Unfortunately shorter days and colder nights create more problems than a lack of time to accomplish things around the homestead and keeping the animals watered. I can’t be at home all of the time like many of you. Sometimes the chickens don’t get locked up when it gets dark and for a few hours after sunset they are very vulnerable. Winter is not just hard on your livestock, it is also hard on the native species, some of which are predators.
First off I don’t like to kill anything, but sometimes animals need to be killed. I do hunt and as crazy as it may sound I don’t like the killing part, a deer is a beautiful animal but when it comes down to it I have to eat meat, if I don’t eat meat once a day I don’t feel very well the next day and have a very low energy level. I could be like most folks and just have someone else do the dirty work of killing a cow that has some depressing life eating corn on a concrete slab praying that some day it would die but that seems irresponsible. I’m not suggesting that everyone should hunt and I know my philosophy is not held by everyone, because I eat meat I have to have the responsibility to take the life, if I can’t take the life I need to become a vegetarian. I slaughter my chickens when they are no longer productive and I am the one that will have to put down a cow that my family and another share and I won’t like doing it, but if I eat meat I must take the responsibility.
All of this previous explanation to say, sometimes you have to take care of food by taking responsibility for that food, sometimes that means taking care of pests that will harm your livestock. I explained earlier about the need for having a good tight chicken coup or your chickens will be eaten for you. Before you have chickens or immediately thereafter you should have a way to take care of pests because they will come.
This spotted skunk is the only known mammal to enter into my new coup. It’s hard to know what to do, as said before I don’t like killing and I consider myself an environmentalist but I can’t let all of my chickens get eaten either! There is a point of being proactive when it comes to controlling pests and then there is seeing how far the wildlife can push the limits. For an example, I have coyote’s all over the place, you can hear them at night quite often but I have never had problems with them, it seems that there is enough land for all of us. Since I have never had problems with coyote’s I have no plans on killing any of them but I do have to consider that they are here. When we get sheep I have to have a way to lock the sheep up, especially the lambs, and I need a good fence. My dogs go nuts down by the chicken coup enough to cause me to believe that the coup is being visited by something but I’m not loosing chickens so I don’t do anything. The day before I caught the spotted skunk a chicken got killed and I saw the skunk climb a vertical plywood wall in the coup to get away from me. That night I spread dog proof raccoon traps behind the coup, the next morning I had a skunk.
You need to be careful about your trapping laws where you are but my guess would be that the dog proof raccoon traps are legal anywhere.
This image comes from pcsoutdoors.com, I have bought many traps from them before and never been disappointed. Dog proof traps are pretty good, they work well for raccoons and skunks. I don’t even worry about my dogs with them. I bait the traps with dog food and have had the dogs get into the traps but they can’t set them off or if they did the holding mechanism is inside the tube and they wouldn’t be in it anyway. There are moving parts so dumb luck can always be a factor but I like them a lot and haven’t had any problems. My biggest domestic concern for dog proof traps are cats, the traps are released by reaching into the tube and pulling out, a cat could set it off. I would recommend having half a dozen or so of these traps around for the times when your chickens are being hunted.
Another good alternative to dog proof traps are live traps.This image is also from pcsoutdoors.com, I don’t have this specific trap but have had one like it for a long time and they are good to have. Live traps sound good if you don’t want to hurt an animal but what are you going to do with it afterward? You would have to drive for a long ways to let something go and have it not come back and I wouldn’t want to drive a long ways with a skunk in my backseat either! A good .22 rifle is a good addition to any homestead as well, I normally shot the raccoon or skunk in the trap which risks damage to the cage. With the dog proof traps something has to be done as well but it is much easier not to cause damage to your gear if the animal isn’t inside it when you dispatch it.
Getting rid of animals isn’t fun but we will find ourselves in the situation where we need to protect our livestock and we should be prepared to handle the situations as they arise. Good planning for the initial protection of your livestock is the biggest priority but eventually someone will find their way in and once they do they will never stop until you stop the threat by eliminating it.