Dealing With Coyotes: Tips for folks having trouble with these menaces to the chicken yardCrystal Calhoun
Undoubtedly, the canis latrans would have reared its snout during the pioneers’ westward journey to new lands. In fact, it could very likely have been the predator that the folks on the Oregon Trail encountered—or at least heard or saw—the most often.
To all of you guys who’ve seen that short, tannish, wolf-like creature prowling around your farmyard, or maybe who’ve even lost some of your stock to it at some time or another, or even for those of you who’ve only heard about the coyote and want to know a thing or two about how to protect your farm-fowl from them, this article is for you. Though brief, you will no doubt learn something to your use for dealing with these pesky predators.
Let’s start with a few facts. Coyotes are lean, four-legged mammals that are often mistaken for wolves because of the two’s unique resemblance. Coyotes are not wolves, though they are in the same family. They range in color from dingy brown (that color being the most common) to dingy grey. Coyotes often travel in packs, though to see one on its own is not unusual. If you live in an area that is home to these creatures, you may sometimes hear, as the sun sinks on the horizon, a sudden multitude of yipping howls, which is the trademark call of the coyote. It is an important thing to note that, while these creatures are shy of humans, and would most likely choose flight over fight if it came to an encounter, they can be dangerous— especially if you should encounter them in a pack, or if they have something to protect. They are not friendly animals, and any interest one may show towards you or your home is almost always because they’re looking for food.
Coyotes are opportunistic eaters, meaning that they will eat whatever they can whenever they can. However, though they’d rather an easy meal, they do hunt regularly. But the fact that they are opportunistic eaters poses a problem for anybody looking to set up a farm in an area which the coyote ranges. Snatching a chicken, duck, or goose, or even sometimes the young offspring of a larger animal—a kid or a lamb—is much easier to them than chasing something down. So, what can you do to keep your stock safe? Here are a few tips for the frugal farmer.
#1 Build a secure enclosure.
Basics are going to be your best help, folks. If you happen to set up house in a coyote’s range, sooner or later he’s going to find out you’re there. If you have animals he can eat, he’ll never forget where you are. A sound enclosure may discourage his attempts to get at your animals, especially if that enclosure is close to your house. Using chicken wiring, metal or otherwise, as your sole fencing is a huge no-no. Some people think that it’ll do on its own to keep predators out, not knowing that its exclusive purpose is to keep chickens in! A coyote will break through chicken wiring with ease, and once he does, whatever unfortunate fowl are inside will be his personal banquet.
For chickens or other farm-fowl, always use a sturdy fencing of interlocking wires held firmly in place by poles concreted—or otherwise firmly rooted—into the ground. This fence needs to be at least four feet tall. You can then place your chicken wiring just behind it, so as to keep your fowl from slipping out. A line or two of barbwire running along the bottom of the fence is a good deterrent to a coyote thinking of digging under it.
As for your chicken house, make sure that it is built out of sound wood (even if that has to be sound scrap-wood!) and has doors and windows that close securely.
#2 Consider getting a guard-dog.
For some people, this is a very good option. The right dog will keep a good watch over its owner’s home. If you want it to be of any use in this station, it will have to be an outside dog. A dog who feels at home will respond to a coyote’s howls, and that alone may keep him away. Should he venture in close, your dog will most likely put him on the run very quickly, as coyotes avidly try to avoid such skirmishes.
Most people will say that you need an expensive dog bred especially for this purpose. The truth is, however, that most any half-Labrador, half-German Shepard, half-Collie, or other such dog will fit the bill, provided you train them to understand that the farm animals are yours and not to be messed with. This is why it is best to get one as a puppy, and raise it around and among your animals so that it learns to accept them at a young age. Once older, it will come naturally to your dog to keep hostile critters away from them. However, it is important to do a little research on dog breeds in order to avoid potentially aggressive ones that could very quickly become a danger to your farm, such as Pit bulls or Rottweilers.
#3 Motion lights.
These nifty contraptions can be set up beside any enclosure you have a fear about. The sudden switching on of these lights as they detect motion will startle a sneaking coyote, and will alert you if you’re paying attention. However, the drawbacks to this option are that these lights can be somewhat costly, and may not work for long if the coyote comes around when you’re asleep. If nothing happens when the lights switch on, the coyote will lose his fear of them and continue with his pilfering.
#4 Respond to their howls.
Now before you write this one off as nutty, think about it for a moment. Remember that coyotes are close relatives of the wolves, and wolves communicate extensively through howls. Coyotes do the same thing. Howls are their way of declaring their territory, warning off intruders, and generally ‘speaking’ with one another from afar off. There are certain meanings to certain howls that we just don’t get. But when you hear the coyote’s yipping howl near your property in the lengthening of the evening, responding in kind—as forcibly as possible—will let him know that the area you’re in is claimed, and may deter him from poking his nose around. A willing child might work best for this idea, as they don’t have the same silly embarrassments about such things as adults do.
Another way to respond to howling is to fire off some shots. No coyote will want to run toward the bang of a gunshot, and if your gun has a strong enough bang, you could silence an entire howling pack with a single shot! The drawback about these two options is that if you have near neighbors, they may not exactly be thrilled about all the noise.
#5 Be vigilant.
Despite the implementation of all of the above options, a wily coyote may still dare to enter your yard. If you’ve set up a farm in an area with coyotes, it’s ultimately going to fall to you to be on the lookout. It is a good option if you are set up in such an area and have reason to worry about potential trouble with these creatures, to carry a firearm around with you during your daily duties, that is light and easy to use. Once a coyote figures that he can come and go about your place as he pleases, he will make a nuisance of himself quite quickly, and you will be forced to act in your best interest. If you cannot acquire a firearm or feel uneasy about using one, you can always go about with a sturdy staff instead. But if it should ever come down to a close-quarter confrontation with a coyote, make sure that you intimidate him as fast as you can. Shouting and waving your arms and staff should send him off at a run, unless he is defending something, cornered, or rabid. Never corner a coyote unless you are absolutely sure that you can handle him quickly. If he is rabid (characterized of course by foam at the mouth and a reckless abandon to concealment and flight) avoid being bitten at all costs, and at that point you may want to call in your local animal control.
And there you have that. Hopefully, at least one of these tips will help you out in your endeavors to deal with this opportunistic predator. Just be thankful that you’re safe at home, instead of on the move like the pioneers of old. Good luck!