The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

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The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

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My headlights showed that no one had closed the pop door on the coop even though the sunlight had vanished a half hour prior. I had just returned from picking up pizzas for supper and noticed a hen sitting outside in the snow.

Putting the van in park, I glanced at the coop again. There he was — an opossum standing just inside the building. I honked the horn to warn the other hens. The pop door seemed as if it were exploding as my hens flew out and scattered. Some ran for the safety of the back steps to the house, a few scurried into the garage, and one flew up to the roof to roost. Fortunately, all of my hens returned to the coop unharmed. On this night, pizza saved my flock, but by utilizing a few tips, I hope to prevent this from ever happening again.

Predators are a fact of life on the homestead. Raccoons, opossums, weasels, foxes and snakes are common threats to any chicken coop. In addition to these ground-level predators, air attacks from hawks and owls occur in some rural areas. Of course, completely eliminating the threat to hens is impossible, but managing the threat is doable.

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Here are a few tips to tighten the security of your coop and increase the level of safety enjoyed by your flock.

1. Install an automatic pop door

A sliding pop door is a DIY project that can be made with the help of an electric motor and timer, or it can be purchased and installed rather easily. Using a timer to regulate the door opening and closing can be tricky if your birds free-range, as the length of each day changes dramatically and a bird closed out of the coop certainly will draw predators. If constructing your own door, including a bottom rail will hinder some types of predators from lifting the door and helping themselves to your flock.

2. Upgrade your locks

A few predators, raccoons in particular, are skilled at opening doors and lifting latches. This could pose a problem for the inhabitants of your coop. Upgrade the latches and locks on your coop by including multistep latches and even padlocks to deter the most-skilled predators.

The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Replace chicken wire

Chicken wire is fine for some projects, but it is not the best option for protecting your flock. Replace the chicken wire in windows, screen doors and the run with hardware cloth. This cloth is a sturdy mesh that allows air to flow through easily while making it difficult for predators to tear. It also can be used as a covering for a run to deter hawks and owls from sampling your chickens.

4. Bury the fencing

Bury at least 12 inches of fencing below the surface to prevent burrowing animals from entering the run, but do it with the proper materials.

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Uncoated metal, such as chicken wire, deteriorates quickly. When burying fencing for a chicken run, or as a protective measure around the coop, use coated metal below the surface. Chicken wire can deteriorate in as little as three years when exposed to the constant moisture typically found in the soil.

5. Keep it clean

Cleaning the coop is certainly necessary to maintain healthy chickens, but keeping the area surrounding the coop clean is just as important to their safety. At dusk, remove uneaten food and treats from the run and coop. This will discourage predators looking for an easy meal — and rodents that can spread disease — from entering the coop. Remove tall grasses, vines and other debris from around the coop, as well. Predators will be less inclined to stroll out to the coop when they will be in full view.

6. Perform regular maintenance

Small creatures, such as weasels, snakes and young opossums, can squeeze through very small holes. Replace worn or rotten boards promptly, including floor boards. Also, take care that the seams are properly fitted together, using a sealant to ensure there are no gaps for predators to slide through. Mend or replace fencing or hardware cloth that has been damaged.

How do you keep predators out of your flock? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Benefits of Social Media in Prepping

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The Benefits of Social Media in Prepping Highlander “Survival & Tech Preps” Listen in player below! In past shows I have talked about the dangers of social media and the internet. This episode I will flip the switch and talk about the benefits of social media in prepping. We often see the dangers of the … Continue reading The Benefits of Social Media in Prepping

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Opinion: Taking sides…

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From Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech in 1986: And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the […]

Human Nature: The most dangerous survival lesson of all

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Human Nature- Dangerous LessonI grew up and spent a good deal of time with petty criminals, a handful of whom had a dangerous human nature. Maybe that doesn’t say much for me, or maybe it does, because it quickly hit home with me that I preferred being a law-abiding citizen rather than a law-breaker. For any number of reasons, the law enforcement career I had planned on just didn’t happen, but over the years, I’ve spent more time learning about and observing criminals than most civilians.

It’s been eye-opening, to say the least. As a psychology major, I was able to learn even more about how the criminal mind works, as explained in this excellent book by a former FBI profiler.

