Keeping Predators Away from Small Livestock

January 10, 2017

Ranches, farms and even urban homesteads are not immune from livestock predation. For those with smaller livestock, such as sheep, goats, poultry or rabbits, finding ways to keep predators away can be challenging.

There are considerable types of potential predators. While coyote and fox are typically considered primary culprits, animals like skunks, opossums, rats, predatory birds and even cats and dogs can also injure or kill small livestock. With this in mind, what are some of the tricks, techniques and products that can help combat such a variety of predators?

While most livestock predators aren’t protected by federal regulations or considered endangered, there is always the chance that getting rid of one could create a vacuum that encourages more aggressive animals to claim that territory. Additionally, not all predators are wild. While the threat of feral dogs and cats can be great, especially in urban areas, sometimes a neighbor’s pet could be to blame for livestock deaths. To limit the possibility of harming a protected species or a pet (or possibly the livestock), there are nonlethal options that livestock owners can take before having to kill the predator.

Securing Coops: Predators are opportunists that will take advantage of any spot they can gain access through, and eliminating access is very important in keeping livestock in and intruders out. Coops with doors that can be closed overnight give poultry a comfortable and secure place to rest. Some coop options include:

Hardware cloth is also a barrier product that can make it more difficult for predators to enter into coops or hutches. By partially burying the cloth a minimum of 12 inches below the level of the coop or hutch bottom, there is less likelihood of rodents, foxes or other predators that dig from gaining access.

Protection from Above: Combating flying predators like hawks or owls can pose a different set of challenges, as open run areas are exposed from above. Products such as Boen Products orange netting can be secured over the top of open poultry runs to warn away predatory birds (the color orange is preferred, as it is more visible to both owls and hawks). Additionally, for free-range areas, the removal of high perches nearby can make for a less favorable hunting environment. Retailers can offer limb loppers and chainsaws to help remove perching areas.

Fencing: One final item that can keep predators at bay is low-voltage electrified fencing, like that offered by companies like Powerfields or ElectroBraid Fence. This will stun rather than kill animals that come into contact with the charge, and it can also train predators to stay away from pastures and pens.

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