Disclaimer: This is a highly controversial issue. I am not stating this is how everyone should deal with this issue. I am simply sharing with you how we deal with it.
How Predators Affect Us
Specifically, us, on our farm and homestead, we have a variety of predators that eat off our livestock and our crops.
Deer, elk, and moose eat our grain, barley, sanfoin and alfalfa in our commercial fields. But they also get onto our shared living space to share the produce of our gardens, orchard and berries.
Skunks and raccoons are our biggest concerns with our chickens. One night, a skunk got 11 chickens–and it would have got more had we not caught it in the act.
Eagles, falcons, owls and many other birds of prey are also a threat to our chickens.
Snakes will eat eggs.
Raccoons are incredibly intelligent and can open doors, stack things to climb, and get pretty much anywhere you don’t want them. They also eat from the garden and can open many feeding barrels and boxes, and just eat the feed straight out of it.
We also have foxes, coyotes, and mink.
Mice and gophers will eat out of our fields and gardens.
Bears and mountain lions…I need not elaborate on these.
Other people’s dogs are the number one threat to our livestock. When you live in the country, everyone takes their dogs with them and don’t generally watch them. We have lost chickens this way.
How We Deal With Our Predators
If you aren’t used to having to deal with predators, your first instinct might be “shoot them!” But it shouldn’t necessarily be. Honestly, I have been emotional and wanted to at times–but deep down I know this isn’t the best answer. Are times when it would be the answer? Yes, however we’ve only had to do that once–and it wasn’t easy.
The only time that we have or would shoot a predator is when it is a serious and imminent threat to life.
One morning I woke up and there was a mountain lion resting fifty feet out my door. The chickens were still locked up from the night before. I went to the other door and got the dogs in as quietly as I could (good thing I don’t have carpet…). We all stayed inside all day and watched the kitty.
He never advanced on any of the barn animals. The next morning, he was gone. He has never been back that we know of. There was no need to shoot him.
Had I been in a situation where he was between me and my family and the door, or I had been worried for the safety of my child, it would have been a different story and I wouldn’t have hesitated. For the most part, these bigger predators don’t like to be around us any more than we like to be around them. As long as they don’t get the taste for meat, they move on and don’t come back in most cases.
As for the deer, elk and moose that eat from our fields, well they can eat a lot of hay and grain. The deer come in large herds. Shooting one isn’t going to make that much of a difference. Really, you just deal with it. Plant as much as you can, and know that you just aren’t going to be able to harvest it all.
The best defense for a predator is to be prepared.
If you plan to have a garden, you need to have fences. If you want chickens, you must have a secure area for them to go to. If you live in an area with larger predators, you should have a safe place for your larger livestock to go to.
If you aren’t ready to protect it, then don’t get it. It sounds harsh, I know. But it’s much better to have your shelter completely built and secure before you obtain your animal.
The night we lost the 11 chickens above? That was a night that I came home late from work to find a friend had dropped off her chickens in a cage for me to watch while she went on vacation (seriously). Not knowing where to put them, we put them in our most secure Quonset with food, water and some roosts. Early the next morning, I woke to a rooster fervently crowing and trying to get in my back door. When we went to investigate, the skunk was in the action of killing them while they slept. Had we been prepared, this wouldn’t have happened.
I realize other people have much different situations. Fences are expensive. If you can’t afford food or fence and you need a garden to feed your family–then it’s a different story. You do what you can do. (Read about deer fences here.)
And if you regularly have access to a store, then you may not understand how protective someone could be over their garden.
We all have different situations.
I would encourage you not to shoot unless there is a threat to life, or you don’t intend to (legally) eat the predator.
I would love to hear how you protect your homestead from predators. Please use kind words and don’t put down myself or other reader’s comments, or they will not be published.