The other day, my wife mentioned a Facebook article she had read and said it had really hit home what we could be facing as the fabric of our society continues to break down. The author, Greg Ellifritz, is a veteran police officer and tactical trainer for his central Ohio agency. He knows more than a thing or two about the criminal mind. He writes:

Our thief today is homeless. He’s 32 years old and overweight. He’s a regular consumer of crack cocaine. He has no job and no place to live. He sometimes stays at friends’ apartments, but his permanent address is a local homeless shelter. The sum total of his possessions consisted of a change of clothes, a broken phone, and less than $4 cash.

When I asked the man why he stole the bike, his comment was enlightening:

“I took it because I have the chance to stay at my friend’s place tonight instead of the shelter. My friend lives in (the next town over) and it would be about a four hour walk to get there. It rained all day yesterday and it looks like it’s going to rain some more today. I just didn’t want to spend four hours walking in the fucking rain and getting soaking wet again. I figured a bike would be faster.”

He continued by saying: “I knew it was wrong to steal the bike, but I just don’t care. I didn’t want to get wet no more. I saw an opportunity and I took it. I’d do the same thing all over again if I got the chance. Biking is just faster than walking.”

A petty crime, important to no one, really, except the owner of the bicycle. The point that Greg is trying to hit home, though, is how criminals never give a thought to the person whose life is affected by their actions. If they see something they want and you own it, you become just an obstacle in their way. They may violently push you aside, if you’re lucky, or kill you. What they want at that moment is more importat than your life will ever be, to them.

Greg goes on to explain:

This is what most folks don’t understand about serious criminals. The fact that the victim of the crime would be affected in a negative manner is not even an afterthought. Your feelings and concerns mean absolutely NOTHING to the criminal. He doesn’t care if you live or die, let alone how “inconvenienced” you will be if he takes all of your stuff or beats you within an inch of your life. If you literally had ZERO concern about the well being of your neighbors and fellow humans, what kind of atrocities would you be capable of committing? That’s something that few people consider.

Unfortunately, the majority of the hard core criminals I encounter feel the same way. You are literally nothing more than an obstacle they must overcome to achieve their goal. Most of the serious criminals out there think you and I are merely pawns on the chessboard of life. They will destroy everything you know and love if it means that they will benefit in the wake of the destruction. You are completely expendable in their eyes.

Recognize that. Recognize also that we aren’t going to be able to “fix” many of these criminals. They are out there among us every day and can’t be avoided.

This worries me when I consider TEOTWAWKI type scenarios, because during those days, months, or perhaps years, there may be no law enforcement at all. Some people like to use the acronym WROL, Without Rule of Law, to describe such a world. Those who have criminal impulses, maybe even instincts, but have been held back because they fear arrest and prison, won’t have those restraints anymore.

Today we mostly have to worry about a relatively small number of criminals, some petty, some hardened. We can add a security system to our homes, be constantly aware of our surroundings, teach our kids situational awareness and self-defense — but what if, someday in the not too distant future, ordinary Americans join these ranks because their families are starving, and they have lost absolutely everything? Might you become expendable in their eyes?

This is a depressing scenario to think about, much less discuss, because most of us want to believe that during hard times, like the Great Depression, most people will rise to the occasion and nobly help their fellow man. One of my favorite books about that era tells real life stories of a people who gave selflessly, were optimistic, and banded together to endure har times.

Based on current trends, I don’t think we live in that country anymore, except for specific, isolated areas. Even a greater level of danger when you consider who has crossed into America — members of ISIS? Members of the most violent gangs in South America? Hardened drug criminals from Mexico? No one really knows.

Greg did provide a very small ray of hope with a few suggestions for avoiding becoming a victim to criminals of all types:

  1. Harden anything the criminal might target. Put a fence around it, post a home security system sign, do anything to cause a criminal to think that the risk isn’t worth it.
  2. Make all targets appear undesirable. Maybe having the fanciest looking house in the neighborhood wasn’t such a good idea. When we bought our current house, what I liked about it was that it’s a one-story, surrounded by very nice looking two-story houses. It’s set back from the road a way and is painted in muted colors. That doesn’t mean we’ll never be targeted, but honestly, from the outside, we sure don’t look all that attractive to thieves.
  3. At a personal level, make yourself look undesirable as a target. Make eye contact. Walk with a strong, confident stride. NO electronics when you’re out in public. No flashy jewelry or expensive looking clothes. Getting killed for a pair of expensive Nikes just isn’t worth it.

