North Vancouver is an idyllic place, an urban island nestled between ocean and mountain, surrounded by beautiful West-Coast rainforest. Proximity to nature however, means that encounters with all varieties of wildlife may be an all too common occurrence. In the interest of respecting and protecting wildlife while ensuring a safe, untroubled and un-pestered environment for ourselves, it is important that we educate ourselves to be wildlife smart. As pet owners we have a vested interest in minimizing wildlife encounters, but pet owners or not, it is important for us all to minimize encounters through responsible action and management of attractions; compost, garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders and pet food, to name a few.
The following are some suggested precautions and management.
Evaluate your environment
The first and most important question is whether your property, and neighboring area, are frequented by large predators such as bears. If you live on a greenbelt or wildlife corridor that is frequently utilized by such predators, then you must seriously consider whether keeping chickens is appropriate, and take appropriate precautions if you choose to proceed. In addition, urban animals, such as dogs and cats, may be pests or predators of chickens, and should be considered in your evaluation.
Chickens themselves are not always an attractant, often it is actually the conditions under which chickens are kept.
Do not broadcast feed your chickens. Keep feed contained in a feeder than can be easily removed at night. If you feed kitchen scraps to your hens, collect all uneaten scraps. Do not store feed in or near your coop. Similar to garbage, feed should be kept indoors or inside a closed garage where it is not easily accessible to wild animals.
Do not allow eggs to collect inside the coop, they must be collected daily.
Maintain your coop! Keeping a clean coop will not only benefit the health of your chickens, but it will greatly minimize any wildlife attraction. It will also keep your neighbors happy! Soiled bedding should be contained within compost bins, and properly maintained. If you do not know how to optimally maintain compost, the North Shore Recycling offers free compost consultation and coaching.
Provide a robust and protected home
Remember the 3 little pigs… straw, sticks or bricks?!
Take the time to build or buy a sturdy well-built coop. A coop is an investment; you will have to spend some time and money to ensure your chickens will be well-house and safe.
- Robust Construction–
Robust construction is necessary to deter or prevent large predators from gaining access. Moveable coops such as chicken tractors, are wonderful to confine your chickens to an area in the garden, while you are supervising, but they are not adequate for permanent housing. Select appropriate building materials, heavy gage screws, hardware-cloth and wood such as 2×4’s and 3/4 inch or thicker plywood, to assure the coop is heavy and strong.
- Hardware cloth-
Do not use net or chicken wire to build your hen enclosure; they are not strong enough to protect the hens and rodents may gain access through them. Instead, use ½ inch or ¼ inch welded hardware cloth.
Your coop should have hasps, latches and locks which are located high and are challenging to open (a rule of thumb is that if a 3 year old can figure it out, so can a raccoon!)
- Perimeter/ Foundation-
Install a solid foundation and/or an underground perimeter of hardware cloth the prevent coup access by burrowing. If your coop is lightweight, consider adding rebar to your foundation to peg the coop down and prevent it from being tipped.
- Fencing and coop placement–
Pest and predators prefer fast food! They are far less likely to persist in efforts to gain access to your coop if it is a challenge for them. In addition to robust coop construction, it is recommended that your yard be fenced. A fence provides an additional barrier to your coop and your birds. Placement of the coop on your property in a sheltered position may also contribute to security.
If you feel that further precautions are appropriate or necessary, you may want to consider utilizing deterrents. Deterrents are best use before a problem is established, but they may also be useful once wildlife or urban predators have located your coop and it is necessary to dissuade them from returning.
Again, we encourage the respecting and protecting of wildlife; we DO NOT endorse any extremes that are inhumane or put wildlife at risk.
The following list of deterrents may be a good place to start, these range in effectiveness depending on your pest/ predator problem:
- marking your territory (or encouraging your dog to do it!)
- establishing a perimeter of displeasing odors such as moth balls (which can be hung in cloth bags or socks)
- motion sensor water jets
- solar night eyes
- electric fencing
Electric fences generate short high voltage direct current pulses which can pack a wallop by causing a sharp muscle contraction, but do not cause any long term or permanent damage or injury. For more detailed information on electric fences, you may want to review these excellent resources.
- Bear Aware- Electric Fences
- SafeGuard – Electric fence design
- Government of UK Natural England- Electric Fence Manual
All of these deterrents can be found locally at the Otter Coop, Buckerfields, Princess Auto and Lee Valley Tools.