~L

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  2. I am a catch and release elsewhere person. I have a 6' professional snake stick (because unlike you I am NOT okay with picking them up with my hand) that I can safely pick up a snake and take it away from my home to release it. We live in AZ where rattle snakes are not uncommon, so I don't want to get too close to a snake. But even a rattle snake has a purpose in life, so it will get released somewhere away from homes, and farm animals.

    We have coyotes and probably foxes too (although I have not seen a fox myself yet) and I don't think trapping and moving them would really work, so I just try to make sure my coop/run is as safe as it can be to keep out such predators. Now that I am planning to add goats to our property I am trying to decide if I want to get a predator dog, llama, or mini donkey to protect them.

    I am glad you release when possible :-)

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    1. Snakes especially are something that you can move far enough away that they can't come back. Luckily I have only heard the coyotes at night, never saw them. They don't sound terribly close, so I hope they stay away! All of our coops are completely secure, the runs are iffy....but isn't that always the case? lol I want a Great Pyrenees so badly, but I have heard of people having great success with a donkey. Let me know how it works out!

      ~L

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