We need to teach our kids these practices as well. I have one kid who has been a “gray man” since she hit 8 or 9 years of age and another one who loves the flashy lifestyle and impressing people with cool clothes and electronics. We use stories in the news and that we hear about from other families to gently explain to our kids how to avoid becoming a victim. I’ve also used the example I read a while back in this article to teach my kids to identify potential predators.

Above all, acknowledge that evil exists. I don’t worry too much about hurting someone’s feeling by recognizing what they do is evil and some people are just evil to the core. It’s normalcy bias, as explained in this article, that tries to convince us a certain person, group, or event is just fine in spite of our gut saying that it’s not.

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Animal Communications: It’s Not Magic

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Communicating with Your Animals

He was running at me full on.  I stopped him at arms length by grabbing his neck.  This was true one on one animal communications.

I then shook him; not hard enough to hurt him, but firm enough that he knew I could break his neck if I wanted to.

My two eyes looked into his one for a long moment and then I slowly released my hand.  The communication between us was absolutely clear and he understood.

Training Male Geese

I have a new young flock of geese and it is almost a rite of passage that the leading male would someday challenge me.  He was almost full grown and the biggest of the flock.  And now he was testing his boundaries and wondering just how much authority he had in the world.

I feed, water, and protect them and I am very clear about our relationship.  And now he and the rest of the flock were clear too.

I will sometimes sit very still and let the geese come and look me over very closely, and even do some exploratory nibbles.  Is that grass on her head edible?  What do her changing feathers feel like?  How does she make the long snake spit water?  They are very curious, but never aggressive.  Especially now that we’ve ‘talked’.

Another reason to raise geese: The Barefoot Friendly Project; Transforming Harsh Land

Animal Communications – More than Just Talking

There are many different levels of communication between species.  And in fact you are communicating with all of the plants and creatures around you all the time.  Although you are probably not as aware of your message as they are.

The phrase “inter species communication” normally conjures up images of specially gifted mystics.  Maybe some one who can hear something we can’t – it’s just out of our frequency range.  Or perhaps it is a magical ability like the psychics who can also conduct seances to talk with loved ones now past into the world of the dead.

But communicating with plants and animals doesn’t have to be supernatural.

I am not discounting the direct ‘knowing’ levels of communication.  And yes, if you were to focus on developing that ability over time, those intuitive levels of communication may very well open to you.  In fact, I think it happens quite naturally for anyone who spends enough time in their garden or working with their livestock.

But most inter species communication is much more practical and easy to understand.

It’s Not Magic, It’s Physical

Have you ever heard the saying “your actions speak louder than words”?  The physical level of communication is extremely effective and is within reach of anyone, without any training.  Not to mention, it is something you are doing all the time anyway.

There are estimates that some 90% of communication is non-verbal. These are studies referring to human to human communications, but it applies to plants and animals too.  Your body posture, the quality or cleanliness of your clothes, your hand gestures, and the expression on your face, the smell your body is emitting – all of this communicates your mood and intentions.

There is also some degree of reality to that “vibe” you put out that others pick up on.

Different Ways of Communication

There really are many ways of communicating.  And this is quite useful since most of the other life forms on this planet don’t quite vocalize the way we do.

For example, once I had shaken that goose, he stepped back quickly with his head slightly tilted expressing a bit of shock.  When he was a few feet away, at a safe distance away from me, he began to compose himself by preening his feathers.

Watching him made me laugh at the recognition of an almost universal response after an altercation; that of grooming.  Embarrass a cat and it will almost immediately start licking its fur.  And humans once separated will start straightening their clothes and smoothing their disheveled hair.  A hen getting up from the rooster’s rough attentions indignantly ruffles her feathers back into shape.

My laugh was not derogatory, but served as a peace offering sound and let everyone know all was well in the world.  The rest of the flock who had been watching this with interest now cackled back in response, and everyone started moving off to find something else to do like nibble at some nearby grass.

