How to Protect Chickens from Predators

How to Protect Chickens from Predators

See where the dog tried to dig under?

Last week a dog tried to dig under our chicken run to get at our hens, but he didn’t succeed. Why? Because we built our coop to keep predators out, and so far it’s worked. Here’s a look at the measures we have in place:

  • We elevated our coop, to discourage rats, snakes and other egg thieves from living underneath it. In fact, we actually enclosed the underside of their coop with hardware cloth to make it usable space (it ties in with their run)
  • We wrapped their run in hardware cloth, instead of chicken wire. The smaller mesh prevents raccoons from reaching in to grab our hens, and offers a bit more protection against snakes
  • The floor of their run is wrapped in hardware cloth, too. It’s a completely enclosed space, top to bottom (This is what kept the dog out, but it’s just as effective against coyotes, bobcats, owls and a host of other hungry sorts)
  • We keep a padlock on their run and their nest boxes. Raccoons have super dexterity, and can open slide locks and turn knobs with no trouble. This keeps them out, and it also keeps the neighborhood kids out (you don’t actually have to lock the padlocks to keep the racoons out. The sequence of having to turn the lock, and lift it out is complicated enough)
  • We have motion-activated lights on the back of our house. If something enters the backyard, the lights come on to scare them off
  • We keep the area around their coop neat, so there aren’t places for predators to live or lurk
  • We trained our hens to return to their coop every night. Once they’re in, we lock the door to their run
  • We collect eggs every day to minimize temptation
  • We keep their coop and run in good condition. Damaged hardware cloth, holes in the floor or roof – they could all be an entry point for a predator, so we stay on top of maintenance
Locked Nesting Boxes

Locked Nesting Boxes

Locked Chicken Run

And a Locked Run, Too!

Want to see what our coop looks like and how we built it? You’ll find all of that here.

Front Yard Farming

Butternut Squash Harvest

Remember all those volunteer butternut squash vines that came up in our front yard? We just harvested our squash this morning, and ended up with 24 for us, and a few damaged ones for the chickens. Pretty sweet deal.

Next year, I’ll plant squash in our front yard on purpose. It’s led to many interesting conversations with our neighbors and the CSA families that pick up at our house (we’re a CSA pick-up spot for our friends’ farm). One of our neighbors came over Friday to ask about buying some of our squash, and someone driving by this morning, stopped and bought one. I wasn’t really planning to sell any, but I’m happy to see people excited about eating real food.

If you grew butternut squash this year, I’d recommend waiting until the stems are a tannish-brown before you harvest yours. If you look closely, you’ll see my stems are still a bit green. I’m working on a secret plan that required me to pick mine a bit early. They’re fully edible at this point; they just won’t be good storage squash. I’ll puree them, and get them into the freezer sometime in the next couple weeks.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to pick butternut squash.

See Also:

When to Pick Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash Vines

This spring my husband added some soil from one of our compost bins to our front beds, and before long we had butternut squash vines coming up in the front yard. Nice!

Butternut Squash - Not Ripe Yet

Those plump butternut squash have been tempting my taste buds every time I walk past them, but I’m not picking them just yet because I know if I pick them too soon they won’t keep well.

So, how do you know when butternut squash is ready to be picked?

Pick them when …

  • the skins are tan, with no green lines showing
  • the stems are brown, and the vines have died back

Many gardeners also recommend waiting until after the first frost to harvest any winter squash.

To Pick Your Butternut Squash

Be sure to leave two to three inches of the stem intact. If you cut them shorter, they’ll rot quickly. Inspect your squash carefully, and place any with damaged skins or stems in a pile to be used right away. Cure the rest by sticking them in a warm spot with good air circulation for a couple weeks. Turn them regularly to ensure even curing. This will allow the squash to shed some of their water weight and to develop tougher skins, so they store well.

How to Tell When Crabapples are Ripe

Crabapples

I’ve been watching the crabapple trees near our house closely, and it’s almost time to pick them! If you’ve never picked crabapples before, here’s a simple way to tell when they’re ripe and ready! [Read more...]

How to Keep Birds from Eating Your Grapes

Immature Grapes

Our grape experiment was a huge success. Read on for my update.

Grapes are easy to grow, but hard to protect from birds. The first year our grape vines produced, I decided to hold off on netting our grapes, until I saw the first sign of birds munching on them. Well, the very next morning all of our grapes were gone. Clearly the wait and see approach was the wrong approach to take.

Having learned from the experience, we netted our grapes as soon as they set fruit last year. And that worked brilliantly, until a mocking bird figured out how to get inside of our nets. She had quite the feast at our expense, and we were left with just a few grapes (not grape bunches) to sample.

But that’s all in the past. This year, we will be the ones to eat our grapes. And we’ve taken drastic measures to ensure that it ends up that way … [Read more...]