Last Friday night we got a call from our oldest, while we were in Virginia, telling us we lost 2 Narragansett turkey poults. He heard the chickens making a lot of noise and when he investigated he saw something large fly out of the turkey pen, which is covered with chicken wire by the way. The chicks in the next pen over, without a covering of chicken wire, were fine but nervous. So now we are back to closing the little house up at night to keep the turkeys better protected. They don't seem to mind this much, but the chicks are very happy to get let out in the morning. Here are the remaining three turkeys basking in the evening sun.
We have been fairly lucky at our current home when it comes to predation. Last year we lost one turkey to what we think was a fox. Years ago we lost a few chickens to raccoons. Having the goats seems to help keep predators away. But with the move I am concerned about the number and type of predators at the new house. Being surrounded on three sides by state game lands should mean quite a few predators. I know there are a lot of deer in the area so the gardens will need stout fencing. We will definitely use our current garden fencing set up. We have a 3 foot wide fenced path around 3/4 of the garden that connects to the chicken pen. The compost pile is at the far end away from the chicken coop. When the chickens see me coming with kitchen scraps they come running down the path to get the goodies; they look like little velociraptors. The chickens spend their day moving around the outer perimeter of the garden eating bugs that are trying to get into my garden and keeping the weeds down. And the deer are afraid to jump into such a small area. We have a deer highway about 150 feet from our garden and I have never had a deer in my vegetable garden. Plants that are not in this fenced area have a much harder time with the deer. The deer will even come right up to the house and eat the impatiens growing next to my back door.
Coyotes are becoming a problem in the area; but, knock on wood, I haven't seen any here. I suspect they may be an issue at our new home. So now I am trying to think of all the options for protecting my animals.
Fencing is the first line of defense. I will have three separate pasture areas to fence and have been thinking of using a strong perimeter fence around the entire back of the property and then using a portable electric netting to close off smaller areas for rotational grazing. I really want to try my hand at rotational grazing as everything I have read about the benefits has made sense to me. Here is a link to a nice article by the USDA on fencing and other methods of predator control USDA's Sheep 201 .
Livestock guard animals would be a good second line of defense. Certain breeds of dogs are bred to become part of a flock and protect it. And they are pretty cute also
Livestock guard dogs-image from Wikipedia
Llamas are also used and they are the least costly option and live a long time. Image from Wikipedia
Donkeys also can protect their "flock" from predators, are cheaper than dogs but need more maintenance esp of their hooves.
Image from predator-friendly-ranching.blogspot.com
Here is another nice article on livestock guard dogs, llamas and donkeys
Oh what to do?