Learning from Your Animals

I had learned about the power of laughter between species from two ferrets.

Don’t ask me why we have two ferrets.  We certainly don’t need any ferrets.  And we don’t really want two ferrets.  I can’t honestly think of any good reason to have ferrets.  But I have a young daughter who gets money for working, and she was convinced that buying ferrets was the best use of her hard earned funds.  Sigh.

Since we have the ferrets (ah, the relentless pressure of children), I can’t help but be fascinated by them.  One thing that interests me is that when I let the ferrets run free in a new area where they aren’t normally allowed in, they get so excited.  They jump around and make a funny sound sort of like a cross between a grunt and a gurgle.  That sound is so captivating (I’ve been trying to catch it on video and when I do, I’ll get it to you).  But what was it they were doing?

Then one day it occurred to me they were laughing with joy!  The ferrets definitely share the playfulness of their cousins the otters.  They are amazingly good-natured creatures and love having fun.  “Mommy they exude cuteness,” my daughter explains.  (They exude a few other things too but I won’t go into that here.)

But the ferrets were so happy they would laugh out load as they ran and played.

Sometimes they playfully come up and nip my feet and then bound away – chuckling the whole time.  I stand there dumb founded at the audacity of these eight ounce bundles of silliness daring themselves to play with a giant.  It’s completely disarming.

My daughter is right, they do exude cuteness.

Read about my daughter’s other pet: The Perfect Natural Camouflage

Pay Attention to Signals from Your Animals

The ferrets got me in trouble with the chickens.  One morning I decided to let the ferrets run about with me while I was working in the garden.  And as the ferrets did their jumping and playing and investigating they naturally came across the flock of chickens I keep for eggs.  Although these ferrets are pets and probably would never consider eating anything but the store bought supplies my daughter gives them, they were recognized by the chickens for what they are; carnivores.  And the chickens were upset.

The flock is free range so they moved off to another part of the yard.  But later that day when I saw the chickens again the rooster rushed me.  I easily kicked him back.  But from the way he looked sort of satisfied and did not come at me again, I became ashamed of my earlier annoyance.  The rooster had been trying to get my attention in about the only way a rooster knows how.  I was mystified what he was trying to communicate.  And then it dawned on me, he was letting me know how upset the chickens were at the ferrets being loosed in their space.

Read more: Channel Your Mama-Energy for Healthy Homestead Animals

Tell Pests to Leave Before You Kill Them

Before we built our home, our little family lived in a 20×20 room above the barn.  Mice also had quite an attachment to that room.  My husband whom I don’t normally think much of a big communicator totally shocked me with his solution to the problem.  He started by stomping around growling at the top of his lungs in the meanest bad-ass animal sounds I’ve ever heard come from a man.  He did this for quite a few minutes making sure to visit each corner to insure his message was being received.

Then he set out some traps.  But I think the mice got the message from his growls for we didn’t trap many and generally weren’t bothered by them again.  From then on, if an occasional new mouse showed up my husband would repeat the warning and that usually took care of the problem.

We aren’t always successful with communications.  I’ve tried communicating with fire ants for many years without success.

Dealing with Predators – Livestock Guardian Dogs

As you start to develop systems for producing your own food, you’ll notice that lots of other creatures like your food too.  After years of losses of both livestock and plants I came to the see how extremely useful a pair of good dogs could be.  In no way am I a professional animal trainer, and I had never been a “dog person,” but using dogs to protect your food supply made so much sense I had to learn.

The dogs live to chase off deer, raccoons, squirrels, and other dogs.  They will harass snakes, bark at hawks, and hold off a pack of coyotes until I can get there to help.  They don’t mind working all night while I sleep.  And they consider themselves well rewarded by a bit of praise and the scraps I toss them.

In the Grow Your Own Groceries video set, I have a section that goes into detail of how to work with dogs – and of course, you can pick up a copy at this link: http://growyourowngroceries.com/.

Embracing New Relationships

Opening up my relationships with other living beings beyond humans is one of the many pleasures of growing my own food.  Let me know your interest level and I’ll write more about inter-species communication.  Talking with plants is not quite as direct and requires more sensitivity, but can definitely be developed.  As with animals, learning to communicate on the physical level with plants is the easiest way to get started.

Drop me a note in the comments section below to let me know if you’re interested in communicating with plants.  I’m sure you have some interesting stories to tell…

I am also intrigued with communication on even more subtle levels; working with energetics or nature spirits as was reputably done at Findhorn, for example.

And then there is that other topic to deal with; how can I love the creatures I am raising knowing their fate is that I will kill them and eat them?  It is a difficult question that I struggle with and would be delighted to discuss with you.  Again, let me know your interest by putting a quick comment down below.

3 Part Series about Ethical Meat: Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?

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The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

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The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

Image source: Pixabay.com

Predator populations in many parts of the country are on the rise. That means the chances of a predator finding and preying on your chickens is high if you don’t take every precaution to keep them at bay.

First, realize that predators are lazy opportunist. Most attacks on your flock will be because something was too tempting to pass up for a hungry critter. Predators that actually work to break in and steal chickens by chewing through the side of the hen house or digging for hours etc., are rogues that must be exterminated.

The best practice for predator control is to never give them an easy opportunity to dine on your chickens. Yet there is no one tactic that is all-encompassing. It’s more like a lot of little things all working together to keep predators away from your chickens. Here are some tips to help keep your flock safe and sound.

1. Inspect daily.

Do visual inspections daily for holes, loose wire and generally anything that looks out of place or in need of repair to keep predators out of your chickens. In addition, keep your eyes out for any signs of animals prowling around, looking for an easy meal. This could be tracks, scat, signs of chewing or digging, feathers scattered about, or anything that looks out of place. With larger flocks, predators can get a chicken a night and you’re none the wiser until you realize your flock is shrinking.

Diatomaceous Earth: The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock

This could be tracks, scat, signs of chewing or digging, feathers scattered about, or anything that looks out of place. With larger flocks, predators can get a chicken a night and you’re none the wiser until you realize your flock is shrinking.

2. Keep a rooster with your flock.

The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

Image source: Pixabay.com

A good rooster is the first line of defense against predators. If a hawk, owl or any other flying menace comes into view on the horizon, my rooster immediately spots it and sounds the alarm that sends everyone running for cover. Over the years, I’ve lost a few good roosters to predators because they typically will sacrifice themselves to allow the hens to get to safety. I’ve even watched roosters discipline hens for not taking cover when the alarm was sounded. If you don’t see this kind of behavior in your rooster, it may be time to replace him with one that takes his job seriously.

3. Teach your chickens to roost in the coop, not outside.

Training your flock to return to the henhouse each night is as simple as keeping them inside the coop for a week or so when you first get them. Be certain to provide plenty of roosting area. This reinforces to the birds that the coop is home and where they should roost. With an older flock that has never been accustomed to roosting inside the coop, you also can establish the habit by keeping them inside for a couple of weeks. It usually takes a bit longer with older birds that have bad habits.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

Rogue birds that will not cooperate should be culled. If you allow a few birds to roost outside, it creates temptation for predators that would otherwise leave your birds alone. They eventually get one of the rogue birds and then become a rogue predator that goes out of its way to kill and eat chickens.

4. Don’t tempt unwanted critters.

The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

Image source: Pixabay.com

Open feeders, garbage cans, animal carcasses, or any other type of food will draw unwanted attention to your farm. If a chicken dies, dispose of it immediately, preferably where no other animal will find and eat it.

5. Create an environment that discourages predators.

Predators aren’t fond of wide-open spaces. Keep hiding places to a minimum around coops and buildings. Weeds, piles of junk and lumber all give predators a place to hide that makes them feel more secure. Avoid it.

6. Keep a farm dog.

I have never been without a farm dog. Over the years, that has been one reason we have avoided coons, coyotes, foxes and other creatures of the night. Some dogs can be trusted with livestock … but others can’t. I’ve had both. If they can’t be left out with the flock running loose, I keep them contained until the chickens roost and then let them run the property for the night. Even a dog tied to the doghouse at night near the animals is a big deterrent to predators.

Finally, consider controlling the population of predators through ethical hunting and trapping, or invite someone else to do it for you.

Remember: Predator control is something accomplished daily – and not in a day.

What advice would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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